The Line Between Persuasion and Manipulation

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Not too long ago I was at a small gathering of friends (yes, I really have some…well, okay, one).

There were a handful of us, some of them I knew and another handful of people I’d never met before. I eventually circled around to one conversation with a new friend. We were talking about a topic that I was fairly passionate about and we had some pretty different opinions.

I believed in my heart that, if adopted by my new friend, my point of view would benefit the way that he looked at the world, moved through life, and it impact the world around him both on a personal and a business level.

As we were talking, we kept going point by point and discussing my worldview, his worldview, how they differed, and eventually circled around to a place where, when we left the conversation, this new friend had been substantially persuaded to my point of view. That left me pretty happy because I believed in my heart that we’d had an honest respectful conversation and his new outlook would benefit not only him, but those he served.

Now, there’s something else that was going on during this conversation.

Over a period of years, or honestly decades, I’ve spent a huge amount of time, energy and money studying the human condition, human nature and the way that we process arguments and facts. Put another way, I’ve invested a lot in understanding the psychology of persuasion and learning how to present facts and interactions in a manner that will be more likely to persuade somebody to my point of view.

I’m actually far more effective at this in print than I am in face-to-face conversations, which is probably why, for years, I’ve resorted to print as my prime tool for both expression and persuasion. It also is one of the things that has led me to be reasonably successful writing copy.

And, last week I had the great pleasure of presenting on “writing that moves people to action” as part of an online conference on writing. During the hour or so that I was speaking, I shared a number of principals of persuasion – tools and techniques to take the psychology of persuasion and translate it to print. And, I shared and demonstrated a number of pointed strategies and tactics designed write in a way that persuades people to your opinion, to your argument, or to actually buy a product, service or idea.

The last 15 minutes of that presentation were reserved for Q&A and during that time I got some really great questions diving deeper into some of the strategies and principals. Then, somebody asked an interesting question one that I’ve been asked a whole bunch of times in the past…

Aren’t you just teaching us how to manipulate people in print?

It’s a fascinating question.

The way I answered that question during this call, and the way I’ve answered it in the past, is that the difference between persuasion and manipulation lies largely in underlying intent and desire to create genuine benefit.

Understanding how people form opinions, arguments and present and integrate facts into their mental models is mission-critical in your ability to convince anybody to buy into an idea and then act on that idea. That’s the essence of persuasion.

The difference between persuasion and manipulation lies in:

1) The intent behind your desire to persuade that person,
2) The truthfulness and transparency of the process, and
3) The net benefit or impact on that person

Manipulation implies persuasion with the intent to  fool, control or contrive the person on the other side of the conversation into doing something, believing something, or buying into something that leaves them either harmed or without benefit.

It may also imply that you are concealing a desire to move them to your point of view in a way that will benefit you. And if this benefit were disclosed, that revelation would make the other person far less receptive to your message because it would either:

  • Demonstrate a strong bias towards their lack of benefit in the exchange,
  • Demonstrate an ulterior motive for the attempt at persuasion, often driven by one-sided benefit, or
  • Some combination of both.

So for example, let’s say I was selling somebody a car and I had all of my tools of persuasion and strategies. That person walked into my dealership and it was apparent, with a family of six kids, they were looking for and genuinely needed a family-sized, affordable vehicle.

But, I then leveraged all of my persuasive abilities to convince the parent that he shouldn’t be buying a mini van but rather a two-seater convertible to reclaim his youth, and in doing so, teach his children how important it is to stay true to their youthful ideals, knowing full well that I would make twice the commission on that car and it was completely unsuitable for them.

That’s manipulation.

Now, what if that same parent came into my dealership with the same six kids and said to me, “Man, I just want to blow some cash. I should buy a six-seater. I know it’s completely irrational and I really can’t justify this, but I’m just jonesing for the two-seater convertible?”

And, what if I then I used my persuasive abilities to slowly and methodically lay out a conversation and a set of facts that led this parent to understand the genuine benefit of purchasing the more affordable and suitable family car?

That’s persuasion, not manipulation.

