12 Devious Tricks People Use To Manipulate You

If you give them a chance, people will try to manipulate you.  It’s a sad fact of life.  And since knowledge is the best defense, here are twelve techniques they will likely try to use to pull a quick one on you.

1.  Targeting your lack of time and attention.

Someone purposely convinces you to commit to something at just the right time, when you would have otherwise said “no.”  This commonly occurs when you’re in a hurry or mentally fatigued.
At 5PM on a Friday, as you’re walking out of the office, your co-worker asks you if you mind handling X, Y and Z for him next week while he’s on vacation.  “Sure,” you say quickly.  “Shoot me an email with the details.”  On Monday morning you learn that X, Y and Z are fairly substantial tasks that you wish you hadn’t committed to.

2.  Misrepresenting facts based on popular beliefs.

When someone claims something is a proven fact simply because it’s a popular belief.
“Don’t just take it from me, 9 out of 10 doctors agree that Diet Pill XYZ is safe.”

3.  Using complex words to explain something simple.

Especially in the high-tech business world, complex jargon and obfuscation are tactics often used to intimidate you into agreeing with something you don’t fully understand.
“Our dynamic flow capacity matrix uses an unparalleled downtime resistance protocol.”

4.  Exploiting a position of authority.

You are far more likely to be persuaded by someone you like or by someone who is in an authority position.
A police officer tells you, “It’s legal for me to search your apartment right now.”  And since he’s a police officer, (even though he never showed you a search warrant) you believe he must be telling the truth.

5.  Making an unreasonable request first.

When someone first makes a request of that is excessive and to which you will most likely refuse.  Then they look disappointed and make a second request that is more reasonable.
“Will you donate $100 to our cause?”  “I can’t afford it.”  “Oh.  Well could you donate $5 then?”

6.  Drawing loosely-related conclusions.

When someone tries to convince you of something by drawing a conclusion that is loosely related to the information they gave you.
“This baby food is fortified with the vitamins and minerals.  It’s extremely healthy.  If you’re still buying other kinds of baby food, you’re neglecting your baby’s health.”

7.  The illusion of scarcity.

If the product is scarce, there must be a ton of demand for it, right?  Oftentimes scarcity is an illusion engineered by the product maker.  Because products (and opportunities) seem a lot more appealing when there is limited availability.
“One day sale!  Limited supply!  Get here before we’re sold out!”

8.  Lightly sugarcoating reality.

When someone gets you to agree to something that’s not ideal by telling you it’s slightly better than it is.
“The table will be ready in five minutes.”  Because it sounds a lot better than fifteen minutes.

9.  Changing the topic.

When someone diverts attention away from the topic of discussion to a totally new (but vaguely related) topic in an effort to persuade you.
“So you don’t think green energy is a top priority right now with the current state of the economy.  Well, we all saw what happened with the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster in 2010.  Is that what you want?  You want to see innocent sea creatures covered with oil?  Then go ahead then, vote against the green energy bill this year.”

10.  Presumption of guilt.

When a question or statement automatically presumes the subject is guilty.
“I saw the bruises on your son’s back.  So when did you decide that spanking your child with all your might way okay?”

11.  Creating fear and a solution for it.

Someone plays with your emotions and subtly invokes fear in you, and then when you start thinking about a possible solution, they provide one for you.
Your performance has been lacking around here recently and the CEO suggested that I put employees who are struggling on probation.  Don’t worry, I won’t do this now.  But I do want you to show me what you’re capable of.  Do you mind working this Saturday to help build-up your numbers?

12.  Start off small and up-sell.

Someone asks you for something small, and when you give it to them, they ask for something bigger.  And then, maybe, something even bigger.
Son:  “Mom, can I go out for an hour to see Anthony?”
Mom:  “Sure.”
Son:  “I just called Anthony and he’s going to the movies.  Can I go with him?”
Mom:  “Sure.”
Son:  “I only have $5.  Could you lend me a few bucks to get in?”
Son:  “…Could you give us a ride there?”
Son:  “…Could you pick us up afterwards?”

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The New World versus the Old World: Are You Being Left Behind?

The second or third question in virtually any introduction is, “So, what do you do?” What’s your answer to that question? For most people it has something to do with their career, job title, or the company they work for. It makes sense. Our identity is tied to the value that we bring into the world and historically that value means our profession.

