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How to transmit power through your words


It’s easy to believe that power and influence can be communicated via your status within your oganization, or perhaps the salary you earn.  A new study suggests however that power can be something much more under our own control.

The study explored how the way we communicate with one another can signal our explicit and implicit power.  The study wanted to look specifically at how specific we are when we speak.  The research built upon previous studies that have suggested that powerful people tend to use more abstract language, such as in vision statements for instance.

The researchers conducted a number of experiments, whereby participants were presented with a variety of speeches given across a variety of contexts.  They were asked to evaluate the individual making the speech on each occasion according to traits such as their power, warmth, competence and thinking style.

One study for instance saw participants reading quotes made by political candidates about current events, such as for instance the state of the economy or the situation in the middle east.  The participants were then asked to give their opinion of the politician, who was unnamed, based upon the style used when communicating rather than the message itself.

Across all seven of the experiments, those who had communicated using abstract language that covered the broad sense of an event rather than its exact details were regarded by those who read their message as more powerful.  Interestingly however, there was much less consensus over traits such as warmth and competence.

The researchers suggest that the findings could provide some important insight to people in business, as well as politics, who want to project a powerful image. Speakers who use concrete terms to show off their knowledge will likely come across as less powerful, and therefore less able to lead.

“Rather than focusing just on speaking to the right kind of people, or covering the right topics, we suggest it is important to think about the words one uses,” they conclude.

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