Book: The Power Paradox

the_power_paradox“The Power Paradox: How we gain and lose influence” by Dacher Keltner
  • “We gain a capacity to make a difference in the world by enhancing the lives of others, but the very experience of having power and privilege leads us to behave, in our worst moments, like impulsive, of-of-control sociopaths.”
  • “We will be more poised to outsmart the power paradox if we broaden our thinking and define power as the capacity to make a difference in the world, in particular by stirring others in our social networks.”
  • “Power is about making a difference in the world by influencing others.”
  • “We gain power by acting in ways that improve the lives of other people in our social networks. Our power is granted to us by others. This is rue at work, in social organizations of different kinds, and in our friendships, romantic partnerships, and families.”
  • “Having enduring power is a privilege that depends on other people continuing to give it to us.”
  • “Power is not only the capacity to influence others; it is also a state of mind. The feeling of having power is a rush of expectancy delight, and confidence, giving us a sense of agency and, ultimately, purpose.”
  • “These social practices are fourfold: empathizing, giving, expressing gratitude, and telling stories.”
  • “To lose focus on others can lead to empathy deficits and the loss of compassion, impulsive and unethical actions, and rude and uncivil behavior.”
  • “This is the heart of the power paradox: the seduction of power induce us to lose the very skills that enabled us to gain power in the first place.”
  • status: “the respect that you enjoy from other people in your social network; the esteem they direct to you. Status goes with power often but not always.”
  • control: “your capacity to determine the outcomes in your life. You can have complete control over your life–think of the reclusive hermit–but have no power.”
  • social class: “the mixture of family wealth, educational achievement, and occupational prestige that you enjoy; alternatively, the subjective sense you have of where you stand on a class ladder in society, high, middle, or low. Both forms of soical class are societal forms of power.”
  • Power principles
    • 1. “Power is about altering the state of other.”
    • 2. “Power is part of every relationship and interaction.”
    • 3. “Power is founded in everyday actions.”
    • 4. “Power comes from empowering others in social networks.”
    • 5. “Groups give power to those who advance the greater good.”
    • 6. “Groups construct reputations that determine the capacity to influence.”
    • 7. “Groups reward those who advance the greater good with status and esteem.”
    • 8. “Groups punish those who undermine the greater good with gossip.”
    • 9. “Enduring power comes from empathy.”
    • 10. “Enduring power comes from giving.”
    • 11.  “Enduring power comes from expressing gratitude.”
    • 12. “Enduring power comes from telling stories that unite.”
    • 13. “Power leads to empathy deficits and diminished moral sentiments.”
    • 14. “Power leads to self-serving impulsivity.”
    • 15. “Power leads to incivility and disrespect.”
    • 16. “Power leads to narratives of exceptionalism.”
    • 17. “Powerlessness involves facing environments of continual threat.”
    • 18. “Stress defines the experience of powerlessness.”
    • 19. “Powerlessness undermines the ability to contribute to society.”
    • 20. “Powerlessness causes poor health.”
  • “Some of the movements used the tactics of coercive force–bombs, assassinations, beheadings, torture, and civilian killings. other relied on nonviolent tactics–marches, vigils, petitions, and boycotts. The latter were twice as likely (53 percent versus 26 percent) to lead to achieving gains in political power, winning broad support from citizens, and contribbuting to the fall of oppressive regimes.”
  • “In our professional lives, people who endorse Machiavellian strategies to social life–lying, manipulating, and stepping on others to rise in the ranks–actually report experiencing less power and influence than the average person.”
  • “When we equate power to the ruthless violence of notorious dictators–Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot–we will fail to appreciate how power shapes our own interactions with our friends, parents, romantic partners, children, and work colleagues. When we think of power in terms of extraordinary acts of domination–tanks rolling through villages, guards treating naked prisoners like dogs at Abu Ghraib–we will fail to understand how power shapes more ordinary acts of creativity, reasoning, ethical judgment, affection, and emotion.”
  • “But today things are different, reflecting the social changes of the recent past: in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, people have come to believe the power is best expressed in compassion and enhancing the well-being of others, and that warmth and understanding are just as important to strong leadership as forceful, assertive, and bold behavior.”
  • “People’s social class-the combination of their wealth, education, and occupational prestige–accounts for only 10 to 15 percent of how powerful and influential they feel at any moment. Money and class translate to power only when people use these resources to make a difference in others’ lives.”
  • “Power, then, is the capacity to alter the state of others. By state, I simply mean the condition of another person or other people. States can be about anything–an individual’s bank account, a belief, and emotion, physical health, the ability to vote, a feeling of being watched, or a pattern of activation in  the brain or response in the immune system.”
