When in power, we need to be more conscious of how direct communication, silence and ambiguity can affect others. During my brother’s flight, if the pilots had considered the perspective of their passengers, they would have realized that even a short message would have been extremely reassuring.
And once you realize how the phrase “I need to talk to you” can create worry and concern, you can always add a little more communication.
When I need to talk to someone with less power than I have, I try to remind myself to identify the topic. Or if it is too complicated to explain, at least I try to allay the person’s fears by saying something like “I need to see you later today. But don’t worry; it’s nothing bad.”
Sometimes the amplification effect can be positive. Take gratitude. As we saw with my former professor, expressions of gratitude and praise are particularly resonant when expressed by those with power. Yet, my research with Eric Anicich and Alice Lee shows that the powerful express less gratitude and less praise than those with less power.
If we take a moment to think about the power differentials in our interactions and how our words might affect others, we can communicate more effectively. And we can cause unnecessary worries and fears to float away.
Adam Galinsky, “Your Whisper May Feel Like a Shout”, The New York Times (16 August 2015), BU8.