All my life, I have been prone to the "power struggle." It's not that I am a control freak, nor that I have these relationships with every person I meet, but I have found that if someone is prone to trying to wield control, I might lock horns with them. I am intrigued by how to help dissipate a power play. I am curious about passive agressive people and how they enter the equation.
First off, I think most power struggles come out of a stressed situation. If there is no stress, it seems even the boldest of characters and bulliest of people can get along. As soon as an external struggle is introduced, people feel their loss of control profoundly. Some try and regain their control through overt attempts and others through more back-handed, "lead from behind" methods. The key, I suspect, must be in the acknowledgement of the stress situation. Somehow, if you call out the stressor and point out the loss of control that everyone must be feeling, they are able to come to grips with it. If the stressor looms and everyone pretends it doesn't exist, it can really bring out the worst in everyone.
Here are some things I have found that definitely mitigate the high tension situation:
1) Acknowledgement of the stressor and empathy to how it might be impacting others.
2) Speaking openly and honestly about what you are feeling and what others must be feeling.
3) Asking questions...open ended and thoughtful questions and then actually listening to the answers.
4) Believe it or not, revealing your weakness...crying, showing upset.