by cloudier

We can’t be the alpha dog all of the time. Whatever our personality, most of us experience varying degrees of feeling in charge. Some situations take us down a notch while others build us up.

New research shows that it’s possible to control those feelings a bit more, to be able to summon an extra surge of power and sense of well-being when it’s needed: for example, during a job interview or for a key presentation to a group of skeptical customers.

“Our research has broad implications for people who suffer from feelings of powerlessness and low self-esteem due to their hierarchical rank or lack of resources,” says HBS assistant professor Amy J.C. Cuddy, one of the researchers on the study.


Well, I’m not sure I’m like you completely since I can cry at movies, feel empathy for the dead, and decry injustice of others. I’m not sure if this applies to you.

However, my mind is very ordered, object-focused, and selfish, which is why I had such trouble interacting with people.

To move myself along, I turned figuring out other people into a game. I would try to figure out people’s motivations, why they do what they do, and try to learn interact with them to get certain responses.

It turns out that people are fairly predictable and a lot of people screw up their relationships not by being unempathetic, but by making emotional outbursts, misreading the intentions of other person, or lying to themselves about what is really happening.

But even if I know this, there’s not much I can do with it because 1) people don’t like to be told they’re wrong, and 2) you can’t change people.

Seriously, just making a list of these axioms about people is the single most useful thing I have done in my career. It makes everything so much easier to understand.

Here’s a list of dont’s

  1. People don’t like to be told their wrong
  2. You can’t change people.
  3. Never say anything negative about someone’s appearance. Ever.

Some dos:

  1. People like to be validated. Comment positively on their works.
  2. People love to talk about themselves. Ask and let them talk about themselves.
  3. People like to be listened to. Listen nod and repeat what they say back to them so they truly feel that they’ve been listened to.

Maybe you can do something with that. They’re pretty universal. Although by giving you this list, I may be violating #2 of the donts. :)

[related: I Was Clinically Diagnosed By 4 Separate Psychologists To Have “An Extremely Underdeveloped Sense Of Empathy”.]