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January 25, 2021

The Difference Between Manipulation and Persuasion

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I want to make an important distinction between two related words - Manipulation and persuasion. The truth is we are all agents of life constantly trying to get what we want in the world.  That’s great and part of our freedom, but the mechanism by which we go about pursuing that is an important detail.

Let’s start with manipulation. It has a negative connotation to it, and deservedly so. To manipulate is to control or influence someone unfairly. Oftentimes, the way you’re trying to change their behavior is not well-intended and does not create outcomes that are most beneficial for the person being manipulated. This is selfish and bad. 

Persuasion involves the same process of attempting to change someone’s mind or opinion on something, but the intentions are different. You want to influence them because you genuinely think what you’re advocating for is best for them. And in dong so you use more reasoning and logic to argue for your stance, and allow people to come upon their own conclusions on a topic that you think should be reconsidered. Naturally this is more productive and it’s not a guarantee that someone is hurt in the process.

So what’s the takeaway from this? When using influence to get what you want, think a second longer about the way you’re doing it. If you’re damaging someone else and their ability to get what they want, then that’s manipulation and it’s best to stay clear of it. If you’re educating someone on a new way of thinking about something, and still allowing them to reach their own final decision, that’s persuasion, and it’s an important tool for us to use in life.

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