Reading a Room for Power

Reading a Room for Power

from meeting rooms to boardrooms, the leveraging of power through shame is the hallmark of patriarchyOne of the most valuable skills we can cultivate as changemakers is the ability to read a room for power. 

To understand the power dynamics at play, so they can be shifted in the balance of justice.

Let’s say you’re in a meeting or other group situation.

Take a moment to breathe, and settle into your body.  Feel the ground, and trust your breath to keep you in the role of observer, just for a moment.  (Side note: this is just one reason mindfulness & meditation practices can be really helpful for changemakers: the ability to ground ourselves in our body & breath when needed). 

Notice who has power. How does it manifest?

Does it manifest as dominance? A subtle talking-over others, or a dismissal of ideas.

Does it manifest through respect? A reverence for a particular individual and their voice or ideas.

Does it manifest as collective power? For example, two womxn who choose to back each other vocally, thus increasing their reach and impact.

Does it manifest through the silent fear of shame? An environment in which people are afraid to share their ideas, or embarrassed to speak up.

From meeting rooms to magazines, the leveraging of power through shame is the hallmark of patriarchy. 

Because what happens when you feel ashamed?

You get small.

You hide.

And the one who leverages that shame, is in power.

When we can read a room for power, and understand the dynamics at play, we have the opportunity to change them.

Notice the dominance or dismissal scenario above? Gather collective power, build relationships with people who can help validate and back your ideas. Speak truth to power and step out of the shame response below.

Notice the power of respect? Take the time to understand where that respect comes from. Honour it, and cultivate the qualities that you respect in others.

Notice shame or fear? Get free. 

Shame has been wielded as a method of control for centuries. 

It’s been taught to us about our bodies & their sizes or shapes, our sexuality, our personality (Too loud? Too bossy? Too quiet?), our mistakes (not good enough syndrome). 

But you are not a problem to be fixed. You are human in a messy world.

And when we can learn to free ourselves from the expectation of others, to find acceptance in ourselves and ultimately a new, inner compass – guess what?

Shame can no longer be wielded in the name of power. 

Instead, we can stand up in our full embodiment. 

Because acceptance, honesty, authenticity and truth are some of the strongest manifestations of power.

Today I invite you to notice the rooms you’re in: the meeting rooms, the zoom calls, the dinner tables, the organising committees, the press conferences. 

Take a deep breath, ground yourself in your breath and body.

And read the room for power.

What can you offer in this moment? Where can you challenge the dynamic at play? 

Note: Shifting the balance to justice means we must also understand who doesn’t have power, and how it can be shared. If we’re not inviting everyone to the table, we’re recreating the current paradigm. More on this soon. 

As always, let me know what you think, and how this goes for you. 

Laura x