Social skills for autonomous people: Crucial differences


These things are different:

  • Wanting something to be true
  • Wanting to think something is true
  • Wanting someone else to feel like something is true
  • Wanting reassurance that something is true

An example:

  • Interacting with someone consensually
  • Feeling like your interactions are consensual

Also different things:

  • Having power. And being conscious of having that power. And being conscious that you may not always be able to recognize that you have power when you don’t. And actively trying to consider ways in which you could accidentally hurt others through your power even when you don’t mean to. And then trying to avoid doing any of these things to the best you know how.
  • Being certain that you cannot possibly have any power over others because you believe you are not “the kind of person” who wants power. (Clue #1: “having power” and “WANTING to have power” are not the same thing. But some people seem to think they are.  Clue #2: “Having power” and “being AWARE of having power” are also not the same thing. It’s possible to have power and not be aware of it.  In fact, power is usually only visible to people who don’t have it. So most of us have power in all sorts of ways that we haven’t yet learned to recognize.)
  • Wanting others to see you as a person who cannot possibly ever abuse your power over others. And/or wanting people to see you as a person who does not have power over others in the first place.
  • Wanting others to reassure you that you’re a nice person who doesn’t have power and/or would never use your power over others to hurt them in any way.

I should note here that things that Amanda Baggs (and also Dave Hingsburger) have written over the years have had a significant influence on my thinking around issues of power, including much of what I wrote above.  So even though I have come to internalize these concepts fairly well to the point that they feel like “mine” (in the sense that I try to “own” them enough to consider what forms of power I have and over whom I hold that power and how to avoid misusing it), they are not “mine” in the sense of having originated them.  Maybe RealSocialSkills can see a way to recast what I wrote here into something more pithy and memorable, in which case please have at it.

(Amanda Baggs = and; Dave Hingsburger =

This. Power is not a personality attribute.