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Society 337 views Aug 31, 2018
Persuasion and Manipulation

Persuasion and manipulation are in most cases confused to be one and the same thing. So many people engage in manipulative conversations when in fact they should be persuading. Therefore, there is a need for people to gain understanding on how these two terms are related. This will avoid the situation where one can manipulate others to the point of controlling them while they are feeling unremorseful of their actions. Being able to persuade can influence the behavior and experience of the user. For one to be able to master the art of persuasion as opposed to manipulation, it is important to understand the principles that define each behavior to avoid engaging in an undesirable act of being manipulative. The paper will address the pros and cons of both persuasion and manipulation in an effort to understand the differences between the closely related terms. What is the main difference between persuasion and manipulation? Is it possible to unconsciously engage in one behavior while in fact practicing the other?

According to Roubroeks and Midden, the main difference between persuasion and manipulation is that one is ethical and the other is unethical. Persuasion borders on the ability to influence something that the audience wants to achieve and probably needs it. On the other hand, manipulation involves influence of the audience on something that the person manipulating wants to be done. The net result of persuasion is that it helps in building loyalty and trust. However, this may only be in the short term as people may become disillusioned in the long term. Principally, persuasion and manipulation differs in the intention and desire that someone has while practicing manipulation or persuasion. The two also differ in the level of transparency and truthfulness in the whole process.

Persuasion has several advantages that the person communicating the message gains from practicing it as opposed to manipulation. In most cases, persuasion has proved to be effective in passing the message across. According McCaslin and Petty, people who unconsciously engage in persuasion are automatically deemed to be credible by their audience. This is the case both in general and for any particular topic at hand. In most cases, listeners do believe the speaker using persuasive language than that using manipulative language. However, this level of trust is dependent on the qualifications and performance of the speaker. For instance, a doctor is able to convince his/her patient that he/she will heal in a few days and gain their trust. The reason for this is that the doctor is qualified. This may certainly not occur when the information is coming from a child. The credibility of the doctor makes one to be persuaded.

Furthermore, persuasion is dependent on the level of knowledge that one has. Thus, with relevant knowledge, one is able to persuade many people easily. The disadvantage is that the knowledge must be relevant to a particular topic. This is contrary to what happens in manipulation whose users do not need to have any special knowledge. It means that anyone with any form of knowledge can come up with a story and manipulate people to believe it.

Persuasion is also largely dependent on the similarity between the audience and the speaker. This means that those who want to engage in it must have some shared values and visions. For instance, persuading people within the same age group, lifestyle, and cultural backgrounds may be much easier as opposed to when someone is completely different. On the other hand, manipulation does not require similarity of characteristics for it to occur. In all the instances, knowledge, credibility, and similarity have a connection. That is, someone who is knowledgeable and similar to the audience may also be credible to them.

Persuasion is also largely dependent on the physical characteristics of a person. People who are physically attractive are likely to be more persuasive as opposed to less attractive persons. Persuasion depends on someone’s neatness and people who nod, smile, and make good eye contacts are likely to persuade their audience easily. The audience tends to judge the communicator based on non-verbal characteristics. This increases one’s chances of persuading the audience in an easy way.  

Persuasion is however only likely to be effective when it is delivered in a face-to-face communication. This is unlike manipulation where even technological tools like TV and mobile phones can be used. Persuasion is more effective in a personalized setting so that the speaker is able to give clarifications and answer questions from his/her audience.  This attracts the attention of the audience. Persuasion also creates a sense of confidence in the audience so that it becomes easy for the speaker to interact with the audience on a personal level. The persuader is also able to explain everything to the audience and give compliments in order to achieve their trust.

On the other hand, manipulation is the social influence that seeks to change the behaviors or views of other people through shrewd means. Manipulation in most cases uses abusive and deceptive language. The aim of a manipulative communicator is to deceive, abuse, and exploit the audience. This is an unethical form of making the audience to conform to the speaker’s needs as opposed to the needs of the audience.

Manipulation is difficult to detect because the person engaging in this behavior conceals it while engaging in aggressive behaviors to force submission from the audience. Unlike in persuasion where the speaker does not need to know about the audience, the manipulative person studies vulnerable areas of the audience in order to determine the tactics to use. In manipulative association, the manipulator does not consider the effects or harm that the audience is likely to have even as they engage in covert acts.

Manipulation occurs in several ways through which the manipulator controls his/her victim. One of this is positive reinforcement that encompasses superficial charm, superficial sympathy, and facial expressions that are hypocritical in nature. Negative reinforcement includes yelling, silent intimidation, threats, swearing, and emotional blackmail. In some cases, the manipulator may engage in intermittent negative reinforcement to create an ambiance of fear and doubt.

Unlike in persuasion where the speaker is credible and knowledgeable, in manipulation, the speaker does not need to know anything about the topic as they incessantly engage in techniques to achieve the end objective. Clark and Wegener identified lying as a technique that psychopaths mostly use to manipulate other people often in subtle ways. The other form of lying that a manipulator uses is lying by omission where they withhold a bit of information crucial to making wise decisions. Manipulators are also likely to deny or refuse to admit whenever they are caught doing something wrong or saying something untrue.

As noted by Clark and Wegener, manipulators will do whatever it takes to be out of danger when they are cornered. They do this through rationalization talks to make their case look like it is the norm. In most cases, manipulators engage in egocentric actions to assert their behaviors as not harmful to divert attention from the real issue. Manipulators also engage in selective attention or selective inattention depending on the agenda and mission that they want to accomplish.

Manipulators do not seek to reason out with their audience through diversionary tactics and dodging of questions whenever they are asked something. They may also engage in reversionary tactics where they give irrelevant, vague, or rambling responses whenever they are confronted to reply to their claims.

While persuasion borders on the ethical grounds and seeks to understand the audience before convincing them, manipulation focuses mostly on strangers who have no idea about the shrewd behaviors of the manipulators. Manipulation does not consider the cultural background or the similarity of the people engaged in the action, but rather targets the victim with a view of hurting or causing harm to them. Manipulation can be practiced by anyone including a child, and age does not preclude success. However, in persuasion, much older and experienced people are likely to be more persuasive than young people.

Similarly, whereas persuaders use knowledge and credibility to get their audience to accept their message, manipulators can use all forms of deception including sarcasm to increase the doubt and fear in their victims. They make themselves superior while their victims inferior to create a sense of inadequacy in them. In most cases, manipulators like to feign the victim of circumstances in order to attract sympathy from their victims.

Persuasion and manipulation are closely related activities that people engage in on a daily basis. However, having knowledge of the difference that exists between the two can help one to build a rapport with their audience as they seek to make them accept their ideas. Manipulation does not seek to understand the circumstances of the audience because it is a form of egocentric behavior that seeks to gratify the person other than the audience. On the other hand, persuasion is an ethical approach that puts the needs of the audience ahead of the speaker’s, while manipulation focuses on the needs of the speaker with no consideration to the needs of the audience.

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