Seesaws and Swings

I've been thinking a lot about power dynamics recently.

More specifically, I've been wondering how power dynamics affect our ability to handle an issue.

For the purposes of this post, I'd like to explore the concept of a power dynamic in its most basic form: A one-on-one conversation.

To help in the exploration, let's take a trip to a local playground.

The Seesaw

Imagine that you and I are sitting on a seesaw.

A simple enough thing to imagine, right?

Now let's take it a step further.

Imagine there is a magical ball that someone has placed on this seesaw.

The ball sits on the central pole that connects our two seats.

The ball will roll back and forth with the movement of the seesaw, but it can't fall off the seesaw.

As I said, it's a magical ball.

For the sake of the analogy, let's imagine the ball is an issue that we need to handle.

In order to really understand the issue objectively, we have to work to keep it balanced between us.

That might be hard to do on a seesaw, right? Especially if we are not in balance.

At times, we may need to study the issue more closely from each of our perspectives, so we can just tilt the seesaw toward one side.

The really tricky part comes when we have to dismount.

The seesaw usually ends up tilted to one side.

That side will end up with the ball.

This is the hidden danger of power dynamics.

The Swing


Imagine that you and I are sitting on some swings.

A simple enough thing to imagine, right?

Now let's take it a step further.

Imagine that magical ball again.

Where do we stick it?

Well, there is a pole above our heads that connects our swings, but who would want to stick it there? It would be really hard to look at it up close if we wanted to.

So perhaps the most logical place to stick the ball is directly in front of us. Perhaps halfway between our two swings.

Now, we swing.

Depending on our timing, one of us might be closer to the ball, and can examine it with a bit more detail.

A key difference from our time on the seesaw:

We are not passing the ball back and forth.


To be more specific:

There isn't a system that's forcing the ball to move back and forth between us.


We are both able to look at the issue. Together. Out in front of us.

This is a possible approach to lessen the hidden danger of power dynamics.

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