Emotional Manipulators: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

Emotional Manipulators: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

Beware of Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

The Psychological literature identifies Personalities that are Manipulative, the “Wolves in Sheeps Clothing”.  These are people that use deceit in their dealings with those around them.  The Manipulator may be conscious of their manipulation, or unconscious and blind to their willful use of deceit.

The Arbinger Institute first brought to my attention the process of Self Deception in our minds when run by our Ego rather than the underlying Self.

Manipulative people will say some of the most unsettling things.  This inevitably begs the question:  Do they really believe what they’re saying?

“Manipulative people prey on our sensibilities, emotional sensitivity, and especially, our conscientiousness.  And sometimes they speak and act with such conviction, that we begin to believe them.  We can even start feeling responsible in some way for what we perceive to be their pain.” Dr George Simon

How to spot an Emotional Manipulator?  The simplest answer is “trust your gut, not their words”.  If your intuition tells you, ignore their words.  To improve your intuition, here is a list of 8 ways to spot Emotional Manipulation.

Beware of Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing.

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Ethics in Persuasion: The Customer is Not an Idiot

Early in my seminars I tell participants that Persuasion is not Manipulation.  Manipulation is getting others to do something that is of benefit to me.  Persuasion is getting others to do something that is of benefit to them and of benefit to me.

Where is the line between Manipulation and Persuasion?  

Beware of Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

Where is black and where is white?  How close to the line can I be without being “unethical”?  How close to the line do I wish to go?

Professors Sherry Baker and David Martinson published a framework for Ethical Persuasion in 2001.  It is a useful framework to use when asking the question “where does persuasion end and manipulation begin?”

I like TARES because it is not a list of rules, it is not the minimum necessary.  It is a set of questions that are up to you as an individual to answer in your own way.

TARES is an acronym for Truthfulness, Authenticity, Respect, Equity and Social Responsibility:

  • Truthfulness: Is this communication factually accurate and true? Has this appeal deliberatedly left out important and relevant facts? 
  • Authenticity: Do I feel good about being involved in this action? Do I believe that the audience will see improved Quality of Life? 
  • Respect: Is the persuasive appeal made to the audience as rational, free, adult human beings? Do I care about them as people? 
  • Equity: Does this meet The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”  
  • Social Responsibility: Does this action promote and create the kind of world and society in which I myself would like to live in? 

You can read the full original academic article here: The TARES test for Ethical Persuasion.  It has 5 tables that provide many questions that help shape your ideas of what really constitutes Truth, Authenticity, Respect, Equity and Social Responsibility.

I moved the second part of this post, which is a discussion of Manipulators to a new post.

Don’t Be Cheap.

“Cheaper” is never a deep human life goal.

I don’t often hear people say “I wish my life was cheaper”.

We never buy because something is cheaper. We buy because of the story we can tell ourself and others when we buy cheaper… I am a smart person because I get good deals.

But, Apple is not cheaper. It is about making you feel bigger.

Selling your services or products on the “cheaper” tag is not building a brand.

Ryanair is cheap, but cheap is not its core value.

Apple is 5% of the revenues of smartphones, but 85% of the profits. They create an experience that people desire, and the people are happy to pay.

My service might be cheaper… but there is something about my service that is far more valuable; there is an experience you can give others that is far more valuable.

If they end up paying less, that is a side benefit.

Few powerful brands are built on the value “cheaper”.

Rhetorical Fallacies: Sliding down a Slippery Slope with Pigs

“I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” George Bernard Shaw
Beware of Pigs

One tool of “pigs” in manipulative persuasion is the rhetorical fallacy.  A fallacy is a deliberate mis-use of logical argument.  You’ll find them regularly in political, social and family “discussions”.  Don’t get drawn in to a debate centered on a fallacy.  Ignore the fallacy and re-connect with the argument.

Ski Trail 4496Here are eight common rhetorical fallacies:

  • Slippery slope – “If we let Europe regulate our banks, next we will all be speaking German“. This fallacy connotates a small (reasonable) step with a much larger (unreasonable) outcome.
  • Sweeping Generalization – “Smoking kills; therefore all smokers are suicidal“. This generalizes one element of a decision to smoke in absence of the broader set of reasons for smoking.
  • Hasty generalization – “Everyone I know likes chocolate; therefore everyone likes chocolate“. My sample is not representative of the larger population.
  • Straw man – “If we just open up our borders, every beggar, lazy and crazy will be here tomorrow.”   This is a false argument that avoids the real issue.
  • False choice – “You’re either with us, or against us.”  This statement presents 2 options when in reality 3 or more choices exist.  Another common example: “If you really loved me, you would…
  • Argument from authority – “Because I’m your father“.  There is no logic involved.  This is not an argument.  
  • Argument from force – “Give me the toy or my big brother will beat you up.”  No argument, just the threat of force.  It can be subtle.  
  • Ad hominem attacks – “Vote for me because the other guy is a liar.”  A personal attack, ignoring the actual argument.


Beware the Pigs Inside

These are used by other people, but I sometimes find that some of my own inner reasoning falls into the fallacy structure.  As I reflect on my own thinking processes, I watch carefully for use of these fallacies.  My ego loves to come up with self-serving but false logic to prove my “rightness”.

Have you spotted any fallacies today?

2 Ways to Call to Action

There are 2 ways to call to action as you finish a speech.  It is important in a persuasive speech to leave it clear to the audience what action they can take.  There are 2 ways to present that action.

Do you use effective call to actions when you communicate?  Is can be powerful to create both an indirect close and a direct close – and use them flexibly depending on how well you have moved the audience during the opening and middle of your speech.

