Power (or control) is one of the concepts that have been front and center during my psychoses.
I once wrote a blog post on the concept that describes my beliefs around the idea. Here it is:
BLOG POST (POWER):
I believe that power is one of the most fundamental elements of human social interaction.
Wikipedia describes power (in context of social science and politics) as the capacity of an individual to influence the behaviour (or conduct) of others.
It goes on to describe the five bases of power:
- Legitimate Power: Authority that has been delegated to another by someone else in power. As visible in corporate world within the relationship between bosses and their subordinates.
- Referent Power: That from within. Where the individual in power has key traits that are attractive to those following. Such as charisma, interpersonal skills and a high EQ.
- Expert Power: That which derives from an individual’s skills or expertise in one or more areas. It can be used to rationalise their opinions so that the person following understands that it only makes sense to follow their direction.
- Reward Power: Where the individual exercising power does so by promising (and ideally delivering on) valued rewards in exchange for another’s obedience.
- Coercive Power: Where negative elements are used to influence another. Ultimately culminating in fear within the person being influenced — and this motivating them to abide by the direction of the person exerting this type of power.
I believe that the relative nature of power is best observed when analysing the interactions between leaders and followers. Leaders specify direction and constraints to their followers and the followers execute upon the direction of the person leading them, potentially (and in turn) providing direction to others — in order to influence their behaviour.
Unfortunately, power has had a bad rap ever since Machiavelli published The Prince, and even more-so with recent publications like 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. Where power is represented as a tool for manipulation of others, often by coercive means.
But such circumstances are not the only occasions where power becomes visible. I believe that power (often in more subtle form) takes place in almost every social interaction between two or more people.
Some examples of this more subtle demonstration of power include:
- Partner Dancing: There is often a leader and a follower. The leader is demonstrating power and the follower is following their lead. And in some routines the power state may flip back and forth, as the roles of leader and follower swap in either gradual or quick succession.
- Improv: Within improv it is taught that to keep the flow of an act moving forward, each individual in the act should get a chance to be in the spotlight. With each individual in the spotlight (after performing their piece), creating an opening and passing power to the next person so that they can have a chance to be in the spotlight. With this continuing on throughout the act.
- Banter: Where two people get in to a rhythm (possibly even a flow state) — throwing trivial (and often comedic) statements back and forth to one another, with each having some relation to the last. This being another representation of rapidly flipping power states.
- Conversation: And conversation more generally also follows this pattern. Where one person may lead the conversation for a period of time, before transferring the lead to another who may after some time transfer the lead back to the original person or another individual (in group settings like meetings). If one person dominates a conversation (holding the power throughout) then such a conversation tends to die pretty quickly.
I also believe that power does not always require conscious effort on the part of the beholder, and may or not be recognised by those following. Awareness of course plays a critical role here. And trust as well — such as where those following have such trust in the person leading that they believe every word that they are saying is gospel. Or where the influence imparted by the individual in power is so subtle (a nudge) that the person or people following believe that they themselves came up with the idea. And from the perspective of the individual in power — they might be so used to others following their lead that they are not aware of the influential effect of what they are saying or doing.
Another interesting point to ponder is whether power can be given or must be taken. I believe that both constructs are possible. Power can be given as long as the other person is willing to accept and exercise it. And power can be taken (in most circumstances) as long as the person holding it is willing to let it go (if only temporarily). Of course — the person who originally held the power does not always need to be willing to let it go — something that is evident in war (where power is taken by force) or through the person taking it damaging the reputation of the person who initially wielded it. Although — such “power grabs” may not always succeed and have the potential to cause great damage to the reputation of the person grabbing the power if unsuccessful. Not to mention the moral implications of such an act.
In summary — I believe that power is present in almost every social human interaction in some way, shape or form. And through being aware of it and understanding it we can ensure more fruitful relationships with one another — with relationships being key to human social interaction.