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The Key of Manipulation

If you expect this article to be about influencing people just by slightly changing the sentences coming from a mouth, you couldn’t be more right.

Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

If you think that I just read a book and now I feel like I know everything... you’re also right. But! I also tested this in a real life and it works like a magic. 

My whole life, I was doing three major mistakes. I was trying to persuade people by arguing with them. I was expecting people to listen to me while I was talking. And when I knew I was right, I was always making sure that the other person knows about it! And I was hoping that with this strategy I’m gonna win the person. I was wrong. I often won an argument, but I didn’t win the person! 

Do you disagree? Ok! Last time when you argued with somebody. And it happened that he was right and you were wrong. How did you feel? And how did you feel about the other person? Did you feel satisfied that you found the correct answer? Were you thankful that the other person corrected you? Oh, please.

1. Do not argue.

I have older friends and younger friends. The younger ones love to express their opinions almost about anything. The older ones rarely argue with me even though they are much smarter and more experienced. And it’s because they know one thing.

You can’t win people with an argument.

Humans are not rational. All arguments are heated because of emotions. I have never seen an argument going like:

Person A states a fact.

Person B disagrees.

Person A shows proofs.

Person B “Oh yeah, I missed that. You’re right! Thanks for clearing this out for me. I appreciate it. I’m so glad. Thank you.”

Yeah. Right. No, people naturally start to defend themselves. That’s just being human. You don't feel happy. You don't feel satisfied. And you definitely dislike the other person. At least a little bit. Don't lie to yourself.

So if you want to correct this, from what I learned, you can react like this:

“See, I’m not an expert in this field but I believe, or understand, that it works like this...”

By starting your sentence with this, f you are wrong and the other person is right, you don’t seem like an idiot. Upfront you said that you're not an expert. People make mistakes.

And if you are right and the other person's wrong, you give him the option to save face. You weren't sure either. Not a big deal. AND, as a bonus, you look humble! And that’s good. No hard feelings.

This works everywhere. With friends, colleagues, clients, partners. Try this next time you have a different opinion about a certain topic with your colleagues. In either situation of being right or wrong, the person will feel good about themselves. And you win the person. Win people, make them like you, win their trust.

Here, once more, is the secret formula:

"I'm not an expert, but I think..."

2. Instead of a statement, state an opinion.

This technique I use very often in my life. And maybe still not enough.

Not to hurt peoples' feelings, opinions, and preferences, I state my opinion instead of statements. For instance, instead of "This is ugly!" I'd use "I don't like it." Instead of "This is boring," I'd use "It's not my cup of tea." And to like to my previous point, instead of "You're wrong" I'd use "I think it'd be the other way."

People are different and by using sentences like this, you don't go personal. You're only saying what works for you. But you still give an option for other people to state theirs. Without a judgment. If you want to go even milder "It's not really something I'd choose but I totally understand that some people love it."

It is a very easy and very powerful tool. Remember the last time when you bought an awesome fluffy pink sweater which cost you a fortune and somebody said: "This is ugly!" How did you feel? Pretty bad, right? And how different would that be if you'd hear "It wouldn't really go with my style, but it's great you found something which would go with yours!"

3. The Power of Silence

To bridge from the previous technique, you actually don't have to have an opinion about everything. Or at least, you don't have to express it every time. It's really fine to keep your opinion to yourself. Especially if it's not a lovely opinion. And. If nobody asked for it!

And that's exactly my last example with the sweater. See, I don't really care how you feel about my sweater. And, I didn't ask you to wear it anyway. The only outcome now is a negative feeling of the sweater owner. Totally unnecessary.

There is an easy test on how to avoid situations like this. Before you say anything, ask yourself, "Is it nice?" If yes, say it! If not, ask again, "Is it important?" If yes, say it, diplomatically. If not. Don't say it. Who do you help? Would you feel better? Perhaps. Would the other person feel better? Doubtly.

4. Listen More, Speak Less

Another thing I learned from more experienced and smarter people is that they barely speak. And moreover, they listen. And they ask you questions. I found that smart and confident people don't have the urge to speak as much. They rather listen to what other people have to say.

This is a very interesting technique. People usually love to speak, especially about themselves. Let them speak and they enjoy the time spent with you. Most probably they won't even realize that you didn't say a word. I tested this technique a couple of times with friends. I barely made any sentence which didn't end with a question mark. And after the meeting, the friend usually stated that he really enjoyed the discussion.

So, to summarize, listen to people, speak less. You might learn something new and interesting, and you make them like you.

5. The Actual Key

Now you realized that I didn't give you any key on how to manipulate people. I gave you four techniques on how to befriend people. How to make them like you. But you know what? That's actually it.

Perhaps you watched/read the Hunger Games series. (Masterpiece, man. At least I like it). Haymitch gave Katniss there one valuable lesson "You really wanna know how to stay alive? You get people to like you." That's the ultimate truth. Who would you do a little favor for? A person you like or just anybody? Who would you trust? A person who expresses an interest in you or just anybody?

Last Words

Like any tool, manipulation can be used for good and for bad. Everybody manipulates. Most probably even without an intention. The techniques I shared here can be used also for both, good or bad.

Yes, you can befriend important people like your manager's PA to squeeze you into his calendar whenever you want. Manipulate your client to gain their trust and make them pay a juicy bill. I don't know. But this is certainly not why I wrote this article.

I wrote it so you can also use it for good. Like befriending your partner's parents so they like you. Befriending your neighbors so you all have a peaceful co-living. Befriending your client so they feel good about sharing their feedback with you. Being nice to a leaving client, thank them for using your services before, so they talk about you nicely. Being nice to a shop assistant because it wasn't her fault that you bought a broken coffee maker, so they help you with getting back your money. And so on.

You probably don't like the word "manipulation." Right? It's just semantics. Call it "influence" if you like. Whatever. Because "Making people like you" is still "Making people do something." And that's, surprise surprise, manipulation.


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