Power University (v.8) is a 12-module course designed to teach people how to apply advanced social skills.
Power University distills sociologist Lucio Buffalmano’s 10+ years of experience and expertise under what is called power dynamics, which helps people in a wide variety of social situations better negotiate power with their counterparts and groups, ethically using concepts and principles from social science.
Note: In this summary, I’ll primarily focus on the principles that overlap with the business and professional networking we teach here at TCC.
- Start with growing your own personal power, then transition into projecting that power to the world
- Keep the social exchange and strategies of long-term power in mind for both short and long-term success
- Practice resolving power moves and microaggressions as well as assertive communication and spotting manipulation to empower yourself
- High-quality leadership starts with a minimum level of mastery in power dynamics
About The Author: Lucio Buffalmano is a sociologist and researcher of human nature. Holding a master’s degree from La Sapienza, department of communication and sociological research, he’s also a member of the American Psychology Association (APA), and dedicates his life to researching, uncovering, testing, and refining the most effective strategies and techniques for social success.
More than his expertise, however, he’s also been an invaluable mentor to Ali Scarlett and contributor to this website.
Module #1: High-Value Socialization
#1: Foundations of Self-Development
Broken down into two sub-modules:
- The Foundations of Personal Power
- The Foundations of Social Power
The first focuses more on the “inner work” of personal growth to maximize one’s own mastery of themself, their life, and status (as well as some added teachings on raising one’s own competence).
Think “self-development 101”, but with a slight twist on power and expanding one’s personal power.
The second delves into projecting power to the world. Beyond basic self-development, this lesson goes more into social skills self-development with an assignment to boot.
#2: High-Value Socialization
This section provides the foundation for any effective social strategy, starting with the social exchange.
The social exchange helps you choose collaborators, remove takers, and assess people for which category they fall into (as well as improve your own effectiveness by moving away from the “taker” side).
Therefore, this section also lays the foundation for one’s personal empowerment and life success in general.
Here is an overview of just some of the basic strategies Buffalmano recommends to maximize life success:
Infographic used up until version 8.0
#3: Foundational High-Level Strategies
The lessons in this sub-module focuses on encouraging a concept Buffalmano refers to as “smart collaboration”.
It’s collaboration based on “positive cynicism”.
As Buffalmano says himself:
Buffalmano: “Healthy cynicism includes looking at reality as it is and understanding that people are self-interested and can act in harmful ways…Total cynicism makes you bitter, increases your enemy count, and lets you miss opportunities for win-win. And it’s especially harmful for close relationships and, generally, for a happy life.”
Smart collaboration is that middle ground (that draws from the best from both sides) to give and receive while avoiding being taken advantage of and maximizing the scope of win-win for everyone.
Module #2: Power 101
#1: Social Power Dynamics 101
A sub-module on:
- Assessing Power Moves: introduces a concept called “The Traffic Light System” to help students identify when a power move is empowering or disempowering
- Principles of Interpersonal Power Dynamics: a review of some of the most basic principles of interpersonal power dynamics
- Power Negotiation 101: teachings for practicing social self-defense (avoiding being disempowered) and what the course instructor calls “power-protecting” (avoiding disempowering others)
- Power Strategy 101: calibrating and adapting yourself to other individuals
- Power Showdowns: how to win socially when the stakes are high
Then, there’s an assignment to test your emotional intelligence (your ability to assess and recognize friends and foes).
#2: Covert Power Moves
The basic definition of a power move is:
Definition: Any action that increases the power and/or status of the speaker and potentially disempowers the victim.
The definition of a covert power move is:
Definition: Any action or combination of words that on the surface seems neutral, apologetic, or even value-adding, while actually increasing the power and/or status of the speaker, and potentially disempowering the victim.
Some people may say things that can actually seem friendly on the surface, but have a real meaning that’s negative.
The problem with missing that negative aspect is that when you don’t correct the dynamics, you lose power, status, or authority. And, over the long run, that means that people will come to see you as lower value and lower quality.
And, ultimately, that means that you’ll lose out in life.
A few examples of microaggressions are:
- Covert power moves
- Passive aggression
As Buffalmano notes, taken individually, microaggressions are not as damaging as other types of power moves.
But, they are more frequent.
And, if you succumb to microaggressions, you’ll experience (social) death by a thousand (social) cuts.
#4: First Impressions
A lesson on how to make the perfect (high-power) first impression.
This section dives into how to introduce yourself in a way that both subcommunicate you’re friendly while also demonstrating you’re no pushover.
#5: First Impressions
Assertiveness has sometimes been oversold as the “golden standard” of communication.
But, there are times for a more passive communication approach and times for more verbal aggression.
This section shares how to become more assertive as well as how and when to use the exceptions.
- Recognizing manipulation
- Dynamics of manipulation
- Defending against manipulation
- How, if, and when to implement manipulative strategies (within a high-quality, value-adding approach)
Module #3: High-Power Behavior
In many cases, you can either execute high-power and well, or go over-board and become “try-hard” or overly dominant (and end up losing relationships).
So this module covers both when something is appropriate and when something’s not.
Module #4: Frame Control
From a social power perspective, The Power Moves (and we at The Clever Connector) can define frame control and frame negotiation as:
Definition: The body of skills and attitudes with which people navigate social interactions and influence others.
This module simplifies the concept of frames with plenty of examples.
And, provides many techniques anyone can use to persuade others more effectively (and defend yourself against attacks from others).