Because I used the same set of skills to convince somebody to do something that I genuinely believed was in their best interest, instead of convincing them to do something that I was pretty sure was not in their best interest – and very likely was being less than truthful with at least part of what I was talking about.

In the end, persuasion strategies, tools, and an understanding of how to present facts, arguments and interactions in a way that’s more likely to get somebody on the other side of the conversation to buy into your point of view is simply about persuasion.

It’s the underlying intent, the net benefit and the veracity with which you bring this toolbox to life that creates the difference between persuasion and manipulation.

As always, I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

Photo credit Andrew Mason

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42 responses

42 responses to “The Line Between Persuasion and Manipulation”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by remarkablogger, Grant Griffiths, Annemieke , Santi Chacon, TwittyBean and others. TwittyBean said: The Line Between Persuasion and Manipulation […]

  2. Jonathon – Absolutely right, its about intention. However, sometimes people think that they have another’s best future in sight, but are really just asking them to conform. In other words, there’s a fine line between persuasion and manipulation.

    I think we can tell the most brazen manipulations and abhor them. But some are subtle.

    For example, many people told me that women could not be architects and gave me many examples (in the 1970s). It hardened my resolve. Luckily I love the field. Its not always smooth sailing but I think those seeking to persuade me towards what they saw as my best interest were really just manipulating me to maintain the status quo. In other words, sometimes it’s just not that clear.

    That said, your post helps me clarify and think about it. Usually, it is much simpler than my example, and your post is right on in that regard.

  3. Jason mKey says:

    I believe that the art of selling someone on your ideas is an extremely undervalued and misunderstood skill set.

    In the conversation you had, your motives were obviously good and you displayed passion for your point of view. What if his point of view was equally as strong? What if you were actually wrong all together and his opinion was the most intelligent one?

    Doesn’t matter… in the end the best salesperson wins.

  4. Joshua says:

    It’s interesting to note that by definition ‘persuasion’ is not positive or beneficial, while ‘manipulation’ certainly refers to being negative and/or deceiving.

    I think you could persuade someone to take action that would negatively influence their life (short-term or long-term) without it being manipulative.

    Knowledge varies. Experience is often anecdotal.

    You could believe you are persuading someone toward a positive action or idea, but in fact be leading them toward negativity.

    Depending on your knowledge and/or experience (as ‘persuader’ or ‘pursuadee’), results may vary.

    I don’t really believe in absolute good or evil, but good intentions go a long way in keeping the balance!

  5. This reminds me of something I read in the book ‘Yes! 50 Secrets From the Science of Persuasion’. The book explains that influence by persuasion is about building authentic relationships and showing genuine strengths in what you’re saying. The goal is to “create outcomes that are in the best interests of all parties”. The authors go on to say:

    “When these tools are instead used unethically as weapons, however, – for example, by dishonestly or artificially importing the principles of social influence into situations in which they don’t naturally exist – the short-term gains will almost invariably be followed by long-term losses.”

    In my mind, a one-sided situation suggests manipulation, whereas a two-sided situation suggests persuasion. I see nothing wrong with a healthy dose of win-win, and persuasion can achieve that.

  6. I was on last week’s call, and the answer you gave to the question at that time made a lot of sense to me. The scenario you’re describing here makes me a bit uncomfortable though, and after thinking about it for a while I’ve figured out why. From your description, it sounds like you pursued this conversation and bringing this person around to your worldview for quite some time. I don’t doubt that you felt he would be better off if he held your opinions, but I don’t think that belief gives anyone the green light to force those opinions on others. I obviously wasn’t there; maybe you had a spirited debate in which each party made valid points and reconsidered their opinions, in which case excellent, please carry on. But what I’m reading is a situation where you met someone who didn’t share your viewpoints, decided he would be better off if he did, and proceeded to describe your views until he either changed his mind or said he did in order to end the conversation.

