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Sydney Brooks
Speech 104- Intro to Interpersonal Communications
Carlton Kelley
March 24th, 2014


Power in Interpersonal Relationships
Relationships, like most other situations, come with an unequal distribution of
power. Power, by definition, is the ability of one person to influence what another person
does or thinks. It is nearly impossible for power to be spread even because one person
is always more powerful than another in any given area. For example, some people are
naturally better at sports, more attractive, more intelligent, or more wealthy than others
around them. These things give people their power. In relationships there are six types
of power: referent, legitimate, expert, information or persuasion, reward, and coercive.
Referent power is often positive and beneficial. If someone has good referent
power, they most likely have many people who strive to be like them. People listen to
them because they admire their qualities. For example, a young girl may idealize her
stepmother and respect her very much. The girl will listen and try to do whatever her
step mom does. People with great referent power are usually trusted by many.
Having legitimate power is quite different. When someone has legitimate power
they use their authority to control people. The president, police officers, parents, and
teachers are thought to use their legitimate powers often. Who they are or what they
have done automatically gives them power over others. Legitimate can be used in very
bad or very good ways.

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If someones knowledge is perceived to be greater that other peoples in a
subject, they may be unquestionably followed and respected by others. This form of
power is referred to as expert power. For example, when a sick person goes to see a
doctor to get help, they regard the doctor with respect because the doctor has power
over their well being. The doctor has the skills to fix the patient that the patients brother,
perhaps, does not. This form of power is also very kind and pure as long as the expert
remains fair and unbiased.
Some people are more gifted with the power of persuasion than others. They can
easily persuade and communicate with others. They are said to have amazing rhetoric
and are able to use interpersonal competence to speak eloquently. These people have
increased power over others who do not communicate so efficiently.
Reward power is when someone has power because they give someone else a
reward for doing what they want them to do. For example, someone may give their
siblings money, candy, or clothes for getting up on time. In contrast, the reward may
also be non material such as respect or love. Teachers control students by giving them
good grades for doing good work. A supervisor may give a worker a promotion for
working hard. Using reward power tells the person that they have done something right.
Coercive power is the opposite of reward power. It is taking things away or giving
punishment if the expected task is not done. A teacher giving a student a bad grade for
not doing the assignment is coercive power. The teacher does this so maybe the
student will get the message and do the work next time. Another good example of
coercive power is in the workplace. The manager has power over an employee because
if the job is not being done correctly, the manager has the authority to fire the worker.

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This form of power is viewed as less attractive than reward power. Contrary to reward
power, coercive power usually makes people upset or angry. Using this type of power
sometimes results in problems and conflicts in the future and causes the person using
the power to be viewed as less powerful in other areas(expert, legitimate, and referent).
Most often, more than one source of power is used to influence others. Different
combinations are used by different people, but the more sources one uses, the more
influential they usually are. Doctors have more than one type of power. They often have
expert, information, and legitimate power. This makes them fairly powerful just by
definition. Other professions work the same way.
For some people, power is the most important part of life. Sometimes in
relationships one partner is angry because they have less power than the other one and
become violent or abusive. The people that let their drive for power rule them do not
believe that power can be shared. They become greedy and will do anything to feed
their need for power. The power hungry want nothing more than to increase their
influence. Because of this, they are usually viewed negatively.
Power is very important to the success of relationships, government, and life, but
it does not need to be in control. Many of the greatest motivational, respected, and
powerful people such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Joan of Arc
were not power hungry. Power should be used in the most respectful, humane, and
beneficial ways even though the difference in power often results in dichotomy between
social classes.