The Rules of Soft Power

“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” Lao Tzu



Soft Power is part of Leadership

  • Soft Power is necessary to get things done
  • Leaders have soft power
  • People with soft power skills become leaders
  • Soft Power decides how disagreements about what to do and how to do it get resolved

Shower Water Snake feeding :)

Soft Power is given based on other’s perception of us

If you look like a leader, if you act like a leader: people will treat you like a leader.  If you look like a follower, if you act like a victim, if you are perceived as weak: people will ignore your input.

Joseph Nye, a professor at Harvard who coined the term “soft power”, speaks about the shift in the source of power over the last 100 years.  In the industrial age power was defined by “who’s army wins”.  In the information age power  is defined by “who’s story wins”.

  • Hard power: Get others to do what they otherwise wouldn’t want to do (“My army is bigger than yours”, “I am the boss”)
  • Soft power: Get others to want what I want (“Here is a future I can help you create”)



8 Behaviors of Powerful People
What are the behaviors of people who wield soft power?  What can you do to model leading with soft power?  Jeffrey Pfeffer offers this list of 8 behaviors in his book “Power”:

  1. Make eye contact
    1. Looking down or away conveys evasiveness
    2. Not making eye contact is perceived as untrustworthy
  2. Take up space and adopt an expansive posture
    1. If you adopt a “power” pose, you will not only feel more powerful, your actual blood chemistry (cortisol, a stress hormone, and testosterone) will change
    2. Don’t hunch, fold your arms in front of your chest, or do other things that signal defensiveness
  3. Use forceful gestures—avoid waving your arms; use compact gestures such as pointing or moving your hands in a powerful fashion
  4. Use your voice and its tone to convey power
    1. Speak loudly (within reason)
    2. Don’t raise your inflection at the end of a sentence, making statements seem like questions
    3. Don’t umm and ehh, speak without filler words
  5. Manage the setting to the extent possible
    1. Use symbols of power—dress, uniforms
    2. Control seating, ask people to move if it would be better to ensure eye contact
    3. If the room is cold, ask somebody to put the heat on
  6. Don’t use notes
    1. Notes convey that you are “mouthing” someone else’s message
    2. Notes imply you are not in command and are uncertain
    3. Notes require you to look down, breaking eye contact
  7. Have meetings on your territory, if possible
  8. Display Anger rather than Sadness or Remorse
    1. Those with power have permission to be angry, so the expression of anger has become associated with power
    2. Research shows that others convey more status to someone who expresses anger rather than sadness or guilt
    3. In many instances, situations are ambiguous—if you are ashamed and embarrassed by your behavior, others will follow your lead

Acting Powerfully, Acting skill is a learnable skill

You can learn the practice of soft power.  Studies of “genius”—outstanding performance in fields ranging from athletics, to art, to math and science—consistently find that raw, innate talent is overrated. What matters is Deliberate Practice and coaching.  Malcolm Gladwell tells us that it takes 10,000 hours to become world class.

8 Behaviors of Speaking with Power
“Communication persuades others largely through how we look and present ourselves; second, by how we sound, and of least importance, by the content of what we say. Therefore, how we “show up” is important in our ability to attract support for efforts to lead change.” Jeffrey Pfeffer

  1. Use clear, simple, declarative sentences
  2. Use lists of 3 or more items
  3. Use contrasts, framed to make your position seem reasonable by comparison
    1. “Do you want to retreat or persevere to achieve victory”
  4. Show similarity to audience. Because we tend to support those to whom we are similar, use “us” versus “them” references to develop an association with your audience and seem like one of them
  5. Pause for emphasis
  6. Avoid notes
  7. Interruption
    1. Powerful people interrupt
    2. Those with less power get interrupted
  8. Use humor— No one ever left a speech saying “I hated the way she made me laugh out loud”.  Laughter unites a group.  It is a shared experience. Powerful leaders create shared experiences that bring people together.

Grow your army or tell better stories

Are you spending your time and effort developing a better, stronger army or are you developing the ability to attract people towards your vision through looking like a leader and sharing your stories in ways that those stories become the reality for others?  A coup can take the army away from you.  No coup can destroy the stories.  
If you want to be a better leader, start by acting like the best leaders.  What is soft is strong.

Beware of Experts

Experts get it wrong.

The price we pay in trusting experts to take the important decisions for us is huge.

We don’t like uncertainty.  Experts give us a sense of certainty.
I don’t know what to do with my savings.  I go to a financial “expert”.  He tells me what to do.  I hand it over to him.  He loses it all in the property crash.

I feel sick and I go to the doctor.  He takes my temperature, looks in my throat, tells me to say “ahh” and then he sits down and writes out a prescription.  I feel good to “know” that the expert doctor “knows” what is causing my symptoms.

Adam's a DoctorHe doesn’t.  I have learnt to trust the white coats, the diplomas on the walls.  He has learnt to pretend.  He means well, but a system as complex as the human body cannot be diagnosed with temperature and a look in the throat.  Sometimes he is right.  Often he just prescribed some generic drug that seemed to work for the last case that looked like my symptoms.

Be aware of False Certainty.  
We love the feeling of certainty that experts give. It is a false sense of certainty.

I am not saying “don’t go to doctors”.  I am not saying “don’t get financial advice”.

I am saying go to the doctor but take his opinion as another input into your own decision making about treatment.  Ask questions.  Ask “what are you seeing?  what are you thinking?  what other things might cause that?  what other options are you considering?”

Experts are more hero-worshiping than others. 
Global warming, Financial investments: the “expert” has a vested interest in supporting the status-quo.  Experts’ power comes from the status quo, the accepted viewpoint.  Experts are less likely to question global warming science, year 2000, property bubbles, inflation estimates than those who are not experts.  Their egos are tied up in their status in the existing status quo.  They fear that changing.

Accept uncertainty as life.  Ask better questions.  Allow yourself permission to not agree.