    If that’s what you did, it bothers me because you made the decision for him instead of laying out your argument, letting him decide and respecting his decision. That, in my mind, is the line between persuasion and manipulation.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Hey K, actually it was a relatively brief convo and I went in believing in my point of view, but also open to being persuaded and learning. As mentioned the exchange was very honest and two-sided. But, in the end, I left unpersuaded to his point of view and he left persuaded to mine. And, I think we were both comfortable with that. I’m not a brow-beater. Just not my style.

      But, let’s talk about the sentence “If that’s what you did, it bothers me because you made the decision for him instead of laying out your argument, letting him decide and respecting his decision.” Thing is, we were on equal footing. There was no co-dependent or predatory relationship which would have changed the dynamic or givien either of us some sort of unsavory advantage or control over the other person’s ability to make their own decision. When two people are on equal footing, one person does not decide for the other. They best they can do is hope to lay out their arguments in a way that’s compelling to the other. Granted, there are plenty of scenarios where two people are not on equal footing, this was not one of them. Like I said, that’s not my style. : )

      • In that case, excellent, please carry on. 🙂

        Thinking about this further, it really is a very fine line between persuasion and manipulation, even using your own intentions as a guide. To use an extreme example, I’m sure the fundamentalist preachers who regularly visited my college truly believed they were trying to save me from an eternity in hell. But they refused to respect my right to think and decide for myself, and in doing so they crossed from persuasion into manipulation.

  7. Chuck says:

    I don’t disagree with he general thrust of this post. The assumption is that you is that believe you know what will benefit someone better than they know themselves. That is self-serving. You feel good because you have reinforced your worldview.

    Feel-good politics are destroying the world. The progressives in our overreaching government have believed in their hearts that they can take care of people better than we can take care of ourselves. That is why the world is going broke and headed toward fascism. Welfare, unions, regulations, loans to people that can’t pay, etc., etc., etc.

    “convince somebody to do something that I genuinely believed was in their best interest” – intention right?

    What is the cliche about the road to hell?

  8. Rick Hamrick says:

    I agree with Cindy that there are cases, and not infrequent ones, where the motivations of the person seeking to persuade are not revealed, perhaps even to that person! Her example of maintenance of what people know and understand–the status quo–is a very strong one.

    In the simplest of cases, your theory and definition are fine. In real life, we have the added input of our intuitive senses and the inner voice guiding us toward our own passion. In combination with your simplified view, we’re usually going to be okay.

    In Cindy’s case, her passion was stronger than her temptation to listen to well-intended advice which was the wrong advice for her.

    As is usually the case, passion wins (not necessarily the best salesperson).

  9. Jeanne Male says:

    Jonathon, Throughoout my sales and leadership training career I’ve often dealt with push-back when people confuse persuasion with manipulation. My mantra has been, “Everybody sells – knowing how to give others the ears to hear and the eyes to see your perspective is an essential life skill”.

    The evolution of persuasion and influence competencies from the days of Dale Carnegie to neurobiology, sociology and the influence works of folks like Robert Cialdini has been fascinating. Equally fascinating but un-nerving is how media, those with poor principles and political parties have learned to manipulate persuasion principals to fleece the masses.

    Thanks for raising an important topic and helping to “draw the line”.

    PS – I’ve recommended Career Renegade to many!

  10. Hi Jonathan,
    Two sides of a fine line, nicely discussed.
    Have Fun,

  11. As the owner of a multimedia advertising agency in New Jersey, we often have to deal with clients that need to be persuaded AND manipulated to make the right decision.

    It is all about how you influence your target audience. Intention aside, what you say and how you act may also have an impact on a person’s decision or opinion of you. They can then decide whether they believe, trust, follow or desire your opinion or information.

    Persuasion and Manipulation are too similar to separate into these cozy little baskets. Either way you are influencing their decision or opinion.

    Is it possible to persuade with both good and bad intent? Yes. Can someone “manipulate” data or information in order to help people make the “best” or “right” decision? You betcha. Both of these words can be used for both good and bad reasons.

    Manipulate seems like a dirty word here. Sometimes the closed minded need a little more than just a little persuasion… and sometimes…they thank you for it after they have realized what greatness you can help them achieve.

