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27 Mar 2014

Leveraging Relationships, Manipulation or Influence?

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series Leveraging Relationships in Communications

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When we leverage relationships, is it influencing or manipulating.

The techniques in this series sometimes have people asking, “Mike, isn’t this manipulation?” My response is, “Yes, it is, but remember manipulation differs from influence in the same way snails differ from escargot.” Interpretation matters.

For example, I wish to influence my wife’s birthday experience by finding a gift she will like. Am I manipulative because I consciously worked weeks to find such a gift? Would going out at the last minute without much thought be better? At minimum, she would appreciate the effort. Our people would feel the same way especially if we’re making their work experiences better.

TED presenters thoroughly plan and practice for months, sometimes hiring acting coaches, working hard to influence our experience. TED’s curators advise and edit talks, fitting them into one of several different formulae, looking for the right stories, gestures, intonations and signature “Aha” moments within an eighteen-minute timeframe. Ensuring a consistent consumer experience no different than what McDonald’s popularized and many businesses do today keeps us returning – manipulation or influence?

Radiation can kill people or cancer; these techniques can manipulate or influence, a function of our intentions, sincerity and relationships. People often fear change. We can help them overcome that with these techniques. Consider a doctor who refused to help a dying patient because she was afraid she might kill him. Consider a manager who refused to help an employee in danger of losing his job because she was afraid he would interpret her efforts as manipulation.

Where would we be with fire if people were fearful of it consuming them in flames?

 

Related link: “Listen and Learn,” TED Talks reach millions around the world. How has a conference turned ideas into an industry? (The New Yorker, July 9, 2012 edition)

 

Series Navigation<< Leverage Relationships in Conversations, A Technique (Pt 3)

4 Responses

  1. This is an excellent question to ponder Mike.

    The question regarding the difference between manipulation or influence, which has become more and more relevant for people as we navigate the vast realms of cyberspace.

    I believe all of us have the capacity to influence and DO influence, in the same context that tossing a pebble into a pond creates ripples along the surface of the water. Each one of us; our existence, words, actions act like that pebble in the pond, influencing everything around us. (spheres of influence)

    Now when it comes to the matter of manipulation, this is where intention is everything. It depends on our own conscious intention, that also includes the understanding that we also have intentions that are heavily marked by the influence of our own subconscious (unconscious realm). Similar to many analogies that have already been offered as seen with the iceberg analogy.

    I’m influenced in some way by everyone I encounter. Some of that influence is relatively innocuous. Many are simply people going about their daily lives; engaging in their businesses, wanting to market themselves and make a difference etc. And then there is those that seem to have agendas that serve a more intentionally manipulative purpose. As in people who merely use others to meet their own narcissistic supply needs without thought or regard to how this impacts other people.

    We could say that most advertising is manipulation in order to get us to buy. And much of it I do feel can be harmful especially with what we’ve seen in self-image with a faulty sense of what is healthy, such as anorexia and modeling. Air brushed photos being the unrealistic image of perfection that many people try to live up to, but it’s impossible to achieve because it’s not REAL.

    I believe we DO have a responsibility to know and understand our own intentions. As best as we can. I believe many of us consciously WANT to influence one another. We do need to be more careful of whether or not we are manipulating in ways that are deceptive and misleading to people.

    This is a huge topic of exploration in and of itself so I know my comment here certainly is in no way meant to cover it in its entirety. Thanks for opening the conversation with this post Mike.

    1. Mike Lehr

      Thank you for the comment and visit, Samantha. Can you elaborate on unconscious influences that we exert, are they manipulation or influence? For instance, we commonly express unconscious influences as another’s hang ups? Do you consider them manipulations even though the other person is unaware of how she is influencing? ~Mike

  2. Yes, I might be able to do that. I have a specific example in mind, yet the topic might create too much controversy so I will intentionally generalize my comments. : )

    Propaganda, both politically and/or religiously is a perfect example.

    All propaganda is delivered by means of a message. Propaganda can only SUCCEED if the receiver of the message believes it. Which is basically having to do with our core belief systems. Once certain beliefs, although false, have taken root in our hearts and minds, they easily begin to operating in the background of of our lives like an autopilot program.

    If we accepted and hold a belief that there is something fundamentally wrong with each of us, we are going to treat others with this same belief.

    If we accepted a belief that we only matter based on what we achieve and how much money we make, we are going to treat others through this belief system.

    So when it comes to our unconscious programming, we can on the surface not have a conscious intention of manipulation, however, some of our false beliefs are HIGHLY manipulative and were designed that way especially when it came to intentional propaganda….

    So we can unintentionally manipulate others simply based on our own faulty unconscious beliefs because at their core, those beliefs ARE manipulative. Were designed to manipulate us. They succeeded in manipulating us. And continue to succeed in manipulating others THROUGH us.

    If that makes sense. (and although general in it’s nature, I hope still logical enough to make sense. : )

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