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The Power Gaze


Techniques Willpower > The Power Gaze

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



The basic principle of the power gaze is to lock eyes with the other person and gaze intently into them. Even without words, this can be devastatingly powerful in making the other person feel that you are superior and should be believed and obeyed.

Do not stare hard. Do not squint. Do not put on any aggressive expressions. Just keep an even, steady gaze, directly into their eyes. A trick to use if you find gazing into another person's eyes too difficult is to look at the bridge of their nose, between their eyes. They will think you are looking into their eyes, while in reality you are not. Also try to focus as if you are actually looking through the face and actually at the back of their head.

Try to reduce your blink rate. This should happen naturally if you are concentrating on them to the exclusion of anything else (including distracting thoughts).

Keep your head still. This is very important. A moving head shows anxiety, while a non-moving head indicates focus and close attention.

A power gaze does not need to last long and locking gaze for a second or two can have a surprisingly strong effect, although three to five seconds is common. Holding the gaze for too long can seem like an aggressive stare and so lose its impressive effect, although you can gaze longer if you are speaking to the other person at the same time.

When you speak, do so steadily and clearly. Neither mumble nor shout. Say each word with deliberate intention, as if everything you say is very important. Yet avoid exaggeration. What you say should sound as it is obviously and naturally true.

Hold your head still when delivering the power gaze. This is very important Watch how truly powerful people do this naturally. speaking. Actors are taught this as a simple way of appearing to be a powerful person.

Neither tilt your head back nor pull your chin down, although you may lower your head slightly so they can clearly see your eyes. It can help to lean slightly towards them.

A light frown can be used to show concern, lowering both eyebrows. Slight raising of eyebrows can indicate questioning, but beware of this showing undue uncertainty.

Do not exaggerate any of the above.


A child asking for something from an adult fixes them with an innocent but steady gaze. The adult is surprised when they feel they should comply.

A person who is the subject of personal attack at work fixes the aggressor with a power gaze and says that how they have behaved is unacceptable and that an apology is due. The aggressor looks shocked and mumbles an apology.


In many social cultures, looking at someone in the eyes for more than a second or so at another person, especially if you are not talking with them, is often considered to be rude. This is because a stare is taken as being either aggressive or romantic. Aggressive stares are, basically, assessing a target before an attack, and are typified by wide-open eyes that take in all the detail. Romantic stares are softer and say 'you are so wonderful I can't take my eyes off you'.

The power gaze is a relation of the aggressive gaze in that it deliberately breaks the look-duration rule in a way that shows the person is unafraid of retaliation (because they are more powerful). The difference is that, rather than threatening attack, it says 'you are of interest to me' and, often disconcertingly, something along the lines of 'I can see into your very soul and know you better than you even know yourself'. This can be like a cat gazing at a mouse, but also may be more as a parent gazing with concern at a child.

When people are anxious, they often exaggerate movements, which sends a clear signal of a lack of power. It is a common attribute of power to be certain, so any expression of anxiety should largely be avoided. With care, some uncertainty can sometimes help, as powerful people do not need to hide unimportant weaknesses.

The power gaze is not the same as the male gaze when he looks with desire upon a woman, mentally undressing and seducing her, although both have elements of domination.  Foucault (1977) talked about the 'inspecting gaze', relating it to power rather than to gender. A fully dominant gaze looks upon a person as a thing and is an aspect of objectification. Such a gaze provokes revulsion or fear. A power gaze does not work this way as it invokes more in the way of awe.

See also

Power, Powerful People, Eyes body language


Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Pantheon


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