Today you’re going to learn what is manipulation. The word “manipulation” comes from Latin and has the meaning “hand or trick” or also “handling”. In general usage it stands for a kind of secret or covert influence. People should be made to do or leave things that they would not have done or left without this manipulation.
Of course, the term has a negative connotation, which is also the decisive reason why one does not want to have anything to do with it. The fact is, however, that living together without manipulation is inconceivable. We constantly use hands or tricks to influence other people in different directions.
This is not necessarily something negative. With regard to interpersonal cooperation, for example, renouncing friendliness would not only be extremely difficult, but also very unpleasant.
What Is Manipulation And How Does It Work?
Definition: “Manipulation is an influence of any kind on other persons to achieve a goal faster or better. In the best case, such techniques shall always be used to the mutual benefit of both parties, but at least not to the detriment of either party in any case”.
There is nothing negative in this definition of manipulation. Unless, of course, influence is generally considered bad.
Manipulation is not always bad
Knowledge about manipulation is important. Just so that you know where and how much you can influence yourself. Sometimes it is amusing, but at other times also frightening how little we know about our controllability. Sentences like “I would never …” or “I wouldn’t do something like this” are in most cases not just said that way; people believe they know how to behave in this or that situation they have never been in before.
If you know from your own experience how opportunistically, self-righteously and wrongly you can think and behave when external circumstances change accordingly, you may have the opportunity to change your behaviour in the future and recognize the corresponding patterns in others in good time.
But why do we manipulate at all? Wouldn’t it be enough and moreover morally more desirable if we simply convinced other people with an objective, comprehensible and provable arguments? But can we be objective at all? And what is comprehensible and verifiable?
Most people have an enormous problem with manipulation and being manipulated. They insist on their independence and free will. Even worse for many is the idea that they can manipulate others. “I’d never do that,” they call out, taking advantage of one of the most common forms of manipulation the very next moment, friendliness, by asking: “Can you lend me CHF 20? and strike a tone that inspires confidence. He’s supposed to say, “I’m sure you’ll get it back soon!” You could yell at him and say, “Come on, CHF 20, let’s go!” This is nothing but manipulation!
The Manipulation Techniques
Everyone has certainly asked themselves the question: “How do I get people to spend more money in my shop?”, “Why do I often buy things that I didn’t want to buy?”, “Can you tell by the body language whether someone is telling the truth? Ultimately, these and other questions of this kind are only aimed at one thing: “How do I manage to influence people to do what I want them to do?
There are a lot of techniques for positive manipulation by which this is possible. Interestingly, most of them are even known to us, yes, we meet them or use them often daily without knowing it: Advertising, media, salesmen, but also our friends, partners and children manipulate us daily – and we manipulate them! What is less well known is the enormous impact of these techniques on us: we like to tell ourselves that we make our decisions objectively. However, this is often only an illusion, because we hardly ever decide for ourselves.
As long as manipulation serves the attainment of a goal without overreaching the opponent’s disadvantage, “motivation” can also be a suitable term. For example, a salesperson is imperatively dependent on motivating potential customers to buy a product.
As long as it is a fair deal and the seller is convinced of the quality of his offer, he will use all his knowledge, his rhetorical skills and the results of his sales training to persuade the customer to sign or buy. With all this, he doesn’t have to have a guilty conscience, because he believes in customer benefit.
If, however, he was to convince his interlocutor to purchase a product whose usefulness is doubtful or whose possession is completely superfluous, he would have to resort to a negative form of manipulation, for example by omitting essential information or even lying.
It would be unobjective and one-dimensional to reject communication methods solely because of their potential for negative manipulation. Shouldn’t we then also reject cars, because people can have accidents with them? Or bread knives, since they can also be used against people? As with everything else, conscious and responsible interaction is crucial.
Positive manipulation in leadership
Unfortunately, the term “manipulation” has a largely negative connotation. However, when we become aware that leadership and employee motivation always have something to do with manipulation, a different picture emerges: Manipulating people have the goal of influencing other people about their behavior. As managers, we do nothing else every day in the area of employee management.
Have more influence on employees and bosses
If we as managers now deal responsibly with this manipulation, if fair manipulation tactics support the development of trustful relationships, if manipulation serves to promote and challenge employees and to achieve challenging goals together, then we have manipulated positively!
Manipulation in sales and management – benefit or damage?!
Isn’t manipulation even necessary in (discussion) leadership? Especially when corporate goals are to be achieved, and profit maximization is the goal? Isn’t it the very purpose of small talk to create a positive relationship level to consciously “manipulate” customers and employees in the direction of one’s own goals?
But first the question, what makes us manipulable?
Manipulation usually works unconsciously. Thus, clothing in the form of a deep neckline or a short skirt can manipulate just as much as conspicuously negative or positive events. Unconsciously, our attention is directed in one direction instead of consciously directing it there. Unconscious processes allow us to regard the other person as sympathetic or to grant him concessions without having planned this.
For example, the effect of the word “because”. If we justify a request to our interlocutor with the word “because”, he is much more willing to make concessions than if the request is made without this word. This happened during an investigation in which test persons stood at the copier to copy documents.
An instructed decoy bird asked to be allowed to copy these as well in the first step, after that he was usually given a rebuff. If, however, he added the word “because, …” to his statement in the second step, then the test persons admitted a much more frequent disorder, even if no convincing argumentation followed after the “because.” Thus manipulation methods always start with our basic needs. We need to help other people, but only if there is a reason to do so.
In psychology, the connection motive is spoken of here. We also have a basic need for self-determination and want to exercise control over our lives.
The following are few of those methods, used in advertising psychology
Reciprocity: “Like you to me, like I to you”: If I have received a gift or a positive achievement from my counterpart, I feel obliged to it and am much more willing to make my own concessions. If, for example, I offer free consulting services in the real estate sector, which my client finds appreciative and special, my chances of closing a deal increase accordingly.
Scarcity: Whenever a product becomes scarce, it becomes all the more desirable. The more customers have the feeling of a “hot housing market,” the more willing they are to buy them quickly and less thoughtfully.
Authorities: The customer trusts the neutral expert much more than the “biased” salesman.
Consistency: “Who says A also says B”: If I give my employees the permanent feeling that they can make self-determined decisions within a certain framework (addressing the self-determination motive) and receive appreciation for their work, a lasting motivation can be achieved. Even as a company, a continuously high-quality appearance leads to a corresponding customer perception, whereby higher prices are perceived as quite justified.
Consensus: “Everyone does it this way.” If everyone earns money on the real estate market, you don’t want to stand in line yourself and invest as well.
Sympathy creates trust and can be achieved by compliments as well as by highlighting similarities.
Thank you for reading this article about what is manipulation and I really hope that you take action my advice. I wish you good luck and I hope its contents have been a good help to you.