Purpose, responsibility, revelation and Spiderman

Three weeks in to the Principles of Effective Interaction course (PEI) and I’ve been inquiring into responsibility. This blog post documents some observations and thoughts. While writing I considered a derivation of the Voltaire quote (via Spiderman): “With great power comes great responsibility” — “With great responsibility, comes great power” i.e. one’s level of clarity and commitment is proportional to power and possibilities, in effective interactions.


My primary context for the inquiries were professional relationships relating to social entrepreneurship (e.g. customers, members, partners, competitors, sponsors), though the inquiry also extended into physical training, daily work and personal relationships.

The questions held included:

  • What is ability and skill in this arena?
  • What is my purpose and what would ‘winning’ be in this interaction?
  • What must I and others do for the win-win-win-win potential of this relationship to be realised?

I became much clearer about how responsibility, purpose and scope of roles and activities all contribute to effective interactions. This clarity has deepened and reinforced my understanding of personal and organisational practices (GTD, Holacracy, check-ins at the start and end of meetings etc.). It also showed up how significantly each parties understanding of the purpose of the interaction can dramatically effect perceptions of the behaviours e.g. whether the purpose of a meeting is to win, collaborate or grow a friendship dramatically changes your interpretation of anything you do in that meeting.

Some other observations and thoughts include:

The lure of ‘better’ must trump the satisfaction with ‘good’. Developing ability requires that my desire to be more skillful overcomes both the fear of losing and desire to hold on to what I already have e.g. relationships, status, money, positional power.

Commitment may be the best way to reduce risk. Commitment to ability enables exercises and experimentation with a clear purposes and outcomes, which increases the efficiency and decreases the risks of those exercises e.g. One experiment at a time is better than doing many at once, due to the increased focus and attention.

Responsibility is necessary in order to act appropriately and effectively. The likelihood of #winning outcomes is increased by responsibility for those outcomes. Responsibility is enabled by clarity of purpose and role in the interaction. Responsibility, plus some awareness and inquiry (on the part of the individual) makes it possible to interact appropriately and effectively (in a context) e.g. act appropriately and effectively to: enable buying (as a salesperson), enable training (as a coach), enable growth (as an investor).

Responsibility and revelation are enabling of generativity. Responsibility also makes revelation possible. That is, my own clarity allows me to reveal that to others, and allows them to empathise, hold me accountable, give feedback, and to adjust their own behaviour or end the interaction. My own revelation may encourage clarification of their own motivation e.g. If I communicate that my purpose is to be a great trainer, then it may trigger the clarity in the other person about their relationship to being a learner / the one being trained. This also hints at responsibility and revelation being mutual (and even generative, for the benefit of me, others and all) not just causal or conditional.

Saying I want to win probably increases the likelihood of it happening. If my purpose is to win in a competitive interaction, revelation of my purpose doesn’t necessitate any further unveiling of your tactics. Sharing and clarifying my purpose may increase my competitive advantage purely by reinforcing the focus of your awareness, without any requirement to go further and disadvantage myself by revealing all my tactics. 

Paternalism doesn’t help anyone (and is probably projection). If I say that my purpose is to act in the best interest of others, there’s a risk that I’ll get confused about my and the purpose. Acting ‘on behalf of’ another / principle as a patriarch, matriarch, martyr or moral adjudicator is very awkward, as I try to leverage or influence others behaviour in way that they may intuitively resist as you could be imposing a purpose on them that they may not have accepted, are not conscious of and that they can’t take responsibility for. This can be further complicated because even if you both agree the purpose for them, they are really the only one who can effectively take responsibility for their actions, access their experience, and assess outcomes. I had a sense of this when writing my New Year’s Resolutions, so am glad to understand these dynamics better.

Outcomes can be achieved instantaneously. As soon as my purpose is clear, then I am free to move immediately to do the exercise, achieve my purpose and generate the outcomes. e.g. If I am in a fight and want to win, then I can aim to ‘win’ in the first second (and every subsequent second).

Each of these thoughts requires further application and inquiry! But they have also had immediate impact, even if there were some serious ‘fails’ in my attempts at effective interaction this week. 

At least in my professional relationships I am also clearer on what the components of ability may be, and so can create more opportunities to practise and exercise: 

  • Purpose = aligning with outcomes through adjusting my attention and identity,
  • Presence = embodying complete commitment to purpose,
  • Communication = listening empathically in order to respond appropriately,
  • Discernment = accurately perceiving and judging what what is winning, losing, fair or unjust,
  • Negotiation = making adjustments to purpose, agreements or conditions 
  • Delivery = maintaining integrity through delivering (instantly, if possible).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *