Manipulation Eight Ways to Control Others Joseph Kirschner



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Manipulation Eight Ways to Control Others Joseph Kirschner

translated by J. Maxwell Brownjohn


This is a shrewd and ruthless analysis of what everyone does to everybody else everyday—psychological manipulation. Here are the eight ways to make others do what you want them to, and to minimize your own chances of being exploited.

The author warns you, first of all, to identify your opponents—and in the Manipulation Game, that means everyone: your boss, the media, your family, the opposite sex. In this training manual of basic human interaction, you can learn how to increase yourself-confidence by systematically demolishing your opponents; how to control your own emotions while profiting from the passions of others; how to understand fear and overcome it; and how to think on one level while talking on another. Manipulation makes it possible for you to win every game.

Rule 1: If you want to be talked about, use your elbows.

Rule 2: Don’t just sit there—do something! Do the unexpected, and do it deliberately.

Rule 3: Don’t equate packaging with contents. Nobody’s looking after you, so fend for yourself.

Rule 4: Repeat and repeat the message. Take advantage of your adversary’s mistakes and watch your self-confidence increase as you demolish him.

Rule 5: Recognize the power of emotion. Control your dependence on it and prevent others from doing so.

Rule 6: Motivate through fear and learn how to overcome your own.

Rule 7: Make up your own mind or someone will do it for you.

Rule 8: Use speech to your own advantage. You can tell anyone anything—if you know how to do it.



Manipulation tells you how to impose your views, convince others, assert yourself in a hostile environment, resist exploitation, and attain your chosen objectives by learning the rules of purposeful human intercourse that govern all success and much personal happiness.

Joseph Kirschner teaches at the University of Vienna, where he also heads the metropolitan bureau for a German newspaper and is a television commentator.

Henry Regnery Company Chicago

Jacket design by Ray Nyquist ISBN: 0-8092-8049-3
MANIPULATION EIGHT WAYS TO CONTROL OTHERS JOSEPH KIRSCHNER

TRANSLATED BY J. MAXWELL BROWNJOHN

HENRY REGNERY COMPANY

CHICAGO


Kirschner, Josef, 1931-

Manipulation: eight ways to control others.

1. Persuasion (Psychology) 2. Influence (Psychology) I. Title.

BF637.P4K5313 1976 158M 76-5387

ISBN 0-8092-8049-3

© 1974 Droemersche Verlagsanstalt Th. Knaur Nachf.

Muncha Munich/Zurich

©This translation 1975 by Abelard-Schuman Limited First published in Great Britain in 1975 under the title The Manipulation Game and How to Play It by Abelard-Schuman Limited, London.All rights reserved.

Published in the United States in 1976 by Henry Regnery Company

180 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60601 Manufactured in the United States of America Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 76-5387 International Standard Book Number: 0-8092-8049-3
To my son Harald
Contents
If you want to fulfil yourself and your ideas, master the rules of the game

Some hints on how to make the most of this book

Whenever someone opens his mouth to address someone else, he has just one end in view: to manipulate him

RULE NO. 1

If you want to be talked about, use your elbows

Our six opponents in the game:

1. The opposite sex

2. All who obstruct our progress

3. Authority and those who wield it

4. The society we live in

5. The media

6. Our families

RULE NO. 2

Don’t just sit there — do something!

Next time you walk into a restaurant, think first

Six effective ways of capturing attention

1. Doing the unexpected

2. Deliberate flattery

3. Deliberate provocation

4. Superior knowledge

5. The indirect approach

6. If at first you don’t succeed



RULE NO. 3

Don’t equate packaging with contents

Why no angler baits his hoolc with cake

Nobody safeguards another’s interests at the expense of his own, so fend for yourself



RULE NO. 4

What happens when someone hears the same message repeatedly instead of once

How your own self-confidence increases as you systematically demolish your opponent’s

