The power to influence another person is a coveted ability. Whether it’s convincing someone to vote for you, buy your product, or simply listen to your opinion, having influence can change the course of history. But what’s the difference between influence and manipulation? And which one should you be using? In this blog post, we will explore the differences between these two concepts and discuss when it is appropriate to use each one.
What is Influence?
Merriam Webster dictionary defines influence as the “power to change or affect someone or something” [Source]. It can also mean the “power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen.” Influence is gained by applying various methods or being pushed to do so. Influence may have a positive or negative impact, and it has significant power on decision-making.
What is Manipulation?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, manipulation means “to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s advantage” [Source]. Manipulation is the use of “devious means to exploit, control, or otherwise influence others to one’s advantage.” It is a tool utilized by tricksters, swindlers, deceivers, and impostors. “Using some idea, trait, emotion, or object to influence someone to achieve a desired effect or outcome (Usually without them knowing.) [Source].
Influence vs. Persuasion vs. Manipulation
Influence, persuasion, and manipulation appear to have a basic underlying principle on people, but their meanings vary. Influence is embedded in the power to change one’s conduct. Persuasion is simply the “action or process of convincing someone or being convinced to do or believe something” [Source], while manipulation is an act of cleverly controlling or influencing a person.
Influence can be beneficial or detrimental, and people may be persuaded to do either good or bad things. The word manipulation is usually used negatively, such as a person trying to solicit favors from any individuals or mobilizing people to join their side, but it can be positive to some extent. The definition of manipulation touches on ‘influencing and persuading” a person using unruly ways, thus linking these three.
Convincing vs. Manipulation
Convincing is usually used interchangeably with persuasion, and it is the process of persuading an individual to understand something. On the other hand, manipulation points to using certain skills into tricking a person to adopt your view of things.
Convincing involves presenting evidence to support a point or side of the story, and manipulation does not need backing up evidence. Convincing can be done on clever people while manipulation preys on weak minds who do not know they are being tricked. Also, the convincing process taps into the logical sense of a person but manipulation targets relatable areas of a person’s life and tries to use those to convince them.
The convincing process needs justification, whereas manipulation only requires an individual to be obedient. Convincing gives a person a choice to choose or not, but manipulation exploits people.
Examples of Manipulation vs. Persuasion
Implicit threats can be used to manipulate people, but pleasant requests for a favor and the words “please” are used in persuasion. Passive-aggressive behavior is another characteristic of manipulation to boss people around [Source], but persuasion requires a person asking for their way.
Manipulation also involves secrecy, such as withholding information, and persuasion entails making sure that all the cards are on the table so that people can assist. Manipulators tend to use sensitive information in threatening their subjects, and persuasion only requires coming up with convincing details.
Blackmailing is a core pillar of manipulation that forces people to do the opposite of what they want, and persuasion is the practice of gaining people’s attention through communication.
Positive Manipulation Definition
Positive manipulation, also called ‘contrivance,’ entails genuinely helping someone or influencing them to do something good for themselves [Source]. It mostly happens when an individual turns down the best advice in career, academic, business, health, or other vital aspects of life. When this happens, those willing to assist must manipulate that person to follow the proper route in life.
Positive Manipulation Example
Examples of positive manipulation can be seen in parenting skills, where parents sometimes trick their kids. For example, when a child does not want to go to school, a parent can threaten not to buy any toys or Christmas gifts. Managers also manipulate employees by threatening to fire underperforming individuals. Mothers can use emotional blackmail to try and get their children at home during the festive season.
NLP Manipulation Techniques
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a “way of changing someone’s thoughts and behaviors to help achieve desired outcomes for them” [Source], and it is seen as a form of manipulation. NLP manipulation techniques were outlined as follows:
Anchoring: Turning sensory experiences into triggers for certain emotional states.
Rapport: The practitioner tunes in to the person by matching their physical behaviors to improve communication and response through empathy.
Swish pattern: Changing patterns of behavior or thought to come to a desired instead of an undesired outcome.
Visual/kinesthetic dissociation (VKD): Trying to remove negative thoughts and feelings associated with a past event.
Other techniques include imagery, also called mental rehearsal, based on visualization. It means a person must create an image of carrying out a specific task and giving a 100% performance, whether a presentation or a speech. The other one is modeling, where one must surround oneself with people who have achieved the same goals they are vying for.
NLP techniques also involve incantations, and they are seen as a powerful version of affirmations. Affirmations, in this case, are phrases repeated by a person, and they should be about one’s goals and beliefs. Repeating these phrases boosts self-confidence in an individual and esteem. The more a person repeats them, the more they become a reality and eventually push one to achieve their goals in life.