How to Recognize Coercion


Coercion isn’t always recognizable. In fact, we all engage is subtle and not-so-subtle forms of coercion every day. Can you recognize coercion in your day-to-day activities?

Here is a simple example.

My wife was viewing the first ten minutes of a movie on TV and was so enthralled with it that she pressed the “record” button and then stopped viewing the program. She announced that she looked forward to sharing the movie with me and told me that she was saving it until such time as we could watch it together.

When that time came around, her enthusiasm pitched even higher. However, as she turned on the recording and the synopsis of the movie was shown, I found that I had no interested in the movie. My wife was so surprised and disappointed that she reiterated her desire to share and the fact that she had saved the viewing for both of us. She strongly assured me, even insisted, that I would enjoy the movie based on the first ten minutes she saw of it. I protested that I did not want to take my time to watch that particular movie. The plot did not interest me.

Silence! I went my way; she went her way.

Reflection Reduces Coercion

Later, we came together for clarity, which is our usual approach. (I have found that aiming for clarity is much more advantageous than attempting to convince.) She felt justified in her position. I asked, “Isn’t this a form of coercion—insisting that I view a film in which I have no interest?”

The moment she heard the word, “coercion,” I saw the surprise on her face. I had uttered the big “C” word. She said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was being coercive. I didn’t recognize it as such, but now I do. You are right.”

Even sharing, if not done with consideration, can be coercive. But notice the approach: Asking a reflective question led to clarification.

In what ways are you using coercion with others in your life? How are others using coercion with you?

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