  • “If you are an older sibling, you are more likely to develop into someone who seeks out power (and study it perhaps), who is a bit more oriented to the status quo (because it has historically favored those like you), and who is a bit more conventional.”
  • “If you are a younger sibling, you learn to be more sophisticated at the practices of kindness and cooperation, to avoid conflict with your dictatorial older siblings. You are more likely to gravitate toward innovative, risky actions that challenge the status quo, which has been biased against you. You are more likely to endorse and lead scientific revolutions. You are more likely to steal bases as professional baseball players. You are more likely to go into a career as a stand-up comedian and mock the powers that be.”
  • “In more egalitarian, mutually empowered couples, partners feel more love, more trust, and more satisfactions.”
  • “But in heterosexual relationships where the woman feels disempowered, she is less likely to have orgasms and is more likely to lack sexual interest and lubrication of her vaginal walls in preparation for sex.”
  • “In heterosexual couples where the man feels disempowered, for example by a job loss or an economic downturn, he is more vulnerable to premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction.”
  • “People gain power as the result of small, everyday behaviors: by speaking up first, offering a possible answer to a problem, being first to assert an opinion, freeing up everyone’s thinking by throwing out a wild suggestion, question, or humorous observation that gets the creative juices flowing.”
  • “The fact that power is tied to everyday acts helps explain why it is always in flux. Your capacity to influence is always shifting, depending on your actions. A person’s power differs from one context to another: a woman might feel powerful supervising a team at work but relatively powerless at home when negotiating with a defiant teen. Even within the same context, a person’s power shifts over time: one day at work the individual is assertive and influential, the next day less so.”
  • “Power corresponds to the human ability not just to act but to act in concert. Power is never the property of an individual; it belongs to a group and remains in existence only so long as the group keeps together. When we say of somebody that he is ‘in power,’ we actually refer to his being empowered by a certain number of people to act in their name.”
  • “If our power is found in our social networks, then it follows that it is based in how well we empower others. And we empower others through daily acts of influence: by acknowledging another’s good works, by offering an encouraging phrase or making appreciative eye contact, or by giving others responsibilities, resources, and opportunities. That power lies in empowering individuals in social networks is in fact an antidote to the power paradox.”
  • “Behavior is infectious. When you share something with a stranger, that act of generosity makes the stranger 19 percent more generous in a subsequent interaction with new strangers not involving you. That new stranger, in turn, is 7 percent more generous in yet another interaction with yet other strangers, not twice removed from you.”
  • “What this means is that your ability to make a difference in the world is shaped by what other people think of you. Your capacity to alter the state of others depends on their trust in you. Your ability to empower others depends on their willingness to be influenced by you. Your power is constructed in the judgments and actions of others.”
  • Social tendency–Actions with high greater good score
    • “Enthusiasm–Reach out to others”
    • “Kindness–cooperate, share, give”
    • “Focus–Focus on shared goals, rules”
    • “Calmness-install calm, perspective”
    • “Openness-Be open to others’ ideas and feelings”
  • Actions with low greater good score
    • “Avoid social contact”
    • “Exploit other for own gain”
    • “Neglect shared goals, rules”
    • “Complain, be defensive”
    • “Disregard others’ ideas”
  • “In de Waal’s words: ‘A leader receives support and respect from the group… in exchange for keeping order.'”
  • “Everyone in a workplace knows who the bad apples are–those who have reputation for undermining the organization’s cohesiveness. Bad apples are rude an d uncivil, they free-ride on others’ efforts, and they complain and quarrel and instigate uncivil discourse. These reputations cost them–they then to not rise in power, and they enjoy few opportunities for influence or innovation (Principle 6).”
  • “First reputations create opportunities for influence. Studies find that if you have a reputation for advancing the greater good, others will direct more resources to you. They will seek you out to form friendships and alliances. They will collaborate with you more cooperatively and effectively. People with reputations for being selfish and out for personal gain, by contrast, then to be excluded from exciting areas of innovation and collaboration and occupy more peripheral places within social networks. Reputations are amplifiers of the capacity to influence.”
  • “Second, reputations are a group’s way of making individuals aware of the effects of their actions upon others, increasing the chances they will in the future act in ways that are good for the group.”
  • “Reputation is one way groups attempt to prevent the power of paradox.”
  • “When social collective elevate the status of individuals in formal acts of recognition–such as awards–it inspires others to act in ways that advance the group’s interests.”
  • “This hunger for elevated status serves groups well, leading to arms races of generosity as individuals compete for status.”
  • “The affordance of status is yet another means by which groups keep the powerful in check, attempting to countervail the more self tendencies that accompany the abuses of power.”
  • “Gossip typically targets individuals who seek power at the expense of others.”