Three methods often used in the manipulative repetition of a message

1. Stereotyped reiteration

2. Quantitative multiplication

3. Qualitative reinforcement

Forgiving an opponent’s mistakes may be generous, but many people are experts at turning them to their own advantage



RULE NO. 5

Recognize the power of emotion and your approach to many aspects of life will be transformed overnight 100

Why it’s no accident that we rate courage good and cowardice bad, not vice versa

How to control our dependence on emotion and prevent others from doing the same

A few practical tips on how to profit from the emotional dependence of other

RULE NO. 6

Many heroes are motivated by fear of disgrace

Three common forms of fear which make us peculiarly susceptible to manipulation

1. Fear of losing an acquisition

2. Fear of uncertainty

3. Fear of reality

The three crucial steps towards overcoming any fear and preventing its exploitation by others

Some ideas on how to benefit by your opponents’ fear in the manipulation game



RULE NO. 7

Make up your own mind or someone will do it for you

The two extreme types of decision-maker and how they can be influenced

Anyone who aims to influence a decision has a vested interest in supplying partial information only

Take refuge on the summit of Mount Everest: your decisions will still be influenced by

others


Why we often want to reverse a decision just taken

The decision-making process and how it can be influenced in others to our own advantage



RULE NO. 8

Why few words often achieve more than many

The art of thinking on one level and speaking on another

You can tell anyone anything — without exception.

It all depends how you do it

Four effective ways of using speech to your own advantage

Postscript

If you want to fulfil yourself and your ideas, master the rules of the game
The world is full of ambitious and hard-working people endowed with a wide range of exceptional talents, but all their plans and projects fall flat. Why? For one reason only: they haven’t mastered the ways and means of influencing people.

Advertising men, politicians and professional salesmen know how it’s done. The rules they follow are the age-old rules of manipulation.

Most people who fail to achieve their aims and intentions, wholly or in part, are quick to abandon the struggle. Brimming with self-pity, they blame their failure on others.

That is why the world contains so many discontented people who have lost faith in themselves. They live life at second hand, waiting day after day for someone else to come and tell them what they ought to say, think or buy. Undiscriminating, easy-going and submissive, they allow themselves to become victims of manipulation by others.

These people have failed to realize that manipulation is a basic ingredient of human coexistence.

If you are going to impose your views, convince others, assert yourself in a hostile environment, resist exploitation and attain your chosen objectives, you must learn the rules of purposeful human intercourse which govern all success — and, consequently, a substantial proportion of your personal happiness.

Those who master these rules will fulfil themselves and their ideas. Those who don’t trouble to recognize them, re-examine them daily and use them as aids to self-development, must not be surprised if they remain permanently dissatisfied with themselves and the world around them.
Some hints on how to make the most of this book
Before delving into the pages that follow, better devote a little thought to how you plan to use the goods on offer.

This is not the sort of book to be skimmed through and tossed aside with a few complacent comments. If all you’re after is a quick dip at the shallow end, that’s your privilege, but be warned: you’ll have thrown at least 70 per cent of the purchase price down the drain.

This is a training manual. Its contents are designed to be of lasting benefit in everyday life. Its aim is to present the eight most important methods of influencing people and explain their application. It will also provide you with continuous encouragement to make daily use of the knowledge you acquire.

In other words, this book is a permanent challenge to you to manipulate other people more effectively and deliberately than before — and to derive the full benefits of such a process.

Manipulate your fellow-men .... Your first, natural reaction to this summons will be unfavourable. The word ‘manipulation’ has acquired an exceptionally negative flavour. In modem parlance, it suggests underhand ways of doing people down, wanton deception and exploitation of the gullible dumbclucks with whom — curiously enough — we always identify ourselves. ‘Manipulation’ sounds unfair, impermissible and unscrupulous.

The next chapter will deal with these hackneyed ideas and the misconceptions they embody.

