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I think she is pulling a couple of power moves, how to deal with it (practical example)

I hope it is fine to post this topic here, since I am not dating this woman, but it is an exchange between a man and a woman and I think very much concerning power dynamics. I had a confrontation with her weeks ago and I went to aggressive. I lost social status that day and am trying to build up my reputation again. I texted her an apology worded like this:


Hey Name, I just wanna check in with you and tell you something that has been bothering me for a while. I wanted to apologize for my behavior this one time downstairs in the com room. My reaction to what you said (she pulled a covert power move on me), was overboard and I did not mean it. I hope we can live in peace here in this house and everything is fine between us. (I think my message was very appropiate and included no value-taking instead adding value by expressing my desire to live with her in peace, but I am open to here some feedback, maybe I am wrong?)

Her reply:

Hey Me, I hope you are doing fine! (Suggesting I wouldn't be fine) I really appreciate your apology from the bottom of my heart (showing some warmth to me). I am so happy to read this kind of message from you (Framing me as someone who is not capable of communication). Of course everything is fine between us (Framing me as a non-threat)! May god bless you (Framing me as someone who needs guidance) 🙂 

I am planning to answer something like this, but I feel like I would let her go to easy with that.


Thanks for your well wishes and your openness (Trying to hint at that I know what she is doing) . I couldn’t be happier (Refusing her frames regarding my situation) 🙂 May God bless you too (Putting the same frame regarding guidance on her) 🙂 

My instincts are telling me I should do something about the value-taking communication frame, but I feel like it would make me look over-invested in what she is saying and it is also hard to add to the message without making it too much.

What do you guys think? Would love to hear some feedback on this exchange.



Thanks for sharing your exchange here and your interpretations of it!

It seems like you might be in the overanalyzing phase along with me and, nothing wrong with that at all. I'll let one of the more advanced members be the final decision-maker on what exactly happened here and how to best approach a way forward. But, here are my thoughts and my feedback:

*Note: I'll be referencing you as "Dash" in this exchange for readability, you can let me know of another name you'd prefer for the future if you'd like.

Dash: Hey [Her Name], I just wanna check in with you and tell you something that has been bothering me for a while. I wanted to apologize for my behavior (leverages submissiveness to rebalance the relationship) this one time (specifies what he's apologizing for to avoid confusion and limit submissiveness) downstairs in the com room. My reaction to what you said, was overboard and I did not mean it. I hope we can live in peace here in this house and everything is fine between us (leverages the "O" in the "DESOE" assertiveness framework by outlining the outcome he wants for the relationship).

Her: Hey Dash, I hope you are doing fine! (standard "one-cross" rapport building statement) I really appreciate your apology from the bottom of my heart (shows appreciation of Dash's friendly behavior to encourage that behavior in the future). I am so happy to read this kind of message from you (thread-expands on her appreciation to encourage Dash to behave this way after being value-taking in the future). Of course everything is fine between us (accepts the newly rebalanced relationship)! May god bless you?

From the top, we can say that apologizing is submissive. That's why it's good for helping to rebalance a relationship after you've done something wrong, value-taking, or aggressive.

The part where you note "this one time" looks like it helps you preserve your power. As if to say, "I'm not about to go down a long list of apologies here, I'm apologizing for this one specific point in our interaction where I was out of line, and that's it." I think that was pretty good to put a cap on your submissiveness so you don't end up losing the other side's respect.

I might have phrased it a little differently:

Ali: "...I want to apologize for letting my emotions get the better of me and losing control."

That way, you're making it more clear that you're apologizing for the problem you were facing at the time (a lack of emotional control in the heat of the moment) and not so much what you might have actually done which is where saying "my behavior" and "my reaction" might remind her of those painful things.

Overall, I think it was a bit on the long side, and that can be good depending on what exactly happened. The more value-taking a person is in a heated situation, the more they'll typically need to do in order to rebalance the relationship.

The "I hope you are doing fine" is a one-cross frame. It doesn't add or take value and it's a very common statement to keep or start building rapport.

In terms of your note on the implied frame:

  • I hope you are doing fine! (= you might not be doing fine, hence why I'm hoping you are)

I don't think it's suggesting that you wouldn't be fine, but that you might not be fine. Especially after you said "I just wanna check in with you and tell you something that has been bothering me for a while", it makes this situation seem like it might have been eating away at you for a bit. So, I think it was kind of her to lead into her response with that.

The only "covert power move" I see here is that she really drags on about the apology whereas it would have been more powerful to simply show that one has already moved on and that everything is all good. And, that's why I don't really consider it a "power move", more like poor social strategy.

