You’re always being manipulated… by everyone. Every title of every book, blog, and article is meant to entice the reader to read it. I recently read a book called “Moonwalking with Einstein.” The title gets 10/10 for its ability to lead to an impulse buy, and while the book was quite interesting as well, it had absolutely nothing to do with moonwalking… or Einstein.

When any politician makes a speech, they do it with the intent of getting voters – not necessarily with the intent to share their passionate stance on topic XYZ. That’s perfectly fine, though, because if their underlying goal is to be able to change issue XYZ, they’ll only be able to get there by getting votes. If that doesn’t make sense, then here’s a relatable example:

If the most important thing to Donald Trump was to change something specific about America, for example some “big league” health care reform, then what’s the right path to get there? Say his advisors present him with two paths: 1) speak about health care reform on every campaign stop and make it the central message in every speech BUT only have a 30% chance at getting the presidency, or 2) speak about polarizing topics that don’t have much relevance to what you intend to do but it gives you a 75% chance of getting the presidency. If Trump is the most well-intentioned man and he thinks his health care plan is the only key to a happy America, then he would go with the deceitful, controversial, but ultimately effective path 2.

That’s why it’s not always enough to listen to what politicians say, in fact it’s never enough. You must look much deeper. This is as true for politics as it is with day-to-day interactions with your boss, spouse, and friends, but just in a different way. I will let you come up with your own examples for those ones.

This introductory post to manipulation was meant to convey the idea that there can be a place for manipulation in society, but also that it’s prevalence is inevitable. Sometimes it can be good, like when a therapist completely alters one’s view of the world (perhaps outside the scope of reality) to combat depression. This would lead the patient to recommend the therapist to more depressed people and hence the therapist can help even more people. The trouble, though, is how do you combat manipulation when the root behind this manipulation is malicious?

Some call it critical thinking and others would call it reading people; I like to call it empathy. I wholeheartedly believe this is one of the most powerful tools one can employ if trying to live a life out of the dark. Of course, that’s not the intent of every person (at least not on the subconscious level) as many prescribe to the “ignorance is bliss” philosophy, but if you’re not in this group, you must know that the only way to understand a person’s intentions is to put yourself in their shoes. There is no way around it. I’m not saying that my hypothetical Trump scenario is an accurate representation of what occurred behind the scenes of his campaign, but I am saying that this type of outside-the-box thinking will do wonders for one’s ability to empathize and ultimately lead one to the truth.

If there is one thing I strive not to be, but of course can’t avoid all the time, it is being a hypocrite, so please allow me to call myself out. This post is a manipulation-play no more and no less than any other. My goal is to feel that I can contribute to other people’s critical thinking development because that makes me feel significant (a natural human need). The way to accomplish this is by putting a thought-provoking title to entice you to read my post, mention some mildly controversial perspectives to effectively convey my thoughts, and close it off by pointing out the manipulation in my own post but hopefully convincing you that these objectives are all in good faith. 🙂

I’d love if more people did that; reading people’s intent beneath their words gets tiring after a while!