Influence vs Manipulation

This week I was interviewed on a podcast where we talked about influence. One of the questions sparked a conversation around the difference between influence and manipulation. The truth is, while the connotations between these two words are extreme, the difference is subtle.

There is an important warning to us as leaders when we purposely use emotions and feelings to influence.  We must check our motivations and desired outcomes.  If our motivations are selfish or our desired outcomes are self-centered, we will find ourselves manipulating not influencing.

The fundamental difference between manipulation and influence is intent – intent based in principles of honesty, fairness, and benefit.  If we are honest in our intentions, fair with our expectations, and ensure that outcomes are mutually beneficial, we can be confident in our efforts to influence.

I had an interesting experience following a speech that brought this distinction into clear view. After speaking to a Women’s Lawyer’s Association on The Power of Storytelling, I was signing books when an audience member approached me and said, “Your speech scared me to death!”

I was shocked as I’ve never received a response like this from a speech and so I asked her to explain. She said, “I am a prosecutor who focuses on scam artists and people who run Ponzi Schemes and the skills you just taught us are the same skills they use to trick their victims.”

What she was describing is the subtle difference that intent creates. It is the difference between influence and manipulation.

Our intent makes all the difference.

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