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When someone mentions manipulation, most of us probably think of one or more individuals who are always working an angle and looking to “get the better of” someone or something else.  Machiavelli set the “gold standard” in for this sort of manipulation back around 1500 when he published “The Prince”.

Today I’d like to make the argument that manipulation is far from a negative thing.  To the contrary it is a powerful concept that all of us use regularly.  The key is how we use — for the good or for the bad.

Now I’m not a sci-fi fan, but yet again Star Wars provides the reference to illustrate this point.  Think of Yoda and Darth.  Yin and Yang.  Light and Dark.  You see it physically as they move objects with the power of their mind.  You feel it in the gravity of the scenes where they are present. Yoda inspiring others to greater things for the good of others.  Darth dragging them down to where they are only focused on the self and immediate gratification.  Both are master manipulators, yet one is “certainly” good and the other “certainly” bad.  But, as Yoda would say, “Manipulators they are”.

Manipulation at its core is neither good or bad. We manipulate objects all the time; we manipulate ourselves all the time; and, we manipulate others all the time.  The reality is we are always part of a larger eco-system and our actions influence others — think of Newton’s third law about actions and reactions.  With manipulation we need to recognize that it is going to occur — be it consciously or unconsciously.  What we need to focus on is (i) moving the unconscious to the conscious and (ii) ensuring that the influence we exert has a positive effect on our environment.

With that in mind:

When you speak to the next person today, will you be manipulating them for their good or yours?

As always, thanks for the time.

(Credit to Sandra Ford Walston  for motivating this post)