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Power Exchange

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Over the past ten years, I have had many different acquaintances and interactions with a varying degree of people. Those experiences have given me endless opportunities to study the exchange of power in the here and now. I was first introduced to this dynamic of interpersonal communication as a college student attending the University of Missouri at Rolla. I went into the class thinking that I would easily excel due to my outgoing personality and my past success at communicating with people. I was shocked to learn that these traits did not guarantee that I was an effective communicator. Power was the key to effective communication and, at that point in my life I had no idea of what power was made.

Our class began in the same way every day for the first few weeks. We would break up into groups and our professor would instruct us to," Explore the exchange of power in the here and now". He did not provide any correspondence or anymore instruction. We would ask for guidance and were told the exact same phrase. So looking a bit bewildered, we would begin talking amongst ourselves about a myriad of issues. The hour would pass and we would leave. After a few weeks, I was convinced that this was the entirety of the course and assured that I would receive an A. Just about that time, our professor started asking questions of us.

These questions revolved around power, authority and leadership. We took turns defining these terms and their usefulness in interpersonal communication. I learned quickly that I had perceived these areas incorrectly. This was a stark contrast to the way that I had been trained up to that point in my life. I was always told that you look a person in the eye, speak clearly, and with authority. I learned that authority can only take you so far as a leader. As a true leader, I really power. Power is not defined by a title or knowledge. It is not a trait that I can extract from a person or a group of people. Power is to be given to a leader or a speaker by his subordinates or audience, respectively. I would have to continuously improve my communication skills to be an effective leader and communicator.

The most difficult situation for a person to effectively communicate involves groups of people. For the purposes of this paper a group is defined as more than four or more persons who have an identified or authorized leader and an established task to perform. Groups offer such challenges because of a diversity of life experience. Included in this diversity are stratums of education, bias, core values, emotional baggage, age, and so forth. All of these factors weigh into the perception of the communicator by his/her audience. While no person can know all of another person's inner thoughts and beliefs, it has become evident that understanding and acknowledging these differences will provide invaluable dividends to any person attempting to lead a



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