  12. Charles Tutt says:

    Johathan, I couldn’t agree more with you. This is one of the very best articles I’ve read on the subject of persuasion. It really resonates with me. Thank you for writing it.

  13. Vince says:

    Intention doesn’t really matter if it produces an undesired outcome. Maybe both persuasion and manipulation can be based on your desired outcome and not necessarily beneficial to the other party. Persuasion could also be a tool to help someone achieve their desired outcome if that is your focus. Asking a person what they really want and need could be a way of moving things in the right direction.

  14. I won’t assume to know what Jonathan’s viewpoint was, but I would support the effort to persuade someone to a new world view if that was to live by principle rather than emotion, live by personal integrity rather than political correctness or ideology, strength and self sufficiency rather than servitude or welfare. I would decline to assume this was a political conversation, rather, following the tone of this blog, a bright intro to standing on ones own two feet and succeeding. If so, I support that effort on every front!

  15. Ellen says:

    Maybe manipulation & persuasion are the same thing—and maybe that is ok—
    After all in your description of the party & the conversation I am positive that if you thought your worldview was more productive & satisfying or “good” and you were given agreement by the person you were trying to pursuade or manipulate—then that agreement made you feel good–and feeling good is selfish—but we are all basically selfish–and maybe that is ok–it is the human condition—persuasion IS manipulation—and if it’s good/positive or bad/negative–that is your opinion/observation at the time–and every aspect of that judgement/opinion/observation can and will change-can & will have a more or less negative or positive effect on both of the people or all of the people involved in the manipulation–if it was the big car vs sports car—it could be that if you manipulated the guy into buying the sports car & you made extra money–that may seem selfish—but if you used the money to pay for your sick daughters cancer treatment–well then was it manipulation or persuasion—so……. It is kinda a neat conversation & contemplation. Thanks for waking up my mind today!!!

  16. Laura Mappin says:

    You may have hit on an interesting aspect that could be used to define the difference between persuasion and manipulation which is really what your post is about. I prefer conversations with neither going on.

    I believe the bottom line is that we cannot know for sure what is best for another. But we can help flush out all the sides we can see to their choices – even ad nauseum if we all want to. In the end, it is the other person’s choice, it is their life that they will spend with the consequences, it is their varied and expansive set of values that they will apply to the decision and have to live with, not me. And I try to always leave room for that.

    I believe this so strongly AND I see many conversations where it seems to me that people are trying to convince others of something that it is a very common and often unconscious undertone of conversations, even with mine.

    Because of this, when I’m speaking, I go overboard to combat this undertone if I sense it. And in my writing, I want to develop a symbol that stands for “In the end, it’s your choice and I will support you even more for making your own choice than for going along with whatever point I have made.”

    Yes, I still think it’s important to make a good argument for whatever I believe in but I really really really want people to take it only if it really fits them. I may think I have a good guess but I cannot be sure. And I have to leave room for that.

    (Imagine that symbol here.)

  17. Sally G. says:

    Hi Jonathan! I often seek to determine motivation and intent behind my own thoughts, words and actions ~ and to the degree where it’s possible – in the words and actions of others.

    While Persuasion seems more lit up than Manipulation (meaning, it would appear to have more positive intentions) ~ there are people who think they’re being persuasive and helpful and yet, the other party may leave the exchange feeling manipulated upon reflection.

    The energy at the time can be conducive to Persuasion because the intent is pure – but if the receiving party feels a shift that isn’t as comfortable once you’re not there, then they’ll consider it a potential Manipulation.

    I wonder if the Giver’s attachment to outcome might play a role in determining what is Persuasion and what is Manipulation? Meaning, one can make a compelling, persuasive case for something of pure intent that he believes in with all his heart ~ with no emotional attachment one way or the other if the Receiver alters thoughts, words or actions as a result.

    Manipulation seems dependent on the other party’s acceptance. Perhaps Persuasion plants seeds while Manipulation is focussed on harvest?

    It’s all very subjective in the end, isn’t it? I’m grateful for your Wisdom and admire your Integrity.

