Have you ever had real interest in a service or a product and then been turned off by a marketer’s covert application of a communication technique? I imagine most of us have. The scenario is (unfortunately) easily evoked by the thought of a used car salesman or boiler-room telemarketer. Yet, in life, the arena expands to include any interaction that is manipulative or lacks sincerity. A supervisor asks you to do something that’s supposed to be good for you, but is clearly better for her. A peer presses your “button,” to put you off balance on a point of competition. A subordinate compliments you just before asking for a day off.
I’m thinking about this subject because in the last twenty-four hours I’ve had three run-ins with people using derisive techniques. I’m pretty savvy about technique. I teach it. I value it. And I respond to skillful / direct discourse, but abhor games. Clearly lay out the facts and you’ll have a much better chance of achieving my buy-in or making your sale. Include me in an intelligent discussion and I’m signing on the dotted line. I don’t imagine my preference is unique.
The terrible thing about the corruption of communication practices is that people develop cynicism toward the conscious use of words and tested methods to improve interactions. However, skill does not preclude truthfulness and sincerity. I believe many communication techniques are based in viable principle that transcends just getting what you want. Neither do I condemn “manipulation.” The word has the same root as “manage,” simply meaning — “to handle.” It is only when it is done primarily for personal gain, or to the detriment of another, that I believe handling something skillfully (manipulating) is evil. Stupid might be a better adjective. Sales made by manipulation usually rescind, and unspoken resentment festers arm-twisted workplace deals.
Rather than continue to rant, I’d like to suggest some distinctions for a few of the most abused communication techniques.
Capitalizing on “the pain or fear.”
I find this particular influence tactic to be absolutely insidious. Some manipulators have been taught to hit you where it hurts. In contrast, having a heartfelt investment in assisting someone to achieve his or her desire is no doubt the root principle. Genuine interest in a person is magnetic.
Taking the prize away.
Some motivational techniques begin with qualifying questions and then attempt to hook you with object deprivation. “Are you good enough to do the project? — Can you do it solely to my terms and specifications? — I’ll bet your competition can, and hey, he’ll probably get the next promotionÉ” Another despicable angle. A direct communication of possibilities and consequences is respectful. Respect motivates.
Using Agreement /Acknowledgement
These represent my favorite tools of influence. However, yesterday a telephone sales rep tried to waltz me into a deal with them. Has a salesperson ever tried to “technique” you by lining you up to answer yes to several questions? I find it insulting. However, true acknowledgement, agreement, and consideration can change minds and transform lives.
“The truth will set you free.” I also contend that it will help you get what you want without strings attached or painful payback. Use communication techniques to authentically connect in order to create something great for all parties. That’s an approach that lets you handle situations skillfully, and one that never fails.