Module #5: Business Power Dynamics
A module on:
- Conflicts of Interest: to form the basis of intelligence and awareness surrounding workplace politics
- The Chameleon Strategy: adapting to the dynamics and circumstances of your workplace
- Proven Strategies for Career Success: how to exude high-confidence and high-power behavior at work (the “exec skills”) and utilize strategic self-promotion
- The Boss Relationship: strategies and techniques to nurture and grow your relationship with your boss (to promote yourself)
- Bonuses: common issues with difficult bosses and strategies for meetings
- The Founders’ Guide: How to create and nurture the culture of top-performing teams
- Career Strategies for Women: mindsets, feminine leadership, and how to play “the men’s game”
Module #6: Dating & Seduction
This module covers:
- Intersexual Dynamics 101: the theoretical foundation of how dating works
- How to Win The Easy Way: being effective to find a mate faster, so you can “win smart”
- Leadership & Dominance: how to practice good male leadership to experience good and reliable seduction
Module #7: Relationship Power Dynamics
Similar to the above, but moving away from short-term relationships and more toward the long-term, this module dives deeper into:
- The 9 Phases of Power In Relationships: an overview of the predictable, recurrent patterns of power in dating and relationships shift in
- Partner Control: how men control women, how women control men, and what to do in both cases (including dealing with nasty games women sometimes play and threats)
- How to Maintain Power & Attraction: how to maintain power and attraction, while also developing and enjoying healthy and supportive relationships
Module #8: Leadership
The type of leadership Buffalmano recommends (when referring to what it means to be a “great leader”) is being:
- Value-adding: you make the lives of others generally better off
- A leader people are intrinsically motivated to follow
- A leader that’s leading people who tend to be high-value and high-quality
Buffalmano chose this approach because, in a free society, leadership that is primarily based on coercion or value-taking is less likely to succeed and last, as well as less likely to attract and retain the best people.
In other words, a more value-giving, collaborative leadership style is often better for everyone.
#1: Leadership Give & Take
A leader who is also a taker is often one who demonstrates “toxic leadership”.
Poor leaders focus on what they want (often the leadership position) and forget about what they must give in order to reach that position.
On the other hand, good leaders focus on what to provide their followers in order to earn the leadership position (and more benefits).
Good leaders also (must) go beyond material and transactional exchanges.
Giving followers more intrinsic motivators (such as friends with other members of the group and a sense of belonging), as well as some less transactional, more emotional rewards (such as appreciation), help the leader and group go farther.
#2: Mindsets of (Ideal) Leaders
A few of the mindsets:
- “Great leadership starts with my own self-development.”
- “Win-win is possible and preferable.”
- “It’s my duty as a leader to provide value and set the example.”
#3: How to Get The Most From Followers
Here, drawing from leadership research, Buffalmano recommends you craft a sense of “us” because great leaders lead great teams.
And, a team isn’t a team without a sense of oneness/ingroup.
#4: Leadership Power Dynamics
Moving beyond the “ideal” of leadership and more into the real-world practicalities of leadership:
- Coercion and Dominance: great leaders exercise power with as little dominance and coercion as possible. Yet, there are exceptions, which this lesson dives into
- Self-Defense & Maintaining Power: how a leader can respond to disempowering followers to maintain their status and authority
This section also deals with a risk for successful leaders: the distortion and “blindness” that afflicts leaders when the people around show them wear a mask and hide the truth.
#5: Leadership at Work
- Manager’s Guide: effective leadership at work, with an eye on career advancement
- Toxic Employees: spotting them, handling them, and learning the psychology of them
Then, from here, the last three modules are “Leveling Up”, “Machiavellianism” (both of which dive deeper into advanced social skills, beyond the scope of what can be covered here in one article), and “Bonuses” (which contain many advanced resources, as well as eBooks and assignments, made free by Buffalmano and TPM).
- Avoid saying “thank you” when the other party is also gaining from the exchange because it frames you as doing all of the taking: a better response would be “thank you and congrats on your good choice”.
- Typos and grammatical errors
A few here and there that can be spotted if one pays close attention, but the course instructor is working on it and the TPM community is helping with that process regularly.
- Lots of content, all of it gold
As you can see from the summary, I couldn’t even dive too deep into all of the modules without this review running on too long.
You’d expect a course this long to be filled with fluff, but it’s simply robust in the 20% of wisdom one needs to see the 80% of results one wants in their life.
And, that 20% comes from the instructor’s research reading thousands of papers, hundreds of books, and completing hundreds of courses, on top of his own life experience and personal experimentation. (And, those numbers are no exaggeration.)
So, even when all of that wisdom is condensed, it’s still expected that the final product would still be a bit long.
- Many, many real-life examples
A large amount of which are from the instructor’s own life experience, which helped me understand the information better in a practical capacity.
- Tackles the darker side of socialization while balancing out the information with recommendations of patience and life enjoyment
For example, in the microaggression section, despite microaggressions being insidious (which the instructor also notes and agrees on), he also makes sure to remind his students to enjoy some harmless teasing.
Another example is when the instructor notes that while covert power moves are disempowering, they’re not always deliberate (therefore, be patient with others whenever it suits).
- Plenty of lessons, techniques, and strategies specifically for women
Albeit the majority of the course applies to both genders, it was great to learn how high-quality women date, interact, and move up in their careers to better understand what kinds of women I should add and keep in my life (as well as the nasty games some women play that indicate a lower-quality woman who’s to be avoided).
The pros of Power University are really too many to list, but I’ve done my best here to capture the main ones.
If you’re a complete, clueless beginner at social skills, Power University may be a bit too intense for you right now, and you may be better off starting with another resource.
However, if you do have a handle on the basics and foundations as well as a minimum level of emotional intelligence, Power University is a groundbreaking course that’s been life-changing for everyone who’s committed to it.
Also read, “How the Social Exchange Theory Can Get You the Network of Your Dreams.”
Or get the course.