Clearly Competent Conducts
Episode #4 of the course How to be popular and have everyone like you by Sofia Santiago
You’ve learned to display warm behaviors. Now, learn to behave (more) competent and powerful.
French and Raven’s Forms of Power
Start by recognizing you might have more power than you think. Just because your last name is not Trump, you’re not the Facebook CEO, or your boss, that it doesn’t mean you have no power.
Those guys have “legitimate power,” which gives them the formal right to make demands and to expect others to be compliant, but according to social psychologists French and Raven, there are other kinds of power:
• expert power, which is based on your high level of skill and knowledge
• referent power, which is the result of your perceived attractiveness, worthiness, and right to others’ respect
• informational power, which results from your ability to control information others need
So, think twice before concluding that you have no “power.” You might be underestimating yourself.
Competence-related traits are intelligence, efficacy, skill, power, leadership, and assertiveness. To increase your level of competence:
• Let others see that you’re a life-long learner.
• Display skills that are useful to you and your peers.
• Practice a fluid speaking style that conveys expertise.
• Participate in projects that stretch you out of your comfort zone.
• If you make a mistake, own it—and move on quickly.
• Learn to project confidence, and if necessary, “fake it till you make it.”
Display Competent Body Language
Body language that implies competence is related to dominance and power.
• Expansive. Make yourself bigger, stand straight, and take up more space. For instance, arrive at meetings early, pick a good seat, and “claim a big territory” by placing your binder, folders, drink, etc.
• Open. Keep your arms and legs open and not touching your trunk. When sitting, don’t keep your hands on your lap, but on the table, in an open posture.
• Confident. Walk quickly and with an air of purpose. Don’t stroll. Pause a couple of seconds before you speak (count in your head). Don’t speak like you’re asking a question or seeking approval. (Lower the intonation of your voice at the end of your sentences rather than raise it.)
When you display high-power or assertive body language:
• You’re perceived as more skillful, capable, and competent than people expressing low-power or passive body language. (Lower-status individuals adopt contractive, closed postures.)
• You feel more competent and powerful.
• It induces a “complementary embodied power experience” in the other person. In plain English, this means that if you behave more dominant, they’ll become more submissive (and vice versa).
“Power poses” are expansive, open, and confident poses, such as standing with your hands on your hips and your feet shoulder-width apart, like Wonder Woman. Research has proven that when you adopt a power pose for just two minutes:
• You come across as more engaging and captivating.
• You increase your risk tolerance.
• Your level of testosterone (the dominance hormone) increases, and your level of cortisol (the stress hormone) decreases, leading you to have a neuroendocrine profile associated with effective leadership.
• You’re more prone to take action.
• Your abstract thinking is improved.
• Your brain is configured to perform more competently in stressful situations.
So, before your next important meeting, stand like Wonder Woman for two minutes. (You might want to do it in a private place and not on the edge of a building, no matter how “boss” it might look. Safety first!)
The technique you’ll learn tomorrow, Frame Your Focus, is one that you can start using immediately to be more popular and have much better relationships. I promise: People will notice.
See you soon.
P.S. I like you.
Honest Signals: How They Shape Our World by Alex Pentland
Recommended TED Talk
“Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are” by Amy Cuddy
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