You know, I always squirm when people talk about empowerment. It implies that somehow they have my power, and I certainly didn't give it to them--at least not consciously.
I think power just “is.” You always have it, whether you know what to do with it or not. If I develop learned helplessness, or adopt victim mentality, or decide everyone else has power except me, these are either active or passive choices.
A third alternative is that I may not know anything else other than what I am doing. I may be… a one-trick pony.
If it’s something I didn’t learn, even the foundational building blocks for choice-making, liberate me from my ignorance. Show me the criteria by which to consider a situation, and let me test my skills. Support me in low cost errors from which I can recover.
These are actions of liberation from not-knowing. Others do not hold the key to our power unless we let them, either actively by saying “You choose” or passively by saying “Whatever.” This oppression first requires the willingness to own the choices available and to exercise them regularly.
Help me liberate myself from the false belief that I have no choice: remind me I have a snooze button, at least five shirts and an equal number of pairs of pants, and that I am the one who decides how much toothpaste I squeeze out onto my toothbrush.
Focus on choices already being made, and foster strength in new ones. In the workplace, encouragers are mightily needed. Don’t try to “empower” me--tell me I have the power to choose, tell me I am responsible for producing x by y to z standards, give me what I need to do these things, remind me of the options, help me find options… and liberate me to a little more critical thinking.
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