POWER. Some have it, some don’t have it. Some crave for it, some lose it. Dictionary.com defines power as the ability to act, to accomplish something; in short, the possession of control or command over others. Throughout history, people are attracted to powerful people.
Power comes in many forms; in our cavemen days, power is the ability to hunt, to bring food back to the tribe. When the Roman Empire ruled the land, the senator with the most connections was seen as powerful. These days, a combination of social status – the car we drive and the money we have – signify our power.
So is power reserved for the few privileged ones or can an average Joe exude a great sense of power? Is power in-born, acquired or can it be developed? What is the structure of power? Why do some people get respected more often and attracts tonnes of business opportunities, better jobs, better prospects, better women or men to their lives while the others don’t? How do we get ourselves from being the needy to being the wanted?
Throughout my experience, I find that some people have short cut to power while others have to develop certain elements to gain those power. Yes, good-looking people have a short cut to power as people like good-looking people. Social psychology has proven research after research that good-looking people are “perceived” to be smarter, better and nicer. Men are automatically drawn to beautiful women and if we read Robert Greene’s alluring once-start-cannot-stop Art of Seduction book, we will notify throughout history, women repeatedly use their natural beauty to overpower men. In ancient Japan, there were lady Ninjas known as Kunoichi, often disguised as Geishas (female entertainers), to get close to warlords.
Luxuries in the likes of a gold Rolex watch or a Patek Philippe watch will command us instant power. Other luxuries like BMWs and Mercedes Benz as well. An Emporio Armani suit for the men and Gucci handbags for the women. All these luxuries will instantly gain us higher social status. The same goes for titles like “Datuk” or “Tan Sri” in Malaysia or the knighthood “Sir” in England.
Ever wonder how common people like us can gain power? I’ve always been shy and timid when I was a kid – this is a great surprise to many people who know me today, simply because I always command attention and respect. I’ve learned the secrets from my many years in the business world, read lots of books in search for the formula and fortunately, I’ve found them. The best part is they are not that hard to put into practice.
What is the four “P’s” of marketing? Price, promotion, place and …? Packaging. So that’s the first part. Packaging. We need to wrap ourselves effectively. We may not be born good looking but we must always look good. Body language experts tell us that people will judge us in four seconds from the moment they see us. This is before we even get to speak a word.
Is our shirt crisply ironed? Is it tidy and fashionable? Does the colour match? Are we well groomed? That means hair and nose hair. The same goes with women with armpit hair. That’s an instant KO. I change my leather shoes every three to six months depending on the wear and tear although I know some men are still wearing his three-year old leather shoes for sentimental reasons.
Looking good is a choice and people know this. If we look good, people will assume we are successful, living a good lifestyle, and that automatically gains us power. And if we have great physique, it also conveys great health. Instant power. If we have bad sense of clothing, get an image consultant or just browse through various fashion magazines or the Internet for ideas.
Next is body language. How do we stand? Are our chins up? Are our arms always folded? Smiling? Firm handshake? Chest spread? Are we always looking into people’s eyes while talking? I don’t mean staring, which is a signal of hostility but genuinely staying focus on the other person.
The other thing about body language is our use of gestures. Move our hands a little more. Why? Because that takes up space, and powerful people always take up space. They own the space. It also adds more energy into the conversation, that’s also dominance.
We may not be aware of our body language till now. Be aware of it; initially, it might be strange to be aware of it but after a while, we will get used to it. Be like an actor and act it out at first.
When we approach other people or a group during a networking or social environment, we have lower social power. Because high social value power people don’t approach people, they get approached. That is why we need to look good and be aware of our body language. Be dominant but not aggressive. Dominant is power. Aggressive is violence.
Then comes our tonality and words. If you are in a networking function that is pretty noisy, it’s always good to speak a little louder than usual. Because loudness is also dominance. Do not shout, but make sure people you are talking to can hear you.
Words have to come from our knowledge. That’s why I’m an advocate of reading. Universities give us the basic knowledge to get a job and that’s it. Learning is lifelong. The more knowledgeable we are, the easier it is to gain power. It also makes us interesting and entertaining.
Imagine we are invited to a very prestigious event with lots of high profile people, and they serve various good wines. Besides knowing wines are made from grapes and there is red and white wine, our knowledge of wine is basically zero. If the person we are talking to has to explain to you what Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon is, who is likely to have more power?
Humour is also very important. It puts people at ease and melt the fear away. Unlike jokes, humour is often spontaneous and works really well. Some professionals even say a sense of humour reflects our intelligence. But don’t end up being a laughing stock by trying to tell a stale humour. A worthwhile tip is to watch more comedy movies and observe how comedy is structured.
Another great skill all of us must have is storytelling. The main reason why storytelling works very well is because it’s entertaining. If we can relate our story of a time when we were in Egypt and there was this lion that kept following our jeep around as if it was protecting us, it’s definitely engaging. Great sales people are all great storytellers. Great speakers are all great storytellers. Great religious gurus are all great storytellers. Doesn’t that tell us something?
Next, we should surround ourselves with powerful people. Birds of a feather flock together. If we are seen with powerful people, we are automatically associated with their powers. So improve on our networking skills. Then learn to build relationships and friendships.
Don’t whine, bitch or complain. Those are very un-powerful behaviours, not to mention unprofessional as well. Typical traits of losers indeed. Powerful people talk about solutions. They are positive, upbeat and very optimistic. And they talk about useful things. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, once said, “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” Guess where gossiping belongs?
Understand emotions. What makes people angry? Jealous? Fear? Happy? It was a big hit a couple of years ago when Daniel Goleman popularised the term Emotional Intelligence for success and leadership trainings. They said successful people and effective leaders have the ability to accurately read, interpret and manage one self’s and other people’s emotional states.
New sales people often fail because they cannot manage their own emotions and reactions to rejections. Powerful people know this and is able to response instead of react.
Ask great questions. Don’t keep talking about how great we are, people would love the chance to talk about themselves as well. As powerful people, we must lead people into doing it. We do that by asking great questions and then listen. That’s what great communicators do. Questions, talk, listen and questions. If we run out of interesting questions to ask, I suggest we get The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock.
One great example of a person who has all the qualities described above is probably James Bond. Take away the good look and luxuries he has, James Bond will always dress well, has good body language, is knowledgeable, is a great storyteller, has excellent humor, great at managing his emotions, very optimistic, and apt at networking, especially with women. Let’s build our James Bond attraction.