If there is a game here, it's to set expectations for how she wants to be treated in the future. Instead of saying "I forgive you" as a way of taking the judge power for herself, she keeps mentioning her appreciation for your apology and happiness to see "this kind" of message from you. Both "appreciation" and "happiness" being possible signs of the positive judge role.

And, that could set up a relationship of the "who makes whom happy" judge role where you have to be sure to continue keeping her happy with this behavior unless you want to experience her negative judgment (criticism, disappointment, emotional distance, etc.).

At the same time, I do the most overanalyzing when it comes to situations regarding covert power moves since everything is so, well, covert. So, perhaps take that with a grain of salt until you get more feedback from other members in the forum.

Lastly, the whole "may God bless you" note was a little weird for me to read. It's very different from the note Lucio received from an angry Fiverr seller, "God will give him back." Yet, it also felt a little over the top and unneeded for the situation.

If I were to receive that message in your shoes I might be thinking, "OK, you already expressed your appreciation many times over. There's no need to bring God into this."

But, keep in mind, this also depends on how she's saying it (it seems like she really meant no harm) and the personality type of the person you're interacting with. I know people who are very openly spiritual and love spreading good vibes by spreading "God".

Me personally, a genuine, heartfelt, "It's a beautiful day ain't it? God bless :)" always gets me going on a beautiful morning :).

Lucio Buffalmano, Matthew Whitewood and selffriend have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoMatthew Whitewoodselffriend

Ali, thank you for this thorough analysis of the exchange. I really appreciate it. I see that there are much more layers to even text-based communication then I have been aware of. I really had a completely different point of view, which I think I can explain at least a little bit.

Before our stand-off happened she had a history of covert power moves pulled on me, but in person, not over text. One example that I could recall would be, when we were socializing in a group-setting of six people. While the conversation was mostly friendly banter, she shifted the topic to the three guys present, me and two friends of mine, saying that we were all attractive and probably have a lot of dating opportunities. So after taking this judge-role and overly inflating our value, she went on to say this.

I refer to myself as Ramo in this statement.


From all you guys I think Ramo is the most attractive, but Ramo... you need to be more confident! You need to be more.... (Closing her fist and gesturing in a way that I would describe as a winning pose, imagine someone hitting a strike in bowling and celebrating with a closed fist and bend arm)


What do you mean? (I don't remember my exact words, but she then went on to explain)


Well he (Friend #1) is more extroverted. You should learn from him. (She went higher on the judge-role, framing the situation as a student and teacher setting, with two teachers present and directly deflated my value by negatively comparing me to someone present in front of the whole group)

As far as I can tell and from the way I felt during this, I considered it a covert power move, coming from a Machiavellian-type character, because there was no value-taking by my side beforehand. Adding to this I have observed her pulling moves like this on other people in similar group-settings. I can totally understand your point of view, but seeing a little bit of context here, would you change your interpretation?

Ali has provided solid feedback already :).
I will add on my perspective.

Is She Your Housemate?

Are you living with this woman in the same house?
This may affect the dynamics.
And, as you said, there may be recurring issues that have not been surfaced with housemates.

Assertive Communication

The main issue is that you did not express your emotions about her covert power move.
As you said, she probably knows that she pulled a covert power move.
Covert power moves can be very annoying so it gets under people's skin.
The message may come across as too submissive as you give her the power to determine what is fair behaviour and unfair behaviour.

Ali proposed a solid, descriptive message to apologise specifically for getting more passionate.
It's also good to mix in why you felt that way afterwards.
Keep it shorter like what Ali suggested.

You: I want to apologize for letting my emotions get the better of me and losing control.
When you said ..., I felt that it was condescending because it implied ...

It seems that you are letting her take too much of a judge role on you as well.
That gives her soft power.

Hello Matthew and thanks for taking time out of your day to respond to this exchange 🙂

I have already send the apology worded like in my first post. I realize I could have been slightly more assertive and constructive. I went the easy road, the kind of apology that seems sincere without justifying myself too much. I think all in all I did a good job though, for someone who is still learning a lot.

Since then I have replied to her message, honestly in the exact same tonality that she used in her reply. I would say there were a couple of power moves in there, but I am not sure, looking at how you and Ali interpreted her message. I am just starting to realize though that this way of texting could just be her true self, trying to assess the situation and respond gracefully without being too submissive. If there is interest on how the exchange went on, I can upload this part of the conversation also 🙂

Thanks for your help guys, really appreciate it 🙂

What was the confrontation?

Just a quick note on "Hey Me, I hope you are doing fine", "I really appreciate your apology from the bottom of my heart", "Of course everything is fine between us"

Those are just a routine lines and there is no point to over-analyze this.

"I am so happy to read this kind of message from you"

To me this is kind of giving reward and cementing the frame. But still it is also a very typical, routine, "official" line with little emotion and power move.