Back in the day our profession was actually a part of our name - George the Barber,
Bob the Builder, Dora the Explorer...that’s how a lot of last names were first created.

In earlier generations, people tended to have the same profession and work at the same company for their entire working life. For many people, their profession and company weren’t just a huge component of their identity, but also a real source of pride.

But that was the old world. Things have changed.

Are you Familiar with the New World?
In the new world it doesn’t really matter where you went to school, what your major was, what your profession is, what company you work for, or what job title is on your business card. Seriously. Unless you're a doctor, college majors mean less then ever. People switch careers more frequently than ever. People change companies about every three years. Everyone has an impressive-sounding job title (“Account Executive” can mean anything from entry level telemarketer to an executive in charge of a major business account). No one really takes resumes at face value...they tend to be meaningless.

Even though everyone knows that these things basically mean nothing, it still winds up being the main way we introduce ourselves and communicate our value. Whether we want our identity to have a lot to do with our job or not, we still introduce ourselves as “I’m [name] and [description of job].”

There is a disconnect here because in our hearts we don’t want our value to be tied to something so uncertain and meaningless as our company or career. We want our value to be tied to something that we own. Something that can’t be taken from us. Most of us don’t want someone else to hold our identity hostage…we want the freedom to define ourselves and the control of our own identity.

But many of us are stuck in the old world thought process.

The New World is Full of Risk and Opportunity
A special few have noticed this new world and taken full advantage of it. They recognize that careers and companies have limited security and give little real value. They’ve decided that they need to make their own value, their own identity, so that the “what do you do?” question takes on a completely different meaning.

As the world is moving toward this intense individualism, the barrier to entry in business and mass communication has almost disappeared. A guy with a laptop can build a multi-million dollar business with nothing more than high quality advice and really solid marketing skills. A girl with a desktop can deliver news, information, and advice and build a following without having to climb a corporate ladder at a newspaper, magazine, or television station. An actor can produce a show watched by millions without getting a television deal.

This combination means that anyone with motivation has the means by which to create their own value and their own identity. Everyone has an ability to create proof of their talent, knowledge, and skills. We no longer have to rely on our resumes, references, companies, or work experiences to define our value. We can set off and create something that offers tangible proof of it.

That idea can be a bit scary. Many of us actually rely on the fact that no one really knows what anyone is actually worth. If no one really has proof then corporate success is up to the person who talks a good game or networks the best. If we were required to prove our worth we wouldn’t even know how to do it. We’d probably fall back and describe a past work challenge that we may or may not be exaggerating. If you actually have to put something out there to prove your value then what happens if it’s not good enough? Putting yourself on the line in that way can be terrifying.

Because it might not be good enough…yet.

The artists have the right start in this new world. For an artist it rarely matters where you studied or where you’ve worked, it matters what you can create. Resumes mean little. Portfolios speak volumes. The conversation is less “this is what I will be able to do” and more “this is what I’ve done already.” That’s how artists have to demonstrate their value because people demand visual proof.

Good salespeople have the right start in this world. They can point to sales data to show results in graphs and percentages that aren’t easily exaggerated. And of course those with successful online businesses or blogs can point people to their website and traffic/conversion data to demonstrate their value.

What These Changes Mean For You Today

Now this isn’t just a call to arms about becoming an online entrepreneur or a blogger (although both those things are certainly strong starting points), but I am saying that if you cannot easily prove your value to the world and to the marketplace by pointing to something that you’ve created or accomplished, then the new business world is leaving you behind.

If you do have a blog, or a business, or a portfolio, or anything like that then you should have the mindset that it equals your value. It’s not enough to put out interesting articles or optimize your opt in rate or any of that kind of stuff. What you do is your value. What you say is your value. Your impact in the lives of others is your value. It is no longer just a hobby or a side project or a money-making scheme. With Google, Facebook, and the rest of social media connecting everything to everyone, what you put out there defines you.

Now this article is a pretty heavy/serious one, which I typically avoid. In fact, I’m normally the guy who shows people how to stop taking themselves so damn seriously when it comes to their online business or blog or life. But I feel strongly that anyone who is not actively proving and improving their value in a public way will be missing out in this new world. I also feel strongly that anyone already out there who isn’t looking at their venture as, at least partially, a demonstration of their value to the world will be left behind by those who do.

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