The Power Paradox’ by Dacher Keltner – Success Through Empathy (Part 2)
‘The Power Paradox’ by Dacher Keltner – Success Through Empathy (Part 2)
This episode is part 2 of our chat about ‘The Power Paradox’ by Dacher Keltner. This enjoyable little book is a very uplifting read. And it shows how power is usually not maintained long-term by tyrants. How in the modern age of interconnectivity bad behavior by powerful people usually leads to their downfall (see Harvey Weinstein). And how we can all achieve real power in the world by acting excellently on a day to day basis, achieving great success through empathy.
Why Throwing Dinner Parties Will Make You Powerful
In the last episode, we detailed the four qualities that, if displayed in the social realm, will tend to win you power: Empathize, give, express gratitude, and tell stories.
Feeding people is a great way to be given power. This is unsurprising because feeding people essentially includes all four of the aforementioned qualities. This is surely why feeding people feels so damn good on a visceral level.
So it is no surprise that so many of us love to throw dinner parties. Where we can feed people, give them a fun experience, have conversations in which we empathize and tell stories, and express gratitude for kindnesses received in the past. Dinner parties are, it turns out, wild orgies of power bartering. Who knew!?
The Utility and Importance of Gossip
Gossipping feels great. It is a guilty pleasure that the vast majority of us indulge in on a regular basis. But we are always told that gossiping is naughty. That it’s the preserve of beady-eyed grannies with too much time on their hands. And of small and jealous petty-people, intent on bringing everyone else down to their lowly level. But, the great news is – you don’t have to feel guilty anymore. Because it turns out that gossip is a deeply hardwired human behavior, and bloody useful to boot!
When a tyrant comes to power, it is often lethally dangerous (especially in the violent societies of human history) to challenge them overtly. Saying what you really thought about an evil tyrant could easily get you hung, drawn and quartered, or picked apart by white-hot pliers, or in certain backward places in the world even today (here’s lookin’ at you Saudi Arabia!) beheaded or crucified. And so it is very important that we can use our words to subtly attack a person and bring them down to size when they deserve it.
According to Dacher Keltner, the negatives of gossiping are far outweighed by the positives. Gossiping is an invaluable tool for safeguarding a group or tribe against powerful and malevolent people. Gossip is a way of pulling people down who have power but are misusing it. If an evil person has too much power, we can gossip with other members of the tribe and weaken them without losing our heads, bowels, limbs or lives.
Power in the Hands of the Deserving
Ultimately, it is important who has power in any group. It is important for the individual to have a decent degree of power because it allows them to get their needs met and to occupy a reasonably good position in the group hierarchy (and to enjoy the myriad benefits this brings). It is also important that evil people should not have too much power. And that the group should be able to safely drain the power from malevolent tyrants who are using their power to spread evil.
And the beautiful message of ‘The Power Paradox’ is that we can gain power for ourselves by being good and behaving well in the world consistently (and throwing fabulous dinner parties!). And that we can take power away from people who misuse it, peacefully, by using the power of communication, speech, and (gloriously fun) gossip!