In essence, the content and form of each chapter devoted to the eight main rules of manipulation will fall into two parts:

1. A definition and explanation of the rule under review,

complete with numerous examples and suggestions. We shall analyse the techniques and tactics of manipulation, also the behavioural background of those who are manipulated by such methods.

2. Recommendations on how you yourself can make use of the knowledge you have gained.

You should therefore devote a fair time to each manipulative rule, but bear one thing in mind: making the most of what this book has to offer does not depend on exact compliance with each and every suggestion. All that matters is the practical benefit you derive from these recommendations, each and every day from now on.

Manipulation, persuasion, salesmanship or self-assertion — or whatever we choose to call it — is a skill which can be acquired in the same way as accountancy, foreign languages or sports. In every branch of learning, the student’s degree of success is determined by two things:

1. A thorough understanding and mastery of basic principles.

2. Continuous self-improvement by means of regular practice.

Precisely the same applies to our ability to- influence others.
Whenever someone opens his mouth to address someone else, he has just one end in view: to manipulate him
You may be one of those on whom the countless catch- phrases about the perils of manipulation have left their mark: slogans such as ‘We are the victims of the mass-media manipulators’, or ‘The bulk of humanity is manipulated by a few people for their own ends’, or ‘The more perfect our means of communication, the more hopelessly we are at the mercy of those who control them’.

Before tackling the rules and techniques of manipulation, we must deal with a few erroneous ideas and behavioural cliches which have an important bearing on the matter.

To get one thing straight from the start: it is, of course, true that a few people manipulate the bulk of mankind, likewise that they do so with the clear intention of benefiting as much as possible from the process.

It is equally true, however, that most of us spend a lifetime waiting for someone to come along and tell us what we ought to think or say, do or buy. In other words: someone who will relieve us of a decision which we ourselves are unable or unwilling to make because we find it too arduous.

We all have a secret itch to belong to the select few who know how to exploit others. On the other hand, we are fundamentally unable or unwilling to evade manipulation by our fellows.

There is little point, therefore, in enlarging on the perils of manipulation in a practical discussion of this kind. What concerns us far more is the extent to which:

we ourselves benefit from techniques of manipulation and the rules that underlie them; and can guard against being exploited by others to our own detriment.

‘Manipulation,’ declares the Swiss scholar Adolf Portmann,

‘is a phenomenon basic to our humanity.’ An American student of human nature, Professor Walter G. Pinecoke, puts it this way: ‘Whenever someone opens his mouth to address someone else, he really has just one end in view: to manipulate him and make the most of it.’

Exaggerated as Pinecoke’s assertion may sound, it does expose one fundamental motive governing our behaviour.

We genuinely do spend our entire lives trying to prevail over others. They must do what we expect of them, accept and respect us, acknowledge our capabilities and help us on our way.

Anything that brings us nearer this goal is all right with us, be it the exercise of power, the wielding of wealth or authority, or the use of some other form of self-assertion.

The boss says: ‘If you don’t meet your sales target, you can kiss that bonus goodbye.’

The teacher says: ‘Either you pipe down at once, or you’ll get some extra work.’ Or: ‘If you don’t put your back into it, I’ll have to flunk you.’

The business executive says: ‘My next car’s got to have more poke and a few extras.’

The television commercial urges housewives to buy a new detergent because it guarantees an even whiter wash, although they’re quite incapable of distinguishing the latest shade of whiteness from its predecessor.

The subordinate says: ‘The old man told me I’m an incompetent fool — I’ll show him!’

The tycoon says: ‘X is worth a million more than me, but next year I’ll overhaul him.’

Representatives of government authority say: ‘Anyone who breaks the law must be punished.’ At bottom, their main concern is to prevent the undermining of their own authority.

In many of the instances quoted above, a quite specific method has been used to gain a desired end: intimidation. In actual fact, fear is one of the commonest determinants of behaviour: the fear which inhibits us and governs our actions, and the fear we inspire in others so as to render them amenable to our aims.

