Eloquence, Confidence and Power (bonus points if you note all the ironies)

Music: Radiohead – Life in a Glass House (some damn good trombone!)

A few evenings ago I was beneficiary to an observation about eloquence, confidence and POWER. “You can be the cleverest person, but if you can’t express* your intellect, you have no power,” thus the observer (WTTE). I blushed and said something stupid, perhaps proving his point.

Upon reflection, it seems even more alas! plausible than it did to my subconscious psyche in those few seconds. People in power, sure they’re clever, but politicians have that ‘sparkle’, that intensity: instinct or even the art for rhetoric. It’s not knowledge that empowers you (scientia potentia est, as attributed to Sir Francis Bacon), but application thereof.

For example, education over recent decades has made a significant shift from fact recall to structured analysis. My mother spent her schooldays learning every precise geographical feature of a series of maps she was expected to be able to hand-draw—dimension and all, to the last contour. Now they’d give you the map and tell you to analyse it: what does this feature mean and how might it impact the surrounding environment (or whatever; I’m no geographer)? We are expected to THINK.

The few truly eloquent teenagers I meet are instantly my favourite people. I’m not impressed by wit, necessarily (especially not the snitzy tumblr kind, though that can be mildly amusing for a short period of time), but an insight into the world and its ridiculousness, a fine vocabulary and the deft conduction thereof will surely ‘win my heart’. Indeed, that ain’t me.

And with that I wonder about positing a different formulation of the eloquence-power relation. I find, myself, that associating with these superior verbalists as described above somewhat dissolves every particle of wit and interest from my own ego. If I have not already proved myself confident and eloquent (neither of which I’d call myself, thus I falter at the first clause) to a word-wielder, I genuinely cannot do so thenceforth.

Through no fault of his own, the person who gave me the subject of this post is one such creativity-sapper (as far as I’m concerned). Why, I ask myself, when I get on so very well with people who don’t use my beloved words like he does?—and there it is. Other people (and this isn’t meant to sound swanky) I can outwit, out-math, out-music, out-vocab, out-mock, out-run, out-age. Even if all else fails, I can mention God or church (again) and get an exasperated glare. POWER. The only power I have over this person is that I can write a damn good blog post (1. when I stop talking about myself; 2. when I can be bothered; 3. ahem, I need your support, to cover this ugly boasting), and even then, I’ve never read his writing. All fails!

My point, ladles and jellyspoons, is that one may have eloquence, but without also that beautiful gift of confidence-regardless-of-whatever-power-you-have-or-don’t-have-as-the-case-may-be, you will not have POWER.

‘Blind confidence’, my observer called it. ‘Well-judged confidence’, I corrected him. In retrospect, ‘blind confidence’ is pretty much it, except I’ll change ‘blind’ to ‘unconditional’.

So, POWER is internal and external, and without the former you can’t have the latter**. That’s why earnest compliment-fishing only earns pissed-off stares. Alas for me and many! insecurity gets you positively nowhere.

What a failing: that I love to assert myself, but am so petrified of failure that those against whom I’ve ‘already’ ‘lost’ never get to know I can assert myself. Hierarchy turned on its head, if ya like.

Lesson over. Add your thoughts; contradict mine 😉


*vocal expression and execution, that is

** I wouldn’t wish to pose that as a rule. ‘Confident’ people may be less respected than those quiet people who necessarily have weight (though it could be argued that they do have inner power, but don’t externalise it consciously; other only people ‘feel’ it). And, of course, there are ‘confident’ people who are everything but inside (this is the hard one, and it might involve a redefinition of POWER—yeah, should’ve done that before I began talking about it. Your call!).