You have probably all heard of Myers Briggs, Social Style, DISC, and other personality style assessments. They are great for helping us realize that people are different than us and that by paying attention to other’s styles you can work more effectively with them. Many people have benefited from these personality categorization systems, but there is another factor that sits on top of these styles and drives them to some degree. It’s a person’s power base.
When we were very young our parents were our protectors and builders of self esteem. As we got older we interacted with others more on our own and started to develop a foundation for operating in social settings. It was a lifeline that helped us get through our Middle School and High School years. By early adulthood we had fully established our own base of power that would aid us in social settings by attracting the admiration of others and limiting the potential for harm.
As we moved deeper into adulthood, our power base became so integrated into our very core that we don’t even realize anymore that we have one. When our powerbase is stroked we feel very good and when it is attacked we become defensive. In fact, we have to be careful not to step on a person’s power base because they tend to over-react disproportionately to the threat. But the great thing is you don’t even need an assessment to identify a person’s power base; you just need to observe them
Why is it so important to know a person’s power base? Because it can be very useful in building support from someone and keeping us out of harm’s way by inadvertently crossing it. Keep in mind however that one should never use this information to manipulate others, only to enrich your interaction with them.
Below I describe six prominent power bases. There are others, such as humor and athleticism, but these six cover the majority of people. Each type will include a short description of what a person’s standard behavior is, what they do when confronted, and who they appeal to in social settings.
Aggression: People who are aggressors like confrontation and deal with it directly. They are not afraid to say things that other people might shy away from. They will get in your face and force you to engage them. When confronted they will attack harder. There is no backing down. They attract other people who have the same type of power base and some people who want additional protection.
Intelligence: Intellects are typically smarter and know more than most people. They like talking about difficult subjects and are lifetime learners. They will challenge others when they witness errors or misinformation. If someone else starts the discussion on a topic they will ultimately end up leading it. When their intellect is challenged they will bombard the aggressor with tons of information and facts in an attempt to undermine their credibility. They attract anyone who values learning and has an interest in a variety of subjects.
Niceness: Lots of people are nice. But these folks only know how to be nice. They literally cannot show outward anger towards anybody. As a result they do not experience many threats but, when they do they tend to display victim behavior. They drum up support from those around them and get others to own and express their internal anger. People in this category get along with everyone and as a result attract others of all kinds.
Physical Beauty: A person is born with physical beauty, but these people take it to a new level. They work hard at keeping themselves at a specific level of attraction. If they do find themselves in a tough spot they kick into another gear and turn on the charm to get themselves out of it. They know how to leverage their beauty to get the most attention and support from others. Regardless of their personality or character flaws, they always know there is a subset of people who will ignore those flaws just to be close to their beauty.
Hiding: People who rely on hiding usually are introverts. They don’t tend to engage others often, don’t express their opinions, and generally keep to themselves. They would rather be on the sidelines observing things around them. If they are confronted they quickly acquiesce and try to hide even more. They strive to attract no one and establish friendships only with others in this category and only after a long period of time.
Producing: People in this category are doers. They work hard and produce a lot. You may think this is just a good work ethic but these folks are compelled to produce. If you challenge them they will draw upon their last several months of deliverables and quote to you how many hours they have put in. They tend to associate with other producers and look down on people who are sub-standard producers.
As with all behavior driven systems, there are some individuals who do not display the exact behaviors described in the above categories. Some display behaviors from two or more different types, and others do not display any of the behaviors at all. For the majority, however, there are usually observable behaviors that can help you navigate your social settings by simply keeping the different power base categories in mind and applying them to the people around you.
What types of power bases do you experience on a daily basis at work? What are different methods you use to communicate with these different categories of people? What power base category do you fall into? Let us know by leaving a comment below.