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Manipulation versus Inspiration, an exploration of changing human behaviour

Updated: Jan 17, 2021

I’m reading this really interesting book by Simon Sinek called Start with Why. In it he explains that most companies sell their products based on what they do, but that successful companies with loyal customers sell their products based on why they make them. The second chapter explains the difference between manipulation and inspiration which gave me an extra insight in understanding why I’ve had an aversion against manipulation ever since I was a child.

Mr. Sinek explains that both manipulation and inspiration seek to influence human behaviour, but where inspiration is an intrinsic movement towards something, manipulation is an outside force that steers our movement by using price, promotions, fear, aspiration or novelty.

To me it feels like such a shame that we have come to accept manipulation as the norm for companies to sell their products and even in coaching it is a tactic that is accepted and deemed necessary in the use of certain methods that seek to change the behaviour of the client. I’ve personally never agreed with this and always avoided the use of such methods believing that it ultimately didn’t serve me nor the client. Simon Sinek validated my intuition and moral compass, by combining manipulation and inspiration as opposing ways of reaching the same goal.

Using manipulation builds pressure and tension simply because the adopted mental views and directions are not inherent to the client, he or she is coerced into replacing an inner truth for an outer one, and even if the outer one is more accurate and helpful it is still enforced upon the client instead of replaced through an inner illumination. Off course the new belief can be harnessed and directed towards the change that the client seeks to make, but the drive comes from the mind, the heart is not on board and the gut is sensing the manipulation and will signal this to the client every step of the way, sabotaging the mission and making the journey towards the fulfilment of the goal more difficult than it needs to be.

The experience will leave at least a hint of a negative aftertaste and the result once achieved won’t deliver the well-deserved satisfaction, but a relief to have overcome not only the obstacles blocking the client from achieving the result but also the constant pressure and tension from not having mind, heart and intuition aligned on the mission towards change. I’ve also learned from personal experience that ultimately there is no real trust developed between client and coach, simply because the client on some level feels that he or she has been manipulated.

Inspiration on the other hand builds belief and an inner story line where the client is on a quest to overcome the obstacles within his personality to achieve the change he or she seeks to make. The energy is not coming from pressure, but from the mind that believes that it is possible and the heart that truly wants to realise the change. Our gut, feeling the alignment of our head and heart is giving the all clear and is at ease and we start of in a much more solid way. Off course the journey will still hold uncomfortable moments, but the eventual achievement of the goal will be much more satisfying.

The client had an inner drive to overcome him or herself and was assisted by the coach to reconnect to the inspiration needed to keep pushing forward. The trust build between them will also allow the client to feel safe and be vulnerable, making it possible to gain deep insights into our conditioning and deep seated blockages towards fulfilling our goals and dreams.

I will leave you with two things, first a quote from Vernor Vinge that, to me, says it all: “The heart of manipulation is to empathise without being touched.” and second the concluding words of Simon Sinek on manipulation: “Just because it works doesn’t make it right.”

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