The Power Paradox

From The Power Paradox:

People who excel in their power—the physician who improves the health of dozens of people a day, the high school teacher who inches her students toward academic success, the writer whose piece of fiction stirs others’ imaginations—they all know this. They feel the rush of dopamine and vagus nerve activation in the purest moments of empowering others and lifting up the greater good.

If you remain aware of this feeling and its context, you will not be entrapped by myths that power is money, or fame, or social class, or a fancy title. Real power means enhancing the greater good, and your feelings of power will direct you to the exact way you are best equipped to do this.

Ways of Seeing IV

"The state of being envied is what constitutes glamour. And publicity is the process of manufacturing glamour.... Being envied is a solitary form of reassurance. It depends precisely upon not sharing your experience with those who envy you. You are observed with interest but you do not observe with interest - if you do, you will become less enviable. In this respect the envied are like bureaucrats; the more impersonal they are, the greater the illusion (for themselves and for others) of their power."

~ John Berger, Ways of Seeing

It's Easier to be the King

Women need to act with confidence to get ahead. But when they do, they face a potential backlash. To understand this double bind, we must understand two types of stereotypes. One type is called descriptive: stereotypes about what people are likely to do. The other is prescriptive: stereotypes about what people should do. Women are particularly burdened by prescriptive stereotypes. They are expected to be warm, deferential, and undemanding. This prescriptive stereotype and the double bind it creates limit the ability of women to compete effectively.

~ It's good to be the queen but it's easier to be the king, McKinsey

Yertle the Turtle

... But, as Yertle, the Turtle King, lifted his hand And started to order and give the command, That plain little turtle below in the stack, That plain little turtle whose name was just Mack, Decided he'd taken enough. And he had. And that plain little lad got a bit mad. And that plain little Mack did a plain little thing. He burped! And his burp shook the throne of the king!

And Yertle the Turtle, the king of the trees, The king of the air and the birds and the bees, The king of a house and a cow and a mule... Well, that was the end of the Turtle King's rule! For Yertle, the King of all Sala-ma-Sond, Fell off his high throne and fell Plunk! in the pond!

And tosay the great Yertle, that Marvelous he, Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see. And the turtles, of course... all the turtles are free As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.

~ Dr. Seuss


Are you getting enough sleep? How do you feel when you wake up? It turns out how you sleep says a lot about your personality and how you feel at the start of your day. Professor Chris Idzikowski, director of the Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service, analysed six common sleeping positions and found that each is linked to a particular personality type.

No matter what your sleep position, Harvard Business School Associate Professor Amy Cuddy says sleeping in a fetal position can make you less confident because it's a lower power position.

To counter-act the potential effect of the sleep position on your emotions, she says you should take the time to either stretch out in a confident position before leaving your bed or strike a powerful pose before leaving for work.

What's a confident position or power pose?  See her Ted talk here.





More Pronoun Research

Dr. Pennebaker, chair of the psychology department at the University of Texas at Austin and author of The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us, is on a roll lately.  

His research was picked up by WSJ:

"112 psychology students were assigned to same-sex groups of two. The pairs worked to solve a series of complex problems. All interaction took place online. No one was assigned to a leadership role, but participants were asked at the end of the experiment who they thought had power and status. Researchers found that the higher the person's perceived power, the less he or she used 'I.' "



Body Language

I've always believed many of our answers are in our bodies. Our bodies often know what we think and feel before we do. So it's not a leap for me to see how our body language communicates our thoughts and feelings to others and even more importantly, to ourselves.

See also the work of Deborah Gruenfeld from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

A Body of Power

Deborah Gruenfeld from the Stanford Graduate School of Business researches how the body can affect one’s psychological framework. In a study her research group performed, they found that folks who assumed closed off or weak physical positions, felt disempowered while those who assumed more open or expansive physical positions (in their study - for five minutes), like putting your hands behind your head or putting your feet up on a table, reported feeling more empowered.

They were able to support the research study participant’s reported feelings by also testing their hormones. Those who reported feeling more powerful also had higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol. This was after 5 minutes. Her research also shows that feelings of empowerment lead to action.

The conclusion you can draw from this? When you’re feeling down or powerless, if you literally move your body into an expansive position (e.g., lean back in a chair and put your hands behind your head, put your feet up on your desk, take up all the room in your chair, rest your arm on the back of your chair and another’s) you can change how you feel. While the magnitude of the effect on each participant (how dramatic the change was for that person) could not be determined, the results were statistically significant, meaning greater than chance.