As vein and selfish as this sounds, uncontrollably, all humans crave power. Some extremely consciously, and some not conscious of it at all. We set out to gain it and once we have it, we struggle to keep it. As suggested in the summary here, power struggles take place everywhere in human life, from the playground to the boardroom. In this modern day this struggle has broken into the digital age, through forums and through media and celebrities. Celebrities after all want this power too. The power of being able to hold and lead an audience. The pages of history are littered with men and women who lived and died in the struggle for greater power.
Individuals who achieve 'top dog' rank in their environment are said to understand the so-called 'rules of dominance'. These are the unwritten, unspoken guidelines, by which any given person can increase their status in their peer group or undermine the influence of others,
If you are reading this for a quick fix then I am sorry, gaining power and influence is not something you can do overnight, and though I do not confess to be a 'winner' in this field, I can give some quick tips for the short term and your future.
There are essentially two elements to power; Personal power and Perceived power. Personal power is the type that helps/makes you recover from setbacks, reach your goal, stand your ground and achieve what you want. This mind set is an excellent one to have and a good building block for power and influence over your peers. However, without perceived power it means NOTHING. Perceived power as the name may suggest, is the power that your peers believe you possess. You can have the utmost personal power within you but if your not communicating that, you will be perceived as powerless. As American author and power expert Robert Greene says, "Power, respect and recognition are only achievable for those who manage to draw attention to themselves. What the masses doesn't see doesn't matter."
Perhaps the easiest of ways to gain power, is to use the power of words. Though not applicable to all social situations and peer groups, nothing is more effective in our ability to influence others than a speech. Hell, in the right situation, just a word or a short sentence can leave a person humiliated or can raise them to the throne of power.
Take President Barack Obama for instance, for him a few well-chosen words can be enough to influence the political opinions of a whole country. He can increase his hold over his audience and devalue threats against his position. If you think President Obama sits at home quickly writing up his speeches the night before, think again! He has a team consisting of writers, behavioral psychologists and speech artists, Obama and his teams deliberately select specific words and phrases to win over the public. His main weapon of choice being the word 'we'. A simple two letter word helped change history. During his inauguration speech alone Obama used the word 80 times. Yes, 80. 'We' triggers a feeling of belonging among his audience. This choice word made the thousands of people watching and listening each feel individually as if he were talking to them and that they were part of a group. 'WE'. At the Dutch university of Radboud, it has been proven that the brain produces the chemical dopamine when we feel as if we are part of a group. Dopamine triggers feelings of happiness. The result being that everybody listening automatically associates the speaker (Obama in this case) with positive feelings.
Though I may of gone a little of track here, this is not limited to political speeches, or even just speeches, During everyday one-to-one conversations we have with people, there are certain 'signal words' that we can use to manipulate people. As daft or possibly obvious, as it may seem, having good manners and being courteous can really get you far. Words such as 'please', 'thank you', 'excuse me' really help to sell yourself. The ultimate word for any human to hear as you are speaking to them though, is their name. It helps to show them several things, first of all, you remembered their name - 10 respect bonus points to you, second of all they know it is them you are speaking to - not everyone in front of you, not your other friend next to them, just them. You have singled them out and given them all your attention. All their learnt social skills will tell them to acknowledge this attention and so they will listen to what you have to say. Once first hearing a name try to get into the habit of learning it, not just listening to it. Memorise it. If you use a person's name three to five time on your first encounter, this will solidify their name in your memory and better yet, you as a positive person in theirs.
As well as positive words, there are also a few cited negative words and phrases. Physical pain memories are triggered when we hear these words creating the negative association as we remember a time when these words applied to us. The worst of which you will unlikely to be using in casual conversation are; 'tormenting', 'gruelling' and 'troubling'. Some more likely words you'd use which give negative associations include; 'but', 'alright', 'even so' and 'however'.
Writing this, I feel I could have perhaps followed my own advice here, BUT I hope despite this you will want to carry on reading and not find it too GRUELLING. HOWEVER, WE are in it together now aren't WE?
To summarise Gaining Power then:
- Have great self belief and power withing yourself.
- Help others around you to perceive this power.
- Be bold and noticed.
- Be courteous and use names when you can!
- Start by selling yourself to individuals, give them your attention and in return, receive theirs.
- Use signal words, 'we', 'our'...make them feel included.
Once power has been allocated within a group, there is a constant struggle amongst individuals to re-allocate it. Often people may not even be aware of it, but whether in an office meeting, school presentation or a discussion on an internet forum, each individual is trying to increase his or her influence, reinforce their dominance and defend their position.
Take the classroom for example, when the teacher is speaking, trying to put an idea across and there is a disturbance from the pupils. We've all been there but what is actually happening is the students are trying to increase the power of the crowd and destroy the dominance of the speaker. To deal with this, language experts recommend using a simple counter-strategy. The person being challenged, in this case the teacher, needs to interrupt the heckler and the turn the tables on them. Simply saying "What do you mean by that?" or "Please could you repeat that?" will be enough to make the heckler back down and at at loss for words. In the classroom the conversation will most probably end there, the teacher is back in control and the lesson carries on. If however you feel you need to further unsettle the interrupter to perhaps discourage future such instances, you can do a follow up attack. If the heckler stays silent after your initial attack you could follow with "What's wrong, can't you give me an answer?". This will secure the teachers' power status by ensuring that no one else's has a chance to develop.
Bearing this advice in mind, you must try not to be seen as too argumentative because if you are not liked you will then not be respected and gaining power will become near impossible.
Last Few Words
So, if you are out to gain power I hope this hub has helped you! I've learnt a thing or two myself researching this and am happy to share what I have found. I will just say though, if you really want any power of anyone, the best you can do is get a job that includes and authoritative uniform! As from the minute we start learning, we are told to listen to and respect police officers, doctors, traffic wardens etc. So it is built in to respect authority. I am by no means condoning impersonating any of these professions though!
W1totalk on August 06, 2013:
Power. Great article.