  18. William says:

    We manipulate our entire lives, mostly unconsciously, and, on the flip side, have also been manipulated our entire lives, just as unconsciously. Persuasion brings a level of intent and skill into the situation and labeling it with a purpose higher than manipulation may just make those with these skills and abilities feel better about themsleves.

    As to your distinction between doing something for someone’s best interest and something not in their best interest assumes that we actually know what is in another’s best interest.

    Maybe the real distinction is that persuasion lays out the facts and leaves it there for someone to make their own decision and manipulation is a continued push to convince someone of a viewpoint which smacks of a little too much ego involvement.


  19. Jonathan,

    This is excellent! And a subject I think a lot about myself.

    What occurs to me reading your post, is that if manipulation is about underlying intent, manipulation is in the eye of the beholder. We perceive manipulation, but it’s always a perception.

    I also think there is a power dynamic here. Unless I am blatantly lying, I don’t believe that anything I put on a sales page or in an email truly has the power to MAKE someone do something against their will or against their better judgment, without their willing participation. The audience is always free to stop reading, to delete, or to walk away.

    I figure I am here to be a fierce advocate for the value of my work, and if my words move people, great. And if not, I gave it my best shot.

  20. It’s easy to take off on the tangent of “how do *you* know what’s best for another person?” which is a preposterous question.

    Of course we don’t know what’s best for others! That’s why this is a mutual process of beneficial intent, not a dictum issued by a ruler.

    If you and I come to a conversation with the firm belief that we each have A Better Way, and we’re both intelligent folks capable of reasoning and self-determination, if I don’t know what’s best for you, that’ll come out. If I do, wouldn’t you like to know something better than you know now?

    Some folks seem quick to jump on some imaginary negative aspect of persuasion.

    It’s how ideas get shared, folks. It’s how learning takes place. A five-year-old can persuade themselves that 2 + 2 = 4 by playing with blocks. When it comes to business ethics, spirituality, financial methodology, or baseball, there’s going to be conversation, there will be opinions, and it doesn’t all have to be evil.

  21. Douglas Karr says:

    You didn’t speak to intent at all and I believe that’s the critical difference. If I intend to make a purchase, then you persuading me is okay. If I never intended to make a purchase, then the purchase was manipulated.

  22. Jane says:

    Thank you for not just the topic but the way you structured it. It, in itself, was persuasive, partly because you did what many people who write don’t do well or often enough: you gave a concrete example to back up your general idea, but it was also a relevant example, made stronger by the fact that you did it both ways.

    I think many of us with half a conscience know when we’re not being truthful. If you look at “good” persuasion as an opportunity to delight someone, it takes the edge off feeling like it’s manipulation. This can come from the other party participating by filling in the blank of an open-ended question, getting the punchline of joke, etc. They may be persuaded in the process but you’ve given them something.

  23. I truly believe if you’re coming from a place of passion and with only the best of intentions then you’re naturally going to want to persuade people to either your way of thinking or towards a preference of one brand, product or service over another.

    They can choose to listen and agree or disagree, that’s the beauty of it. Obviously if you’re an incredibly persuasive person then they’ll agree.

    I always think this is where the rational vs emotional comes into play so strongly, clearly Jonathan you have far more expertise on this.

    Some people are much more open-minded and therefore open to new ideas and choices, others are very logical and rational and set on their opinions.

  24. Hey Jonathan,

    Really relevant topic for those of us who are… um, alive. But definitely for those of us who are in business for ourselves. Having the skillset that you describe – to assist another person in making a decision that we feel will truly better their lives – is essential to our financial survival as well as our ability to make awesome positive Contributions in the world.

    Mostly, I believe people are responsible for their actions/decisions unless drugged (without their knowledge, especially) or otherwise cognitively or physically incapable.

    And yet – powerful forces exist in the persuasive toolbox, and they really can be *wrong* to use, even if some subset of your intention is good and right for your listener(s).

