I had a discussion today with my mom. I wanted to tell her about the consumer purchase life cycle. But before I could go into the details, about why that would be so relevant for bloggers, she would stop me. “But that is manipulation!” I was puzzled. Because for me, it’s obviously not manipulation, when I write about something. I want to help people. That’s my goal. But I tried to understand her point of view. And there it was, the idea for this article, which I think is really important. What’s the difference between persuasion manipulation? And why should especially bloggers know more about it?
What You’ll Learn In This Post
- What is persuasion
- What is manipulation
- The difference between persuasion & manipulation
- Examples of manipulation
- Examples of persuasion
- Why character is the basis of all success in life
Persuasion is not manipulation
If you do a bit of research, you will find, that the ancient Greeks were the first to advocate the importance of persuasion. Looking at Wikipedia:
Persuasion is an umbrella term for influence.
OK, so we are basically talking about influence here. Every time we say or do something, we are influencing the people around us. It happens all the time. It’s natural. But that’s not manipulation, right?
If it’s not manipulation – what is persuasion?
David Hoffeld (1) puts it nicely: “At its core persuasion is the pursuit of truth”.
That means persuasion is used for the good:
- to coach
- to convince
- to help
- to encourage
- to induce positive change
I love that! But let’s continue.
Persuasion is ingrained within human communication.
When communicating, people both intentionally and unintentionally promote their views of the world. Other people get influenced by those words and actions. If you just had the same thought as I: “That’s a lot of responsibility”
A few thousand years ago, a wise guy called Aristotle (2) had something interesting to say about this:
Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character […] We believe good men more fully and more readily than others.
Aha! We are getting closer. So, it basically has to do with the intention of the person. If it is in the speaker’s intention to help the other person, then it is not manipulation. But is it persuasion?
There are some factors that define the difference between persuasion and manipulation, and they are:
- coercion (forcing someone to do something)
Persuasion is ingrained in human communication. We can not “not communicate”. But as soon as we have the intention to get someone else to do or believe something. It gets interesting. Because now we can analyze, whether it is said with a good intention or a bad intention.
Good intention would be to persuade someone to do something, that would be good for them. Like starting a blog 😉
Bad intention would be for example to “persuade” someone to go and rob a bank. He could say: “Let’s do this, it’s easy! Nothing can go wrong!” But by doing so, he would omit some important facts (no transparency) such as:
- A) it’s an unethical thing to do
- B) that the consequences of breaking the law would be unpleasant
- C) that it would be risky
- D) that there are much better ways to earn a living than to become a robber, for example: why not do something good for others?
So by omitting and distorting the truth, it is not persuasion but manipulation. That’s what the factor transparency means. Withholding information on purpose, or distorting the truth by omitting important details, just to get another person to do or believe something – that’s manipulation.
And finally, there is the aspect of free choice. Persuasion is about influence, not force. If coercion is used to get a person to do or believe something – then it’s manipulation.
One can think of persuasion as an invitation to do something. The person can decide if they like that idea or not.
How to use Persuasion and create positive change in others
To influence others is natural. Persuasion is part of human communication. The intention counts. Will the service, product, idea help the other person? Or will it cause the other person harm? If the intent is good then persuasion can help to bring positive change. Again, David Hoffeld puts it nicely (1):
“It is through persuasion that positive change occurs. For example, persuasive messages have been scientifically proven to prompt high school students to refrain from smoking […]”
“Persuasion advances the position of all involved.”
I want to share with you another quote this time by Zig Ziglar, who puts a great emphasis on character development and ethics. In his book “Over the top” he says: “You got to be before you can do, and you got to do before you can have”.
Help others. Persuade people to take action to become their very best. Learn and study to be more persuasive in your communication. Persuasion is not manipulation. The fear that’s surrounding this topic only comes from the ease with which persuasion can be pervaded and misused by the bad guys out there. But to go with Aristotle (2) and the nice article by David Hoffed, I would agree that persuasion is something noble. It’s inherently good. And rightly employed, it can work the greatest blessing.
The key is to help others. Seriously, get your message out there because someone might need to hear it 😉
(Done by the magicians at Birdbox studio.com)
If you like to learn more about the art of persuasion, I can really recommend getting this lovely little book by Michelle Moore, called “Unhooked” (affiliate link – read my Disclaimer). It’s short & sweet and you will learn the most important aspects of persuasion fast. I have read it on the train in a few hours (I couldn’t find the link to her website – let me know, I’ll be happy to publish it.)
Another great source for further study is David Hoffeld (who I have quoted a lot in this article). His well-written website is over here – he has lots of in-depth, well-researched information on selling and persuasion. And if you prefer to get away from the computer, he has published a book (which after reading his website, I immediately put on my wishlist) (and another affiliate link – read my Disclaimer)
I hope this article could equip you with some good arguments about the difference between persuasion and manipulation. Remember: Intent, transparency, coercion.
Have a lovely day!
PS: Do you have your own blog? No? Start one today!