While many may not want to admit to it, power is something that nearly all of us desire, envy, or aspire to obtain.
For many, when they think of power they think of mad geniuses, evil politicians, superheroes, billionaires, or something generally larger than life.
During the past few years especially with the current political climate in the United States and the presidency of Donald Trump, the way people look at power has begun to shift.
Depending on who you are and what side of the political spectrum you are on you see one of two things. You either see a man who takes no prisoners and uses his power to, in a genius manner, always get his way for the American people or you see a man who is completely separated from reality, narcissistic, and abusing power.
One thing is certain. Oftentimes the way he yields the power of his platform, country and the office is Machiavellian and either you conform and fall in line, or you’re the enemy.
My mom always used to tell me, “You’ll get more flies with honey!” but is that total bullshit?
What does science say? Was she totally wrong? Should I have attacked others who thought differently than me or opposed what I wanted to do in class projects, work, and in life?
Dr. Keltner is the founding director of the Greater Good Science Center, a professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley, and the author of “The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence” and “Born to be Good”.
He is one of the world’s top experts in not only power but the evolution of power and emotion throughout evolving societies across history.
With the recent shutdown of the government over border wall funding and how Trump approached the scenario, the question burned in my mind…
Does the Machiavellian approach to negotiating work today?
Research has shown that it does. In certain situations. In others, it can be disastrous.
Dr. Keltner’s research shows that a Machiavellian approach is, “a force and fraud philosophy of power and studies show that if you’re going to negotiate with a really nasty person, you’ve got to have some Machiavellian-ism with you. If you’re having a one-shot negotiation, it’s probably good to be a little bit Machiavellian.”
So, when you’re dealing with someone who is known to be a nasty individual oftentimes the only way to get through to them or to influence them is to be like them. Firm, unbending, tactful, deceitful, and feared.
However, in everyday life and in societies who are forced to work with one another on an ongoing basis we see an entirely different result.
According to Dr. Keltner, “In general, we’re seeing that in studies and organizations and in military units and schools, Machiavellians tend to actually not be respected by people around them, not be trusted by people around then, actually not gain power, not even feel like their powerful, and in organizations get paid less.”
So based on the research and evidence it would seem that Trump’s persona and how he carries himself would be a great fit for dealing with dictators. Tyrants who use fear as a way to control those they rule over such as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un.
However, when dealing with those he has to work with to accomplish goals as part of the rules of our society, a collaborative approach would be more powerful and effective.
The problem is that we see the complete opposite.
It seems, based on his tweets and actions, that Trump is very willing to praise and flatter (as seen in dramatic fashion in Helsinki) those who the U.S. traditionally would consider “nasty individuals”. All while refusing to bend, using fear tactics, and deceiving those in his base in order to attempt to shame and influence those he is forced to collaborate with, such as Congress.
When we look at the science and the research we see there are a definite place and forum for the tactics we see Trump using. The issue is who he chooses to use Machiavellian tactics on is counter-productive to how one actually gets things done in a collaborative society such as the U.S.
If Trump really wants to accomplish the many things he promised the American people, he needs to flip his narrative. Save the Machiavellian tactics for those who would seek to harm our democracy and Americans around the world.
Here in America, try a little empathy and compassion, give a little to take a little. Unite instead of divide and stop the country from embracing name calling and refusing compromise at the cost of the American people.