    I’m thinking of this presentation I recently attended with a well-known online marketer (business-builder) who ended each sentence with …”say yes” or a fill-in-the-blank (“So, we look with our what? [wait for answer]” “our eyes!” the audience shouts. Two hours of simple agreement, group-think strategy, amazing financial-success stories (and promises) and other known mind-numbing persuasive techniques can lead many into a sort of trance, unless the audience members are aware of the power of those strategies.

    Yep – lots of people who are struggling to survive in their business signed up for his couple-grand (not including travel costs) “event” in Las Vegas. I bet this guy has been involved with a few people who have become nicely successful as a result of his “connections.” And I might even agree that he meant it when he said he wanted to facilitate that same success for those of us in his audience, but this “good intention” of his, does it justify the wildly powerful persuasive techniques he used to get those sign ups? It just felt so wrong to me.

    Clearly – you aren’t that guy and your conversation situation is nothing like this one. I appreciate your story and totally get it about why it was a happy one for you.

    I’m just reflecting on the persuasion/manipulation/sales thing overall here.

    Thanks for the very cool conversation.

  25. Hey Jonathan —

    The web is full of “persuaders”… especially those who write long, red and yellow highlighted sales letters with enormous buy buttons and abstract testimonials from so-called satisfied customers.

    I have been in the marketing, advertising and corporate communications biz for nearly three decades. From my experience, your ability to be persuasive is directly tied to the degree of perceived influence who have with those you are trying to win over, or in most cases SELL.

    If you are a politician, marketer, copy writer, or sales person, parent, who must be persuasive. If you have little influence, you will have little power to persuade. They are two sides of a coin. You can read my point of view on this subject here:

    Of course, with your background as a lawyer, you have learned the techniques of persuasion (and there are many). Those techniques have served you well as a direct marketing copy writer… but what MAKES you persuasive is the degree of PERCEIVED influence you have with your tribe. Today it is called social capital and it is worth more than money.

    For anyone wanting to learn to be more persuasive, dust off your old copy of Dale Carnegie’s iconic book!

    Thank you,
    Thomson Dawson

  26. Clara says:

    Hi, Jonathan, I’m generally with you on the distinction between persuasion and manipulation. The issues are similar when discussing the broader issues of marketing: there’s a difference between what I call marketing with integrity and marketing without.

    I’m struggling, ‘though, with the second part of your car salesman example. Were I the salesman, I’m not sure that I would consider it my role to persuade the customer that he should buy a ‘family’ car if he expressly told me he wanted to buy a two-seater. I might draw the customer out with questions about what he’d use the car for, etc., to help him dig deeper into his best option, but I doubt I’d presume that I knew what was best for him. If I really thought the guy was making a mistake – and again, the potential paternalism in this makes me a little squeamish (but I also recognize that it’s a human reaction) — I might spend some time comparing the two types of cars in ways that would enable the customer to think the issues through. But I’d do it to lay out the facts, not to try to persuade him.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

    • Adam White says:

      I had reserved thoughts about the car example.

      In the second part if the guy wanted a sports car – then the salesman’s job is to sell him a sports car.

      How did he arrive at the dealership with six kids in tow? Public transit? I doubt it. Maybe he drove in an H2 hummer or Cadillac Escalade. Then would you (and everyone else) agree that the salesman should persuade the customer to buy a mini-van?

      It’s not the salesman’s job to divert the customer’s choice or change his mind – that would be manipulation regardless of outcome.

      It is the salesman’s job to understand the customer’s situation and figure out why the customer wants a sports car. Then salesman could let the customer know alternatives (if any) that suit the situation.

      This would be informing the customer based on evidence of what the customer stated and NOT what the salesman “thinks is best for the customer”.

      For me it all comes down to “What makes you (or anyone) think you know what is best for someone else?”

      “What makes you think your opinion will led to a more positive outcome?”


  27. Jonathan:

    Are you familiar with Kant’s concept of the “categorical imperative”?

    It is ethical when the idea, if practiced by everyone, would be a good thing for everyone (my words, not Kant’s). This points out the zero-sum game of your car salesman as bad and your heartfelt desire to persuade as ethically fine.

