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Persuasion and Manipulation — Are They the Same?

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in Remarkable Leadership with Kevin Eikenberry

They definitely are not.

Persuasion is not manipulation.

If a connection between those words crosses your mind, it is time to eradicate it — and I’ve got about 300 words in this space to try to make that happen.

From the Merriam Webster online dictionary …


  • to move by argument, entreaty, or expostulation to a belief, position, or course of action


  • to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own advantage

  • to change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one’s purpose

Do you see the difference? Inherent in the definition of manipulate is the idea that the communication or action is all about the first party — the manipulator. That idea isn’t in the definition of persuasion at all.

My personal definition of persuasion (which is why in my view this is a skill needed by leaders) would extend beyond the dictionary definition to make it clear that it isn’t manipulation, but that it is to move others to a position or course of action that is in everyone’s best interests — you and the person/group you are persuading.

Until you have this view of persuasion, you might be hampered in your success. You might have some small part of your brain/psyche that is pulling back, not being persistent and ultimately being less persuasive.

Why is there this “yes, but” voice in many people’s heads?

It could be popular opinion, the desire for free will, the bad reputation sales has (do you see the best sales people as persuaders or manipulators?), or just lazy thinking.

It doesn’t matter where the hesitation comes from, if we want to lead successfully, we must understand the importance of and hone our skills as a persuader.

When you care about your team members and want them to see your view of the future and how it will benefit them, you are in the best position to start your persuading, because it isn’t about you — it is about them and their success.

Yes, they may resist, and yes, they may not see the perspective that you see yet, but that is why we must persuade.

Persuade, not manipulate.

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