Recently I wrote about the way pep talks can provide you with the steel needed to deliver a perfect speech in public. An interesting new study suggests that the ability to psych ourselves up successfully is often related to how much power we have. In short, it seems that powerful people are great at gaining inspiration from themselves.
"It struck me, as it has no doubt many others, that powerful people are often bad listeners," the authors write. And so they set off on an exploration of whether powerful people are so engrossed in their own experiences that they zone out of anyone else’s.
The study, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, asked participants to recall times when they’d been engaged in inspiring conversations with people. They then recalled how inspired they felt when they were talking about their own experiences versus the experiences of their partner in the conversation.
"We found that more powerful participants were more inspired by their own stories than by those of their conversation partner, whereas less powerful people were equally inspired by themselves as by their partner," the authors say.
A second experiment then saw researchers primed to believe themselves as having either high power, by recalling a situation where they exerted some control over others. Or low power where someone had control over them. Once sufficiently primed, the participants were asked to write about an inspirational event that they had either experienced first hand or had heard about from someone else.
The results revealed that those who had been primed to feel powerful tended to recall events they had experienced themselves rather than ones they heard about via a third party.
"The results paint such a vainglorious picture or the powerful," the authors say. "I am sure that almost everyone can easily come up with an example of a person they know who fits the pattern that we demonstrated here. It was nice to see that we could capture this interesting social phenomenon in our studies."
The authors believe that their work is the first study to explore just where people tend to derive the most inspiration from, and how our relative levels of power impact this. The researchers believe that the powerful tend to get inspired by themselves because they also tend to put themselves before others, especially in social interactions.
Another option could be that to be inspired by someone else would be an implicit admission that there is something in someone else that is superior to ourselves.
"We reasoned that powerful people would have a harder time appreciating the greatness of another person, which would make it more difficult for them to be inspired by others," the authors say.
A final possible reason could be that our natural tendency to talk about ourselves is often inhibited by social pressures, and because powerful people tend to be less bothered by social pressure, they, therefore, are free to indulge their self-centeredness more than the rest of us.
Whatever the reason, the authors believe that greater awareness of these patterns might help people to find their own inspiration. If you’re not in a powerful position yourself, you should hopefully be able to find inspiration from other people. If you’re powerful, well, a mirror is probably all you need.
Do you look in the mirror to feel powerful? Your thoughts and comments below please...