Monday, February 2, 2009

Not Everything is Manipulation

I see "manipulation" as when someone who is not convinced of something tries to convince someone else of it for some kind of gain (money, power, prestige, gratification, etc.) - or when someone lies or intentionally distorts in order to get someone to do something they would not do otherwise (which really is a different way to say the same thing). Manipulation is not about how someone else views the issue; it’s about my integrity or hypocrisy - about my motives.

I have been a teacher and am now in sales and marketing. I also have been at various levels of management for the past 20 years. In each of these positions, a central part of my job has been trying to convince people (students and co-workers) to do things they don’t necessarily feel driven to do - often to get them to change their behavior when they aren’t convinced that behavior is wrong. Of course, I try to convince them that what they are expected to do is better than what they have been doing, but sometimes I still must attempt to change their behavior even when they aren’t convinced yet. Sometimes, with some people, I actually compel that change with a threat of termination if they don’t accept the rules. That’s not always manipulation; often it’s simple leadership.

I also have been in a position where I was ordered to overlook records that were fabricated in an attempt to obtain a huge contract - and a different position where I was encouraged to use the classic bait-and-switch sales technique. (Sell one thing; provide another.) Those are prime examples of manipulation, since those who ordered the actions knew they were lying and/or distorting to get gain. (Fwiw, I refused in both instances.)

If I firmly believe something, and if I use no conscious deceit in trying to convince others, I am not manipulating them no matter what their views are. Therefore, I am free to use whatever language I feel would produce the outcome I desire. Personally, I prefer to be inspired to act rather than guilted to act, but if others respond to guilt then “guilting them” is fine. Our scriptures say that self-motivation produced by love is the highest prompt of action, but they also are clear that externally induced motivation (from fear or guilt) is acceptable, if necessary.

As with any group, Mormons are individuals and will respond to whatever motivates them personally. I hope most of us respond better to inspiration and love than to fear and guilt (correct principles with self-governance), but “effective” messaging would include all four.


SilverRain said...

Thank you for this post. It is interesting.

I wanted to say thank you for your participation in a conversation regarding the Church and her culture which I did not trust myself to join charitably. I appreciate your willingness to always be out there, kindly and firmly presenting another point of view.

Stephen said...

That’s not always manipulation; often it’s simple leadership.

It is easy to forget that those are not the same thing.

Papa D said...

You're right, Stephen. That gets forgotten often, to the detriment of many organizations. For example, I worked in the general elementary education field for years, and there is such a massive focus on consensus that real leadership often gets lost in the shuffle.

SilverRain, you're welcome. I'm pretty sure I know exactly which one you are referencing - although it could be one more. *tired grin*