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The Power Paradox
Cover of The Power Paradox
The Power Paradox
How We Gain and Lose Influence
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A revolutionary and timely reconsideration of everything we know about power. Celebrated UC Berkeley psychologist Dr. Dacher Keltner argues that compassion and selflessness enable us to have the most influence over others and the result is power as a force for good in the world.
Power is ubiquitous—but totally misunderstood. Turning conventional wisdom on its head, Dr. Dacher Keltner presents the very idea of power in a whole new light, demonstrating not just how it is a force for good in the world, but how—via compassion and selflessness—it is attainable for each and every one of us.
It is taken for granted that power corrupts. This is reinforced culturally by everything from Machiavelli to contemporary politics. But how do we get power? And how does it change our behavior? So often, in spite of our best intentions, we lose our hard-won power. Enduring power comes from empathy and giving. Above all, power is given to us by other people. This is what we all too often forget, and it is the crux of the power paradox: by misunderstanding the behaviors that helped us to gain power in the first place we set ourselves up to fall from power. We abuse and lose our power, at work, in our family life, with our friends, because we've never understood it correctly—until now. Power isn't the capacity to act in cruel and uncaring ways; it is the ability to do good for others, expressed in daily life, and in and of itself a good thing.
Dr. Keltner lays out exactly—in twenty original "Power Principles"—how to retain power; why power can be a demonstrably good thing; when we are likely to abuse power; and the terrible consequences of letting those around us languish in powerlessness.
A revolutionary and timely reconsideration of everything we know about power. Celebrated UC Berkeley psychologist Dr. Dacher Keltner argues that compassion and selflessness enable us to have the most influence over others and the result is power as a force for good in the world.
Power is ubiquitous—but totally misunderstood. Turning conventional wisdom on its head, Dr. Dacher Keltner presents the very idea of power in a whole new light, demonstrating not just how it is a force for good in the world, but how—via compassion and selflessness—it is attainable for each and every one of us.
It is taken for granted that power corrupts. This is reinforced culturally by everything from Machiavelli to contemporary politics. But how do we get power? And how does it change our behavior? So often, in spite of our best intentions, we lose our hard-won power. Enduring power comes from empathy and giving. Above all, power is given to us by other people. This is what we all too often forget, and it is the crux of the power paradox: by misunderstanding the behaviors that helped us to gain power in the first place we set ourselves up to fall from power. We abuse and lose our power, at work, in our family life, with our friends, because we've never understood it correctly—until now. Power isn't the capacity to act in cruel and uncaring ways; it is the ability to do good for others, expressed in daily life, and in and of itself a good thing.
Dr. Keltner lays out exactly—in twenty original "Power Principles"—how to retain power; why power can be a demonstrably good thing; when we are likely to abuse power; and the terrible consequences of letting those around us languish in powerlessness.
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  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 6, 2016
    Keltner, a UC Berkeley psychology professor, takes an innovative look at the idea of power. The titular paradox is that gaining power often causes people to misuse that power and lose it. The book explores why this pattern is so common. Keltner writes about lab experiments in which researchers arbitrarily bestowed roles of superiority on test subjects, who then showed more impulsive and selfish behaviors. Other studies found that people who had grown up poor showed greater empathy than those who grew up with more advantages. Meanwhile, powerlessness has been found to invoke stress responses that lead to slowed development in children and poor health in adults. To counteract this dynamic, Keltner proposes a "fivefold path" composed of self-awareness, humility, generosity, respect, and a commitment to positive social change. He reframes what can seem like an intractable problem in terms that are approachable and solvable: "When I was in my twenties, steeped in the utopian idealism of youth, I wished for a society that would be power free.... This book has changed my view." Power defines daily experience; therefore, he argues, solving this paradox is imperative. His paradigm-shifting book challenges readers to find a new level of awareness about themselves and the leaders they choose to follow.

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The Power Paradox
The Power Paradox
How We Gain and Lose Influence
Dacher Keltner
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