Persuasion and Manipulation

As I was reading about techniques of scamming and of social engineering, I realized that urgency is a tool that is both nefariously and legitimately used — having a sense of urgency motivates us to stop procrastinating and to act. Salesmen get people to buy products by instilling a sense of urgency. Religious and political leaders get people to act using urgency. Urgency is a persuasive tool.

Persuasion is the act of inducing action or belief in others.

I asked myself the question, “what’s the difference between honest and dishonest persuasion?”. Someone who honestly persuades builds trust, and is trustworthy. They love others, have integrity, and seek to empower others — to build them up, to strengthen them. It is selfless, although it doesn’t preclude deriving joy from helping others.

Someone who dishonestly persuades (manipulates) destroys trust through deception and intimidation. They may withhold information, utilize evasion, character attacks, and impersonation. They attempt to impede critical thinking. Manipulation is selfish. The object of manipulation is power or possessions.

[Laws of persuasion]( include

* Reciprocation
* Commitment & Consistency
* Social Proof (aka conformity)
* Likability (trust, friends, I’m like you, image)
* Authority
* Scarcity (urgency)

I’d add:

* Diffusion of responsibility

That last one can help an individual stand up to pressure from peers. At one point during my [LDS mission](, I had a companion that was a challenge to work with. My mission president told me that if I felt pressured to do something I knew was wrong, to call him and ask permission. His answer would be “no”, and I could put the responsibility of the decision on his shoulders. Normally, I like to take the responsibility of decisions, but in one case, I felt more pressure from my companion than I wanted to stand up to myself. Making that phone call diffused the responsibility somewhat. I appreciated being able to lean on a trusted authority.