Influence, manipulate, persuade… or dummies in the dirt?

Influence, Manipulate, Persuade…or dummies in the dirt?

Influence, Manipulate, Persuade…or dummies in the dirt?

Before I start on the subject let me remind you familiar tactics you may have used during your childhood in order to get what you wanted.

Baby: As a baby we learn that when we scream, cry and make as much noise as possible we get attention – clever little things.

Toddler: As a toddler when hearing the word no, we learn that if we lay on the busy supermarket floor with lots of onlookers whilst kicking and screaming we sometimes get what we wanted in the first place – cunning, although stressful for the adult.

Child: This clever age, the emotional melt-the-heart style is usually played to get what they want. Lip pouts, pleading eyes, hugs, kisses and the use of heart-melting words of endearment – the sophistication levels increasing.

Pre-teen: Playing one adult off another — very popular method used on unsuspecting parents. The pre-teen pitches their idea or request to one adult/parent and if the response is negative they then try again with another adult/grown up. The key to the success of this method is to keep both adults in the dark about the separate requests and the relevant answers. This usually ends with the first adult/parent finding out and hitting the roof when the second grown up/parent has given a positive reply. The joys!

Teenager: Capital city of emotions where no-one understands the teenager. A sometimes lonely place that switches from a logical and reasonable young adult to a fiery ball of anger and emotion faster than the speed of light.

 – Logical teenager: Pitches an idea on the basis that, for example “so I can manage my revision time better I want to use the time travelling on the bus to revise so I can do better in my exams… to do that I need a new iPhone with bigger memory and 4G”, or “I’ve tidied and cleaned my room as I know it upsets you when it’s messy (dramatic pause)… can I have £50 for new trainers”. The problem with this tactic is that a teenage defence mechanism can be set to high alert with an emotional outburst poised ready for any negative response from the unreasonable adult that doesn’t want the teenager to ever be happy and whose primary goal is to make the teenager unhappy – such magical times.

 – Emotional teenager: The tactic; shout, moan, whine, hits some home truths to the adult delivered in a harsh tone. Body language is defensive, the words blunt and 90% negative in connotation. The adult’s full answer is often not heard, as the irrational teenage response has been unleashed, blocking the sound of logic from the adult. Oh happy days!

The word manipulate tends to be shunned and reserved to describe crooks, villains and general con-artists. Call it what you want, the bottom line is it’s about trying to bring another person to see value and benefit in what we think and want. We encourage and take them on a journey with us. Some people use different tactics depending on the person they are dealing with and how badly they want something.

As an adult, what term do we use to pitch ideas to another person? How do our tactics change when we are an adult? What do we do when the other person/people won’t give us what we want? Do we call it influencing, persuading, manipulating, tactics or cunning plans?

You may be wondering what the earlier children references are about? Do any of the following approaches sound familiar to you?

1. Have you ever seen someone at work use commotion and noise to get what he or she wants? (The baby response)

2. Have you ever seen someone at work have a meltdown and throw their weight around to get what they want or avoid doing something? (The toddler tactic)

3. Have you ever seen anyone flirt, charm and use tactile friendly touch to get what he or she wants? (The child tactic)

4. Have you ever seen anyone at work silently playing people off using different information to get something they want or something changed? (The pre-teen tactic)

5. Have you ever seen someone using the pretence of doing something for the ‘greater good’ when they really have a private agenda? (The logical teenager tactic)

6. Have you ever seen anyone bulldoze a conversation or decision, tell, force or use fear to get what they want? (The emotional teenager tactic)

Or being completely truthful with yourself, have you ever or do you use any of these tactics?

You are unable to change another person – however you can adapt your approach to get a different response. The more comfortable someone feels in your presence the lower the internal barrier tends to be allowing them to truly listen to what you have to say. The six approaches shown usually result in the opposite happening.

In order to influence, persuade, negotiate and manipulate a situation we need to deliver the message in a style the other person/people understand and prefer. We need to adopt our approach to get a different response.

It can be beneficial to start with reflecting on the following:

  • What is it you want from the other person?
  • WIIFT – What’s in it for them?
  • What benefits/impacts does the other person gain?
  • How may they feel about it?
  • What feelings (fear, happy, angry, disappointment) may your idea/message bring?
  • What can you do about their feelings?
  • What is their usual communication preference: Logical, emotional, wordy, blunt, formal, informal, descriptive or top line?
  • If you are in their position what would you want to hear and see?
  • What do you need to adapt in your approach to get more from them?
  • What words, tone and body language will be more suitable for this person?

It is also worth thinking about the medium of communication; face-to-face, Skype, email, in the office, socially? What medium will minimise any potential misunderstandings and promote effective listening? Usually we tend to communicate in the way that is easier and less painful for us, regardless of how effective it maybe.

People are more likely to listen and truly hear your message if their internal blocking barrier is lowered. All the while their internal monologue is questioning you, questioning your message, your intention, your sincerity the more likely they are to misunderstand and miss the essence of the message.

As the older and wiser time line grows and you are stuck using the same old techniques without reflecting on the effectiveness you run the risk of being perceived in the wrong way. Perception plays a huge part to successful influencing and persuading.

Understanding your own personal impact and personal brand (what others think and say about you) is important and valuable knowledge to have.

Life is less dramatic and stressful if you are able to put your point across in an assertive, logical way that also promotes working with rather than against the other person.

To understand more about these topics and solutions we can offer your business email

Sarah Church

Sarah Church is a Managing Director at Fifth Element Solutions and manages the Learning and Development service line. Her highly motivational down-to-earth training approach means participants are easily able to apply the learning to their unique environment. Using real life practical methodology it maximises the participants and their organisations time and money investment. Sarah has been in the recruitment world for over 17 years’. She started her career developing highly successful Contract/Temporary and Permanent desks and was quickly promoted to Sales and Development Manager where key responsibilities included developing long-term business relationships with new key clients. During her experience Sarah was tasked with turning around underperforming recruitment business making a financial loss into profit making centres. Reviewing, coaching, mentoring, and advising managers and their staff on how to adapt best practice and processes to ensure the avoided closure. Her philosophy in business is “If things don’t go right, turn left”.

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