    Cialdini and others fix this idea in similar ways, but Kant seems to give us the right hook for squishy ethical areas.

    I’ve spent a huge amount of time on this, as well – thanks!

    Stephen Denny

  28. Jonathan Fields says:

    Just jumping in here for a sec to say how much you guys rock.

    Great conversation, insights and learning. : )

  29. Nice. We always have a choice to show up with love or the dasterdly orphans of fear.

    The lines aren’t so fuzzy afterall!
    Thank you, Jonathan.

  30. […] The Line Between Persuasion and Manipulation […]

  31. John says:

    I, too, believe it is the intent that is the difference between manipulation and persuation. Speaking knowledgeably, with sincerity and honesty or showing your passion for a subject, I think is the best way to pursuade.

  32. Ryan Hanzel says:

    I think you are right on in the matter. I can’t really add anything that hasn’t been mentioned by you or any of the other commentators but agree. This was a very good read, RT’ed and FB’ed.

  33. Anh Han says:

    Very good and as usual on point post.

    When I started work and went through training courses on “building rapport” and “influencing” people, it didn’t sit right with me for a long time – I thought it was misleading, manipulative and inauthentic.

    I think the shift for me internally came when I realised, like you, that my intentions were honourable, that by using these “hacks” the other person would be left in a better place following my interaction.

    Human behaviour has always been interesting to me – it’s amazing how a slight reframe can make such a positive impact.

  34. Jim Vickers says:

    The difference between manipulation and persuasion is motive or intent. That said, I think an expression I heard years ago that has stuck with me holds the best clue to effective persuasion. “I never cared how much they knew until I knew how much they cared.” If you truly care for the best interests of someone else, that eventually communicates. I’m quite sure that the person you shared your world view with sensed your genuine care and opened up to the possibility of a view other than the one he held. The greatest source of wisdom ever written tells us to love our neighbor as ourself.

  35. Megan says:

    I feel very strongly about this and am constantly monitoring myself trying to be honest with what is happening and why in such a conversation. Especially because I am very good at being persuasive.

    I am working to be happy with simply presenting information, options, and different perspectives and then trusting that the other person is the best person to decide what is right for themselves at this moment in their life.

    If I am correct in my inner conviction that my information, life experience or perspective is valuable for them, then at the right time the seed that has been planted by our interaction will sprout.

    If I never find out whether or not it has sprouted or born fruit is completely irrelevant. Although my ego would love it if it did.

    This is a challenge for me personally – because in my birth family being “right” was very important, so even when I believe I have the other person’s best interest at heart, there is part of me that really wants to be “right” and wants others to acknowledge that I am “right.”

    Whenever I have a strong emotion about whether or not someone else is persuaded by my input, I suspect my motives are more about me than about the other person — Even when it is true that I truly do want the very best for them.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      No doubt, monitoring our tendencies toward “self-righteous” behavior is important. I generally go into conversations not so much looking to sell, but looking to see if my ideas, products or services are “a good fit.” And, I do my best to also remain open to listening and having my own perspective changed

  36. Sonicsuns says:

    Good post. It’s a tricky issue. I’ve been researching how to make money online, and I’m always hearing about affiliate links. But I figure: if I have a financial stake in someone else’s product, can I really be objective when I write a review or whatever? And if I promote my own products with affiliate links, can the affiliate really be objective about me?

    It’s tricky, because I really want to be ethical but I also really want to make a living online.

    You’re right when you say that the difference between persuasion and manipulation is all in the intentions and end results. I’m just wondering whether I can be fully objective about what other people really need.

  37. Isn’t it still manipulation if you’ve talked the guy out of buying the car that he wants, and instead, one that YOU think he needs? without going into specifics, maybe he already has a variation of the van, and he needs a car for personal use. It wouldn’t seem to make sense for him to have the van that would remain empty most of the time, when he’s driving himself to work….

    Otherwise, I agree with your two points.

  38. […] the summer, I found an interesting blog post about persuasion. I would like you to read that blog post and discuss how it relates to the advertising industry. […]