The Power Paradox Book Summary - The Power Paradox Book explained in key points
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The Power Paradox summary

Dacher Keltner

How We Gain and Lose Influence

3.6 (149 ratings)
13 mins

Brief summary

The Power Paradox by Dacher Keltner explores how power affects us in surprising ways. By examining the latest research in psychology and neuroscience, Keltner shows us how we can use power to be more compassionate, cooperative, and generous - and avoid the traps that can lead to its abuse.

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    The Power Paradox
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    Power is about changing lives and it plays a key role in everyday relationships and interactions.

    What does it mean to have power? Is it an elusive thing that only belongs to presidents, politicians and celebrities?

    The truth is, power is used by everyday people in ordinary interactions – in motivating an employee to do a good job, for instance, or getting your children to eat their vegetables and do their homework.

    Whenever someone uses influence to make a difference in the world, that’s large-scale power in action.

    The exploits of Thomas Clarkson are a great example of power in action. In 1785, Clarkson was a student at Cambridge University when he won a writing contest with an essay that detailed the horrors of the slave trade. At the time, most European economies relied heavily on the brutal slave trade, and millions were forcibly transported for their labor.

    Clarkson’s prize-winning essay was just the start. He was soon writing more pamphlets and letters on the subject and was convincing many people to boycott the sugar being harvested by slaves in British territories. Eventually, these protests were powerful enough that Great Britain’s Parliament outlawed slavery.

    Clarkson used power to achieve a huge change, but power also exists within relationships and everyday interactions. For example, the power dynamic between two siblings can also change a person’s life.

    During adolescence, an older sibling will often be stronger and smarter, with more education; in short, they have power over their younger sibling. Enjoying this power in early life often pushes older siblings to seek out positions power as they grow older, it also leads them to be generally more traditional and conservative in outlook. On the other hand, younger siblings, who lack this experience of power, will become more cooperative and innovative as adults.

    Because power is so ubiquitous, scientists have long studied how it is used. In one study, known as “leaderless group discussion paradigm” experiment psychologists looked into the power dynamics of everyday life. The experiment involved the observation of a group of strangers who were asked to cooperate on solving a problem without any assigned roles or guidance being offered. Fascinatingly, the researchers found that some participants naturally assumed power by being the first to offer their opinions or by encouraging others.

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    What is The Power Paradox about?

    The Power Paradox (2016) draws on a wealth of data from numerous social-science studies over the past 20 years to explore the dynamics of power. Dr. Dacher Keltner gets to the bottom of what power means in everyday life, discusses why so many people lose and abuse their power and explains how it can be used to make the world a better place.

    The Power Paradox Review

    The Power Paradox (2016) explores the complex relationship between power and behavior, shedding light on how power can corrupt and influence our actions. Here are three reasons why this book is worth reading:

    • With its in-depth analysis of power dynamics in various contexts, it offers valuable insights into human behavior and societal structures.
    • The book challenges conventional notions of power, highlighting the importance of empathy and altruism as sources of true influence.
    • Backed by scientific research and illustrated with compelling real-life examples, it provides a thought-provoking exploration of the consequences of power.

    Best quote from The Power Paradox

    Stay focused on other people. Prioritize others interests as much as your own… take delight in the delights of others, as they make a difference in the world.

    —Dacher Keltner
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    Who should read The Power Paradox?

    • Readers interested in power dynamics
    • Employees who want more influence in their company
    • Executives who want to protect their power

    About the Author

    Dacher Keltner is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. Over the course of his career, he has published over 190 articles in publications such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He is also the author of multiple best-selling books, including Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life and The Compassionate Instinct.

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    The Power Paradox FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Power Paradox?

    Understanding power dynamics is crucial for navigating relationships and achieving success.

    How long does it take to read The Power Paradox?

    Reading time for The Power Paradox varies, but the Blinkist summary can be read in 15 minutes.

    Is The Power Paradox a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Power Paradox is an insightful and thought-provoking read, offering valuable lessons for personal and professional growth.

    Who is the author of The Power Paradox?

    The author of The Power Paradox is Dacher Keltner.

    What to read after The Power Paradox?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Power Paradox, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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