The teacher threatens his pupils with extra work or bad marks, and the pupils are afraid of being punished. They fear bad marks because these may displease their parents, whose goodwill they are frightened of losing.

Parents, in turn, are afraid that their children will do badly at school, so they too employ fear as an incentive to greater effort.

The State issues continuous threats of punishment, and citizens are scared of being caught in contravention of the rules prescribed for them — unless, of course, they have the money to hire a smart lawyer or tax accountant who will help them find a gap in the law.

Perhaps the most widespread fear is that of failing to make the grade or win acceptance socially. We make frantic efforts to do the done thing rather than attract unwelcome attention. We follow fashion and try to be ‘with it’, whether in telling jokes, describing our vacations, exhibiting our professional authority or playing the know-all. The reward for which we yearn is recognition.

Naturally, fear also besets the ‘big boys’ who occupy the very apex of the pyramid of professional or social esteem. Bosses, showbiz personalities and senior executives are constantly harried by those who crowd them from below. The man at the top wants to stay there. Fear of being ousted keeps him on his toes night and day.

Just like manipulation, fear — to quote Adolf Portmann — is ‘a phenomenon basic to our humanity’. Some people know how to inspire fear in others and bend them to their will. Others, less expert, are motivated by fear of their inability to perform what the intimidators expect of them.

Here again, it is idle to raise the question of guilt. We all inspire fear just as we are all its victims. What matters is to ascertain the extent to which we are daily subjected to manipulative intimidation by others. Above all, we must determine how far we are able and willing to expand our scope for free decision-making by deliberately recognizing and controlling our fears.

As to whether we wish to manipulate others by a more effective use of fear, this decision rests with the individual.

After all, everyone is just as free to decide whether or not to impose his will on another by holding a loaded gun to his head.

The question is, would that also be a form of manipulation? Of course not. Manipulation in our sense is based on a deliberate understanding of the person to be manipulated. It exploits his inertia, his ignorance, his apathy and indecision; it does not threaten his existence. He must be granted an opportunity to outdo us. This is an essential feature of the daily manipulation game, which would be unplayable without an opponent.

This technique of self-assertion, this ‘phenomenon basic to our humanity’, can be used by and on anyone. The person who has a good understanding and mastery of it will fare better than someone whose grasp and expertise are less complete.

In this game, each of us is confronted by six main opponents. All are governed by the same objective. All pursue their own interests, which may well conflict with ours, and many of them employ the subtlest methods imaginable.

Manipulative antagonism cuts clean across families and places of work, friendships and social groups. It exists in nursery school as much as it does in high society, so called, not to mention business, politics and the arts.

No holds are barred in this contest, or almost none, for all its outward observance of form and displays of fellow-feeling. When the chips are down, charity begins at home.

Under the first rule of manipulation, therefore, let us give our six main adversaries the once-over, like a boxer studying his opponent at the weigh-in before a world championship.
Rule No. 1
The daily manipulation game brings us face to face with six main opponents. They all try to get the better of us, just as we try to get the better of them for our own benefit.

A player’s degree of success or failure depends largely on the consistency with which, having deliberately manipulated and studied his opponents, he acts in accordance with his findings.


Our six opponents:
1. The opposite sex

2. All who obstruct our progress

3. Authority and those who wield it

4. The society we live in

5. The media

6. Our families


If you want to be talked about, use your elbows
This rule simply enjoins you to familiarize yourself with the opposition. It summons you to accept that, in the daily game of manipulation, everyone — repeat, everyone — is your opponent in the sense defined here. You may like or even love people — they may be your friends or children. The fact remains that they are for ever trying to manipulate you or you them.

If you love people, you try to secure their love in return. You try to appear at your best, convince them that you possess the qualities which in your opinion make you lovable.

In essence, you are behaving no differently from a commercial concern which stresses the merits of a product so as to make it attractive to the consumer.

Deliberate acceptance of this fact and its resultant antagonism is an essential aid to ‘selling’ your projects and ideas, your desires and emotions, and — consequently — yourself.

