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How To Work With Dominant People Without Disengaging

self-awareness Dec 17, 2019

I’m friends with them, work with them, am led by them. They’re around me at the office, at church, at home. I’m even married to one. Yesterday we talked about how to work with compliant people without crushing them, and discussed the RightPath tool that helps our employees understand more about themselves and working with others.

Today we talk about dominant people.

When my wife discovered I’d be writing about dominant folks, she instructed me to be nice. When discussing dominance with my close dominant friend, he joked, “You know, we’re not monsters…we do bleed.” Although my wife and friend were being light-hearted, I could see honesty in their responses. They’re sensitive to how dominant folks are perceived.

RightPath describes dominance as “the degree to which a person is commanding—exerting authority or influence.” Dominant folks are interested in initiating action or conversation and setting the agenda. Focused on results, they’re comfortable speaking directly, making decisions quickly, and taking on challenges. Unlike many compliant people, you don’t have to guess what dominant folks are thinking—they share their opinions freely.

The beautiful thing about dominant and compliant people working together is that dominant ones want to influence and compliant ones want to support, what a match made in heaven! For this to work though, there has to be engagement—involvement and investment by the supporters.

But what often happens is that unhappy compliant folks quietly disengage. That’s a power they wield. They may be present physically, but are emotionally removed. They may say yes with their mouths, but their hearts are saying no. Disengagement is the middle finger for compliant people.

But how does this help anyone? Here are three ways to work with dominant people without disengaging from them.

Distinguish between intentions and approach.

Dominant folks are typically direct and assertive in their communication. They’re confident and sure of themselves. They get to the point quickly and say what needs to be said. This may be different than your style. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. While you may not appreciate their approach, their intentions may be right. If you're turned off, is it just their style? Learn to distinguish between intentions and approach.

Add your voice when it ought to be added.

Omniscience isn’t a quality of dominance (sorry honey). Dominant people don’t really know it all; they’re depending on others to fill in the gaps. When you stay silent, you’re withholding a valuable contribution. Since sharing feedback comes naturally to dominant folks, they may not think to ask for yours. So help them out by adding your voice when it ought to be added.

Look for signs of unrest and address them.

If you feel your proverbial middle finger going up, that is, if you feel yourself disengaging from your dominant counterpart, then ask why. Look for signs of unrest and get curious about them. You may need more clarity or more time, but unless you ask for what you need, how will you get it? The best partnerships are engaged partnerships, so monitor your engagement level and address the obstacles.

There you see, dominant folks aren't monsters. They do bleed. Together dominant and compliant people can accomplish a whole lot more than alone. The trick is to stay in it.

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