A recent study by researchers at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, INSEAD and Columbia looked at how power dynamics affect one’s ability to persuade. They found that successful persuasion depends on how powerful or powerless the speaker’s audience feels. The researchers measured responses to “high power” communication that focused on competency and skillfulness, and “Low power” communication that emphasized warmth and sincerity.

The study’s authors found that audiences that felt powerful responded best to high power communication, while powerless audiences responded better to low-power messaging. They surmised that when people are feeling powerful, they’re more easily persuaded by high power arguments. Audiences who responded to low-power communication appeared to be seeking reassurance and trust.

The researchers pointed out that power dynamics fluctuate constantly therefore, message styles should also be adjusted accordingly.