Persuasion is Not Lying - Manipulation is Lying


We are all exposed to persuasion and manipulation on a daily basis, and we most often tend to lump them together under the umbrella term 'persuasion' rather than delve into the differences between them. Although they would seem to go hand-in-hand when used in communication, they are very different by definition and usage. Often used together to achieve a desired goal or outcome by unscrupulous people or entities, pure persuasionists refrain from mingling manipulation with their persuasive discussions.


To better understand the practices, we begin by defining what each is, and what each is not. Persuasion involves the influence upon another person through the use of communication. The influence is made without force or coercion on an emotional level and is based in facts. Persuasion is an intentional act, not to be confused with accidental coercion, or influence by example.


Manipulation, on the other hand, involves influencing or controlling someone through dishonest behavior. Manipulation is not up-front and honest, and it typically does not have a moral compass for guidance or to avoid 'crossing-the-line'.


Now we can discover the uniqueness of each process, and the very different uses and approaches employed by each one. In the case of persuasion versus manipulation, persuasion involves two parties who are acting in a conscious manner, whereas manipulation uses the personality, make-up, and character of a person to prey on the unconscious or subconscious mind. Persuasion will use all of the facts, reasons, ideas, and information at its disposal to create an argument based upon the motivation and knowledge of the persuader, and the receptiveness of the target to reach a goal or outcome. The argument will be up front and typically employ honest means to express an idea or point.


Manipulation speaks to the unknown cultural references embedded in a person. In order to manipulate someone, you must have a very clear understanding of who they are, what they feel they need, and how to reach them. Manipulation requires a conscious effort on the part of the manipulator, and a finesse so that their deception will not be discovered by their target. Although commonly used in many marketing or copywriting language, manipulation for all intents and purposes, is lying.


Further distinctions between persuasion and manipulation can be seen by the fact that the latter is a technique that uses a process designed to program the subconscious mind through the use of specific language. Things like free samples given as part of a marketing campaign are in fact, subtle manipulation since as human beings most of us cannot take something for free without feeling a kind of obligation to the giver. Marketers rely upon this tactic to get consumers to purchase the product or service once the 'free' gift is accepted and used.


In persuasion, both the target and the person doing the persuading are aware that the persuasion is occurring and are engaged in the process. That is not to say that they are in agreement, otherwise there would be no need to try to persuade anyone. All this means is that each party is aware of their role in the interaction and it is done so willingly and with the desire to reach an outcome, one way or another.


With manipulation however, the target is rarely aware that they are being preyed upon or enticed, for the moment that they do become aware of the manipulation or seduction, it becomes persuasion, as neither can exist in a circumstance of awareness from both parties. Manipulation and seduction both rely upon the element of secrecy, and even lies, to reach their goals, and it is up to each individual to make the choice to move from manipulation and seduction, into conscious awareness, perhaps even mere persuasion, whenever possible.


It is vital that as any kind of online writer, be it articles or copywriting, you maintain a strict ethical standard with regard to manipulative, seductive, or coercive language in your writing. Persuasion involves the use of facts to convince someone of the validity of trying what you have to offer. It leaves the consumer open to make their own decision without the increased subconscious bias inherent in manipulation. When persuasion is done covertly, it's not persuasion, it's manipulation, and manipulation is lying.

  • Posted by Patricia Ross
  • May 8, 2013 4:36 PM PDT




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