A Coaching Power Tool created by Jalana Harris
(Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
There are some similarities between being compliant and cooperative and the outcomes can look the same. In both cases the end result may look like one or more people coming to an agreement or choosing the same option. However what the end result or outcome does not show is how the decision was arrived at. It does not show coercion, levels of power, manipulation or acquiescence. What we cannot see as onlookers is the process by which one or more individuals have come to a similar result. While some may believe the means are not as important as the end, we know this can be quite false. How you come to make a decision or the experience of deciding can be quite meaningful for the decider. Is this something you actually want or is it something you believe you should want. It is your choice or what you think others expect you to choose. Is it your truth or someone else’s? We often make decisions in life based on the values, thoughts and opinions of others, leaving us feeling powerless and dissatisfied with our choices or with life in general. We may think we are being cooperative when in fact we are submitting to the will of another based on the fear of an uncomfortable response.
Encarta Webster’s Dictionary defines cooperation as: the act of working together to achieve a common goal. Common synonyms are: collaboration, assistance, help, support, teamwork and mutual aid. This definition implies a joint and equal effort. Meaning that the thoughts, feelings and opinions of all parties count equally and no one has arrived at their decision under duress. When cooperation is taking place everyone can feel free to express their unique thoughts and opinions without fear and believe they will not be punished for doing so. When the outcome of a decision is conditional on the decision itself, cooperation between parties is not taking place, in fact free will has been taken out of the equation and replaced with provisions and stipulations altering the authenticity of the choice.
Compliance on the other hand is defined as: the state or act of conforming or agreeing to do something; readiness to conform or agree to do something. Common synonyms are obedience, submission, and acquiescence, falling in line, conformity and observance. The nature of this act is much different than cooperation. There is a power shift in which the complier is conforming to another. This can happen in many ways, including situations that involve oppression, manipulation or abuse by once group/individual towards another. While these instances are quite obvious, there are more subtle ways that we find ourselves in a state of compliance, and that is by oppressing ourselves. Because this tendency can be so engrained in our character or personality it can be quite unnoticeable. We may in fact fall in line without even realizing it. We may even have come to a place where we are not even sure of our thoughts and beliefs versus the thoughts of those who are important to us. If this process began in early childhood in order to avoid some believed negative outcome like abandonment, neglect or abuse it may have been a necessary coping skill to keep us feeling safe and secure. However as adults it more likely serves to make us feel unappreciated, used and resentful. We may find ourselves agreeing with the opinions of others only to make them happy or avoid negative outcomes when the true negative outcome is our own fraudulent living. Additionally, complying with another may work temporarily however to keep others happy we will constantly have to conform to their ways of at all times, consequently losing ourselves in the process (Jay Early, 2009).
There are times in our lives when it might be necessary to comply, perhaps at work or in other positions where our livelihood might depend on it. However there are other times when compliance is done out of fear of a negative response by the person we may be trying to please or it has simply become a habit where we believe the other’s choice is also our choice. We may begin to morph into our friends or loved ones unconsciously not knowing where they end and where we begin. In the case where we might be attempting to please another we may ourselves end up being displeased while the other is unappreciative or even unaware of our actions. Our relationships may be based on our fraudulence and our friends or loved ones may not know who we truly are (let alone us knowing who we truly are). In this instance we are not cooperating, we are complying and the oppressor is us! In many cases the perceived negative behavior we are trying to avoid may not even exist and if it does it’s possible that we need to reevaluate our relationships. If you cannot disagree with a friend or loved one without the threat of a negative response do they truly appreciate you for who you are or is there love and support conditional upon our submission to their will? Compliance assumes right and wrong, it assumes powerful and weak it forces us into a place of judgment; where as in cooperation we are equally aligned and in a state of acceptance…acceptance of others and of ourselves.