5 Habits to Steal from Powerful People

Research-backed ways to bring out your inner hotshot.

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Ever notice how powerful people tend to be bad listeners? Researcher Gerben van Kleef, PhD, did, and began to wonder if it’s simply because they prefer telling their own stories.

He and his colleagues at the University of Amsterdam set out to test the theory, and their research, published this week, confirmed his suspicion. Powerful people do indeed feel more inspired by their own experiences than by others’.

The findings are interesting, van Kleef said in a statement, “because they paint such a vainglorious picture of the powerful.” But that’s not the only reason: His study reveals an empowering habit the rest of us can steal.

The next time you’re swapping stories with someone, try bragging, just a little. Get psyched up about your adventures. Express a healthy dose of pride in your accomplishments. Enjoy your own narrative. Relishing positive experiences—as powerful people do—may offer the motivation and encouragement you're used to seeking elsewhere.

Social scientists say there are a lot more tricks we can learn from the naturally confident. Here, a handful of research-backed ways to bring out your inner hotshot.

Take up more space

In a 2010 experiment, psychologists Dana Carney, PhD, and Amy Cuddy, PhD, had their subjects adopt one of two types of poses for two minutes—either a tight, constrictive pose (for example, sitting with shoulders hunched) or an open, expansive pose (say, leaning back in a chair, fingers laced behind head, elbows out). The subjects who used their bodies to claim more space actually experienced a biochemical reaction that made them more powerful: Their testosterone spiked by 19%, and their cortisol dropped by 25%.

Break eye contact

A study published in Psychological Science showed that people are more receptive to an opposing viewpoint when the speaker isn’t looking them in the eye. The researchers speculate that prolonged eye contact is actually too aggressive. (As in the dog world, it’s considered a sign of dominance.) If you want to win an argument or otherwise exert your influence, better to focus your gaze on your target’s mouth, the research suggests.

Pump up the bass

There’s a reason athletes listen to booming, thumping tunes before a big game. Music with a strong bass makes people feel stronger, according to researchers at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Bass sounds are frequently used to convey power in popular culture; and when we hear them, it’s possible that we mimic those feelings internally.

Pick a hard seat

It will help you drive a harder bargain. A Science study revealed that perching on an uncomfortable chair leads to tougher negotiating. The rigid sensation seems to have an influence on the brain, making you less likely to shift your decisions.

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