  • “Social penalties like gossip, shaming, and ostracism are painful indeed and can easily be misused (in particular by those in power). But they are also powerful social practices, seen in all cultures, by which group members elevate the standing of those who advance the greater good and prevent those less committed to it from a gaining power.”
  • “Stay focused on other people. Prioritize others’ interests as much as your own. Bring the good in others to completion, and do not bring the ad in others to completion. Take delight in the delights of others, as they make a difference in the world.”
  • “Empathetic young adults moving into the workplace report higher level of job satisfaction: they prove to be better negotiators, haggling in negotiations that create better outcomes for both sides.”
  • In NBA: “The players who touched their teammates in these encouraging ways made their teams play better.”
  • “The touches that we observed on the basketball court had these qualities of Ubuntu: they were warm, collaborative, affirming act oriented to others. That is another way of saying they achieved enduring power by focusing on others. they give the team wholeness and strength. We empower through subtle, often barely visible acts of generosity.”
  • “Those partners who subtly expressed gratitude to each other during the conversations–for example, by validating their partner’s beliefs or by nodding affirmatively at something the partner said–were over three times more likely to be together six months later.”
  • “Good storytelling makes for enduring power for now-familiar reasons: it enhances the interests of others and reduces the stresses of group living. it promotes the greater good, generating shared mirth, levity, and joy–all dopamine-rich experiences that build strong ties within social networks (Principle 5).”
  • “We gain and maintain power through giving, but when we are feeling powerful, we act in self-gratifying and often greedy ways. Dignifying other with expression of gratitude is essential to achieving enduring power, but once we are feeling powerful, we become rude and offensive. We build enduring power by telling stories that unite, but once we feel powerful, we tell stories that divide and demean.”
  • “Mimicking others’ nonverbal behaviors gives rise to greater rapport, trust, and more effective collaboration between teachers and students, doctors and patients, work colleagues, friends, and people flirting. Power undermines this basic foundation of empathy and collaborative interactions with others.”
  • “People who have less in the world must depend more on others, which enhances compassion. Loss of compassion is one of the costs of power and privilege, diminishing our basic concern for others, which is vital to trust and closeness in relationships.”
  • “The more powerful individuals were more likely to admit the intention to have a sexual affair, and they walked the talk as well: 26.3 percent had cheated on their spouses, and the unfaithful were mainly people with power, both men and women.”
  • “Again, privilege prompts self-serving impulsivity, even at the expense of others’ welfare, common sense, and the law.”
  • “Again, people from upper-class backgrounds attributed these fateful events to the individual’s talent, effort, genius, and character. In their minds, unique talents (or the lack of them) determine the course a person’s life takes, their success or failure, their marriage, even illness. By contrast, participants from lower-class backgrounds indicated that the good and bad events in life are due to both to individual qualities and to forces in the environment.”
  • “Understanding the causes and consequences of powerlessness catalyzes our awareness of others and immunizes us against the power paradox, just as allowing ourselves to be indifferent or blind to the consequences of powerlessness can give rise to the power paradox.”
  • “powerlessness is the most robust trigger of stress and cortisol release. The daily and chronic stress of my neighbors on Kayo Drive manifested in many ways: unusual anxieties, sleep disruption, short tempers, the need for extra beer or nicotine.”
  • “Some might assume that people feeling powerless are disengaged or worse–uninterested or lazy. But just the opposite is true: powerlessness brings a hypervigilance to threat.”, “In he less powerful, such threats cause the stress response to go into overdrive.”
  • “Chronically high levels of cortisol triggered by powerlessness, have been shown to change the individual’s brain, further amplifying the vigilance to threat.”
  • “Recent research is showing that chronic powerlessness–poverty–stunts brain development in perhaps permanent ways that undermine not only school performance but also the capacity to contribute to society more generally.”
  • Five-fold path to enduring power
    • “Be aware of your feelings of power. The feeling of power is like a vital force moving through your body, involving the acute sense of purpose that results when we stir others to effective action.”, “Do so will help you find answers to one of life’s most poignant questions: What is your purpose in life?”, “If you remain aware of this feelign and its context, you will not be entrapped by myths that power is money or fame or social class or fancy title.”
    • “Practice humility.”, “People who enact their power with humility enjoy more enduring power. Ironically, the more we approach our power, our capacity to influence others, with humility, the greater our power is.”
    • “Say focused on others, and give. The most direct path to enduring power is through generosity. Give resources, money, time, respect, and power to others.”
    • “Practice respect.”, “Practicing respect requires work. There is no reward people value more than being esteemed and respected. Those who have less power are gifted practitioners of respect–praise, compliment, polite language, deferential nonverbal behavior–but the powerful often abandon these practices.”
    • “Change the psychological context of powerlessness. “, “Should you have the time, pick one price of powerlessness and change it for the better.”

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