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Power Inspires Your Audience
Power is intricately connected to persuasion in that it increases your ability to persuade, influence, and stir action in others. Power enhances all aspects of persuasion and influence. Power will magnify your ability to hit the persuasion target. Power opens the window for you to have greater persuasive capabilities and influence over your audience. Consequently, when your audience perceives that you hold great power over them, you will be very persuasive in moving them to action.
Power exists only because your audience allows it. They grant you the ability to persuade them based upon your real or perceived power. Your audience has the discretion to follow, remain indifferent, or rebel against your power. Even if your boss has made threats, or the thief has a gun, you have the choice of choosing your behavior in response to his power play.
You only have power over a person to the extent that you control something they want, need, or desire. This could be safety, information, rewards, freedom, or avoidance of punishment. Power does not have to be exerted to be effective. A bank robber holds power as he stands menacingly with a gun, yet he doesn�t have to actually shoot anyone to exert this power. A police office has power sitting in his car, even if he�s not following you with his siren and lights on. Knowing your boss can fire you, even if he hasn�t made any threats, still gives him/her a position of power over you.
There are five points of power that move an audience to respond. These are called the Five Power Structures. They are: Authority, Coercion, Legitimate, Reward, and Psychological. These structures will be discussed in detail later in the chapter. It is important to remember that the more sources of power you possess, the easier it will be to persuade and influence your audience.
Interestingly, it seems to be a natural human tendency to not only seek power, but also to seek out those who have it. Dr. Floyd Allport, a social psychologist, talks about this instinctive characteristic in his book Social Psychology. He believes that deep inside each person, there is a desire to produce reactions in others. He further asserts that as we age, these desires grow even more strongly into a yearning for control. Let�s face it � we hunger for power. When we have power, we feel more confident and in control. Why is power so seductive? When we possess power and control over our environment, we feel strong, invincible, and often exhilarated.
Indeed, the world runs on the concept of power. There would be no order without it. The legal system has the right and power to interpret laws. The military and police have the power to enforce laws. A manager has the power to fire a dishonest employee. Parents have the power to discipline children.
AUTHORITY POWER is based on how other people perceive your authority. You have authority over others when they believe you have a greater title, authority, or strength over them. This allows those in power to intimidate or even force others to comply with them because of their status, position, background, or rank. Police officers are excellent examples of this type of power. Whether it is their uniform, title, badge, or car, you feel compelled to comply with cops based on their position and authority. We can�t be blamed for our natural urge to follow authority. We have been taught since childhood to believe and follow proper authority. It started when our parents taught us that disobedience to authority is wrong and has consequences. We are taught to listen to our teachers, our parents, political figures, etc. Authority Power, if used improperly, can make us feel controlled or manipulated. By wielding this type of power, you may get the immediate results you�re looking for, but they�re not going to last, and you�re not going to have people�s respect or friendship when all is said and done.
COERCIVE POWER is seductive and you usually get instant results by employing it. Coercive Power is based on bringing others down instead of lifting them up to a higher level of thinking. Instead of climbing the highest mountain, coercive power players will climb the smallest one and blow up all the others so they are the only one on top. Such power also requires the least amount of planning and time; there is no need to convince someone with words when you get immediate results with force or coercion. As the great mobster Al Capone said, �You can get more with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone!�
LEGITIMATE POWER, also know as earned or respect power, is a combination of respect, reputation, and your history. Reputation is the sum total of how you have conducted yourself in your professional and personal affairs. If you have shown respect, integrity, and character in all your dealings, people will know it. Legitimate Power is the type of power an individual has when they are placed in special regard because of their honorable character. As a result of being honorable, other people trust and respect these individuals, willingly following them. This type of power is earned through one�s track record, stability, and use of past power. It precedes a person and remains to influence others, even when their physical presence is gone. It exaggerates strengths and can create an aura that instills respect, even awe.
REWARD POWER refers to the ability to deliver rewards or benefits to influence others. These can be financial, material, or psychological rewards. Reward Power is the fastest way to persuade. This power is the opposite of Coercive Power. With Coercive Power you punish, and with Reward power you offer incentives. Reward Power is based on utility, which is an understanding that in every transaction there is a potential for exchange. Basically, utility power recognizes that there is always something I want and something you want. We can meet each other�s needs by swapping what we have for what the other wants. Prizes are a form of utility power. They are a way to reward people for doing what you want them to do. The reward becomes the incentive for compliant action. Examples of utilities include sales bonuses, paychecks, incentive clauses on contracts, bonus miles on airlines, and bonus points on credit cards.
PSYCHOLOGICAL POWER is the ability people have to disguise what they really want from you when they are attempting to persuade or influence you. Psychological Power is based on the ability to alter an individual�s perception of reality. This power (like most power) can obviously be used dishonestly. However, it is important to understand the various psychological tactics so that you will have a greater ability to detect people who are being dishonest or devious with you. You will be able to tell the difference between the Psychological Power of the salesman and the Legitimate Power of the Master Persuader.
As Abraham Lincoln said, �Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man�s character, give him power.� The question remains, then, what makes power good or bad? Power tends to make us nervous � and with good reason. We have seen great abuses of power � tragic, deadly abuses. We also feel power inhibits our personal freedoms and our ability to control our own lives. But just like persuasion, power is really neutral. It can be used to inspire and uplift. It can be used for great good. The good or bad comes from the person who is exercising that power. If a police officer uses his power to stop a murderer, he is bringing good to the world. However, he could use that same power to help drug dealers. You see, the power is the same, but the intentions of the person behind it are different and ultimately the controlling factor.
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