Is Manipulation Bad?

Is Manipulation Bad?

I presume you don’t like being “manipulated.” Neither do I, or so I thought. Remember, I am in sales—selling sponsorships for years, convincing my wife to marry me, selling the services of the Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists®. So, is manipulation all bad?

Many of our clients are going through changes. Those changes might be in the mission of the organization. For some, it is looking at alternate revenue channels and models. For others, it is a change in management or leadership. And for still others, it is changing the way they think about selling sponsorships. In all these cases, the thought of dealing with change is overwhelming. And in all these cases, our clients are trying to get the rest of the organization to “buy into” this new approach/concept/model. And in each case, they are trying to determine how to deal with any “pushback” that might occur.

Since day one with our clients, way back over 18 years ago, we have insisted on education of staff and stakeholders around sponsorship before implementation. Before we show up to do one-on-one meetings with staff to understand their roles and responsibilities while we are building the inventory of assets for valuation, we spend time educating. When the staff, board, and stakeholders have knowledge and understanding, they are less resistant and buy-in better. When we fail to engage, fail to answer questions of concern, and fail to educate, change typically fails!

So, in undertaking this approach of listen, engage, and educate, are we manipulating people? The short answer is “Yes!” You, me and others, manipulate people to achieve goals and objectives. I showered my wife with a night at the theatre, dinner at a fancy restaurant, and then presented her with a ring along with “Will you marry me?” But she could have chosen to say “No.” My objective was to get her to marry me and spend the rest of her life with me. Was that “manipulation?” Yes, it was. But was it bad? No!

Even when you look up “management” in the dictionary, it says something like “the act of handling or controlling something/people successfully,” while the definition of manipulation is “to control or influence someone or something in an ingenious or devious way.” So, both managing and manipulating mean to control or influence someone. And there are ingenious and devious options for manipulation. Heck, maybe all these years the word manipulation has been getting a bad wrap! Maybe manipulation is not all that bad.

Often when we think of being manipulated, it is a about lying to someone, leaving out details, or threatening them. But when we think about good managers, they are honest, tell the truth at all times, are fully transparent—and  good managers always allow the people they manage freedom in the decision-making process.

A study that was done several decades ago is still applicable. A sociology professor provided his students with free photocopies and a photocopier. There was a huge line-up to use the copier. Then the prof gave one student four sheets of paper and told them to cut in at the front of the line. The student was to say, “Can I cut in front of you?” This was repeated several times. Then another student was given paper as well, but they were to say, “Can I cut in front of you because I need to make some photocopies?” Why else would the person want to cut in? It is a photocopier! Why do they need to say they want to make photocopies? The first phrase yielded an average success rate of 60 percent. The second phrase, with the added words “because I need to make some photocopies” yielded a 94% success rate. When we use the word “because,” we get better results. This has been proven over and over again. There were no lies told here. All the relevant information was portrayed with nothing left out. And the people in line chose whether or not to let the person cut in. But the word “because” always yields a greater tendency to respond positively because of the explanation or education element. Hence, knowing this, the second student was manipulating the situation—or was he/she just “managing” the scenario better?

Perhaps manipulation isn’t what we make it out to be. Perhaps it has just had a bad wrap for centuries. Perhaps being manipulated is no different than being managed. We all respond well when things are explained and we are more open to allowing others to convince us.

Your thoughts?

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