Influencing or Manipulating - which is it?

Influencing or Manipulating – which is it?

Manipulation is often defined as “shrewd or devious management, especially for one's own advantage" as opposed to influence which is “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself:

Some would argue the two are similar but the first is often used for the advantage of one person ( the manipulator) whereas with effective influencing there is the opportunity for two people to come together on an opinion that is mutually beneficial.

Influencing skills are vital in today’s workplace because of the amount of group and team activity that we are engaged in. The flattening of the hierarchy, along with increasing work demands for improved productivity and quality, combined with flexible and fast responding to customers, requires that people work together.

When people work together, their success often depends on effective interpersonal skills, effective ways to resolve conflict and successful teamwork. Influencing is therefore an essential skill for many workers and is something we use all the time. We all have some level of Influencing skills, the question is, just how well do we use them and what impact do we have on others?

Stop and think about the last time you tried to influence someone. Did you get the outcome you wanted? If so, how do you think they felt about the situation? Did you push them or pull them across the line? The latter usually sustains longer term benefits than the former.

A look back into history will give you a vast array of influential leaders, some who used it for evil and others who used it to help and better peoples lives. What comes to mind when I mention names such as Gandhi, Idi Amin, Mother Teresa or Musolini? Influencing or manipulation? Good or evil? Benefiting others or benefiting oneself?

Effective influencing skills can essentially be broken down into five skill sets: Wavelength Skills – the behaviours, verbal and non-verbal, you use to establish rapport and get on the same wavelength as the other person.
Questioning Skills – the questions you ask to find out what the other person wants and suggests things that take account of their needs.
Understanding Skills – the behaviours you use to help you listen to and understand the other person.
Conflict handling skills – the behaviours you use to handle disagreements and resistance in a positive way.
Agreement Skills – the behaviours you use to find common ground and get the other person’s “buy-in”.
These skill sets are not mutually exclusive.

So next time you are influencing someone, think about the impact on them and your approach. Will they feel just as good about the outcome as you do? And if so, how did you get them there? Did you push them or pull them? These are just some of the things to think about even though we do influence people everyday without even knowing it!