Are you manipulative? Or do you influence?
Words can confuse us and can be emotive can’t they?
When you ask yourself each question, notice how you feel. I’ll vouch that the word manipulation has a less positive connotation for you, because it’s generally used to refer to things in a negative way. I also know it’s more likely you’ll say ‘No’ to the first question and ‘Yes’ to the second.
When we think of being manipulative or manipulation, it tends to be in connection to relationships and behaviours like:
- Sarcastic comments or ‘digs’ to get a reaction
- Playing the martyr or victim
- Blaming or guilt tripping
- Using emotions like anger or tears to get what we want
- Passive aggressive behaviour such as silent treatment, death stares, eye rolling and barbed comments
- Batting the eyelashes and other flirtatious behaviour.
I’m sure you’ve done some of these in the past. What’s more, I guarantee as a child you tried to manipulate your parents, teacher and friends to get your way!
Yet manipuation is not always bad. The word originates from the old French word ‘manipule’ meaning ‘handful’ (1730). By the 19th Century it meant ’skillful handling of objects and later evolved to ’handling or managing of persons,’ especially to one’s own advantage. The dictionary definition includes both meanings.
Many people say NLP is manipulative and therefore ‘bad’ or dangerous because people can use it to manipulate others to their advantage without them knowing.
I have two questions in response.
- People do this anyway without knowing or using NLP don’t they? The behaviours listed above would say YES.
- Is every tool that can be used to manipulate something dangerous and bad? The following examples would say NO.
A painter manipulates paint to create a painting. A blacksmith or jewellery maker manipulates metal with a hammer and heat. A poet manipulates words to make poetry and a photographer and many others enhance their photos with filters? Are these all bad?
Of course not. All tools can be manipulated both positively and negatively.
A hammer can both create and destroy. It can be used to forge beautiful and useful objects and construct furniture or it can be used to break things. I’ve used a hammer every which way!
Paintbrush, hammer, pen, filters, our hands, are all tools. So is NLP. It’s a collection of tools. Whether tools are positive or negative essentially depends on the intention of the user.
When we’re being manipulated we can often tell, because we feel uncomfortable, angry or trapped. Yet there are times when we’re unaware of it happening, as you’ll see below.
Instead of manipulation, in NLP we talk about having influence. This word comes from the old French ’influer’ meaning, ’emanation from the stars that acts upon one’s character and destiny’. How lovely does that sound? It connects in with idea of influential people being charismatic.
Yet influence can be positive or detrimental too. Take influencers in the media, depending on your view, they can seem to have a positive or negative influence on young people.
Again it’s about intention. Those people looking to have a positive influence will consider the needs and desires of others. It also requires us to have rapport, clear in our communication and have an awareness of ourselves and others.
As adults we influence children by our behaviour; we’re role models. We influence our friends and colleagues, promoting our ideas about what to do. We all have a sphere of influence.
In an ever changing world that keeps extalling the virtues of efficency, surely we want to employ the best tools for a job so we get great results? Having a good quality balanced hammer makes shaping metal or hammering nails smoother and easier.
The same goes for NLP.
Contrary to some people’s belief, NLP is not mind control or brainwashing, that requires isolation sensory deprivation and intimidation and threat of some sort. Without that it’s difficult to make people voluntarily do things that conflict with their values and beliefs.
The ethical and ecological use of NLP is at the heart of any quality NLP Practitioner training. NLP is about knowing how to influence ourselves positively so we can achieve our desired outcomes.
Backtracking to the question at the start, ‘Are you manipulative?’. The answer is yes you are. Stay with me, I’ll explain.
Every bit of information you take in with your 5 senses is passed through a set of internal filters where it’s deleted (deemed irrelelvant in your model of the world) distorted (depending on your preferences) and generalised (to fit in with your previous experience).
You are manipulating reality every second of every day to fit your model of the world. Mostly this goes on outside your awareness in your unconscious mind, which has far more influence and control over your thoughts, feelings, decisions, and choices, than your conscious mind.
This is foundational learning in the Dynamic and Enhanced NLP Practitioner training and enables students to get a deeper understanding of how the human mind works and how thinking and behaviour can be influenced and changed unconsciously.
Then learning other NLP tools allows students to influence and change their own mind to get the results they want for themselves. To be able to take charge of your mind, your thinking and your results is hugely empowering, don’t you think?
Practitioners can then also use these tools to influence and effect change in others to help them get their desired outcomes with much greater ease too.
Essentially, NLP is the study of excellence in behaviour and thinking.
Now let’s return to manipulation of the unwanted sort. We experience attempts to manipulate us every day via the media, through the language and images we see on the news and other programmes, from politicians and social commentators.
Scientific, health and economic data is manipuated to fit the perspective of those sharing it. Most people are unaware of this or don’t pay attention to it, which doesn’t mean they’re not being influenced by it.
So, wouldn’t it be both a positive and valuable thing to have the tools that enable you to be aware of potential manipulation so you can avoid being controlled without your knowing? This is what NLP enables you to do, as well as having the power to influence yourself to get your desired outcomes more easily too. Win win I’d say!