Jennifer A. Samp Ph.D.

Conflict Matters

Thinking About Our Influence of Power in Our Relationships

How we think about our amount of influence over another can impact how we relate

Posted Dec 22, 2018

Power perceptions
Source: NeffandHarter/Adapted

Power is something that is a phenomenon that some people are quick to define. A lot of times, we think about power as a measure determined how we measure up in organizational structures (for example, am I a "President" or a "Manager?" We often make assumptions about how organizational structures define how we should communicate. But research suggests that we often think abut how to communicate base on our assessment about power with regard to one another—even in close relationships. 

Neff and Harter (2002) argue that power, particularly in close relationships, is defined by "Decision Making Power." Decision making is defined by "control" and with whom we speak with regarding decisions. Thus power can be thought of about in terms of what we have to talk about and what we share with others (and to whom we share that information. They provide a good thought point  to help us think about our influence, versus a partners influence on decision making.

So, and important issue to consider is: Who has the decision-making power in your relationship?


Neff, K D., & Harter, S. (2002). The role of power and authenticity in relationship styles emphasizing autonomy, connectedness, or mutuality among adult couples. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 19, 6, 835-857.

Volume: 19 issue: 6, page(s): 835-857