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Powerful People

 

Explanations > Power > Powerful People

Using symbols | Speaking more or less | Interrupting | Rule-breaking | Trusting more | Thinking less | Thinking more | So what?

 

How do powerful people behave? Here are some of the things they do, and why. In particular powerful people act either to get what they want or simply to sustain and enhance their power.

Using symbols

Powerful people often use the symbols of power to demonstrate to others that they are powerful. They dress in expensive clothes, drive new and powerful clothes. They have powerful friends and let others know this.

Power is often illusory, and is as much about confidence as anything else, with power being ceded by those who believe they have less. Symbols are consequently a part of the toolkit that 'powerful' people use to persuade others that they have more real power than they perhaps have.

Truly powerful people are often understated in how they dress and how they use symbols. By an almost reverse psychology, they say 'I do not need symbols' and they live more by their reputation and the quiet knowledge that they can get everything they need. The symbols of power are still significant but in their absence rather than their presence.

Speaking more or less

Depending on whether they have a psychological need to be heard or not, powerful people will speak more or less. The more extraverted people will take the stage and pronounce for a long as they like, quite possibly in a louder voice.

Others will wait quietly then speak briefly but forcefully. Speaking at the end, after others speak is a distinct technique as it allows the person to take account of the useful information gained by listening to others. It also allows the powerful person to praise or criticize other speakers. As others have already spoken, it also allows the powerful person to close the conversation or change topic.

Rule-breaking

When speaking, powerful people will interrupt more. When they want to speak, they will speak rather than waiting politely for others to end. Speaking when they want is an example of how powerful people will break rules.

Powerful people will also touch others, breaking rules of 'no touch'. This needs to be done with care and within stricter cultural rules, for example touching only on the arm, back and shoulders. Stronger rule-breaking may include patting on the head and gripping the other person.

Rule-breaking may be deliberate, to demonstrate the person's power. It may also enhance power, for example when they interrupt another person, thus showing they are more powerful, pushing themselves up the hierarchy and the other person down.

Rule-breaking may also be unthinking as the powerful person is so accustomed to getting what they want that without criticism, they may act like a bull in a china shop, damaging all around them. On the other hand, they may use it as a spare and deliberate signal, showing that by breaking a rule once they can choose to do it at any time they like.

Trusting more

When less powerful people trust more powerful people they may be putting themselves in danger, as if conflict arises between them the powerful person will likely win. Less powerful people consequently are less trusting of more powerful people.

In the reverse case, powerful people know they punish others if they are not trustworthy and that they have the means to extricate themselves from a damaging situation. In consequence there is less risk for them to trust and so they trust more.

Thinking less

People with less power may be harmed by people with power so they think carefully before speaking to powerful people. And because powerful people do not have to worry about what others might think about them, they think less before speaking.

Also, because they have the power to change decisions, they often think less before making decisions. On the other hand, if the decision might affect their power then they will be more cautious. For example a rich person will spend a smaller sum (which seems large to the average person) with impunity, whilst they will be more cautious spending large sums.

Thinking more

People with a focus on power may also think more, deliberately using the methods in this article in order to signal that they are powerful. Power is often ceded by those who perceive they are less powerful, and this response may be purposely prompted.

So what?

If you want to be seen as powerful, try using the some of the above methods. Also watch for others who are playing power games and seek to avoid or handle the those who would use you to boost their power.

References

The Power Gaze, Assumption principle, Authority principle

 

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