At the time when I was collecting material for this book, I happened to be a co-author of the TV series Wunsch Dir Was (Make a Wish). It was probably the most controversial, hotly debated and fiercely criticized programme of popular entertainment ever presented on German-language television.

I am betraying no secrets when I say that one of our basic aims was to provoke the viewers, who sometimes numbered as many as 30 million. We wanted to goad them into a critical appraisal of, and attitude towards, the problems we presented. To put it still more bluntly, we wanted — in the present sense — to manipulate them.

One of my most interesting experiences in nearly three years’ work on Wunsch Dir Was was an encounter with a dainty, dark-haired little woman whose life changed completely as a result of the programme. Her name: Esther Vilar.

We had the idea of staging a discussion between her and the female members of families entered for the quiz game. Some of us had read her revolutionary pronouncements on relations between the sexes, but relatively few people were at that stage familiar with the name Esther Vilar or the title of her book, Manipulated Man.

She was duly invited to appear on the programme. The night she arrived, I joined her in a restaurant to discuss the forthcoming show. It soon became clear that there was a big difference between her personal manner and the aggressive remarks in her book. I still have a vivid recollection of the nervous way she said: ‘Please tell me right away — how do I avoid putting the viewers’ backs up?’

There she sat, a woman with big and original ideas but no conception of how to put them over. Her views were provocative in the extreme, but she could not see how to impress them on the people she so dearly wanted to provoke. She did not recognize her opponents as targets for persuasion. All she said, as she rather helplessly sipped her wine, was: ‘Tell me right away — how do I avoid putting the viewers’ backs up?’

She had devoted 200 pages of her book to an account of how women manipulate their menfolk. When it was a matter of selling herself to an audience of millions by deliberate manipulation, she failed.

My advice was as follows: ‘You want people to talk about you and discuss your ideas? In that case, do precisely the opposite of what you’re suggesting. Rub them up the wrong way.’ She did so with a vengeance. Even before the programme ended, women viewers were bombarding the switchboard with threats to run ‘that stupid bitch’ out of town. Months later, newspapers were still printing pieces about her. In countless families, her TV appearance remained Topic No. 1 long after the event. Her book shot to the top of the best-seller list and made a great deal of money.

I quote this example to show how important it is not to leave the influencing of others to chance. You must make it a deliberate and purposeful process. Above all, identify the opponents who confront you in your daily endeavours.

The opposite sex is your first and permanent adversary in the struggle to prevail. Whether you succeed or fail will depend on your degree of manipulative skill.

You want to impress and captivate your opponents in this contest, persuade them to hop into bed with you, possibly marry them. Many people claim that none of this applies to them, but their universal disclaimer merely amounts, of course, to an attempt to impress others with their ostensible superiority. It may also be a form of insurance against disappointment. ‘She doesn’t mean anything to me really ...’ The man who starts out on this note can always end by saying, when ‘she’ has sent him off with a flea in his ear: ‘It wasn’t serious anyway.’

Be that as it may, most couples marry ultimately because one of them has prevailed over the other. Throughout its duration, their marriage is governed by a daily trial of strength in which each tries to assert his or her dominance over the other party.

This contest resembles a never-ending guerrilla war which not infrequently develops into a pitched battle when both opponents fail to grasp and master the rules of mutual manipulation.

In such instances, hostilities may culminate in the extreme behaviour which makes such colourful reading in the popular press. To quote a recent case: ‘Gerhard K., a 34-year-old office worker from Westphalia, stabbed his 22-year-old wife seventeen times with a screwdriver because she informed him over supper that her boy-friend had more stamina in bed .. .’

Other people resort to the less sanguinary expedient of divorce — that is, unless they for some reason prefer to spend the rest of their lives apathetically brooding in a state of resigned and hopeless self-pity.

Why do these things happen?

The answer is quite simple: because of a failure to see that all coexistence between two individuals bears the impress of an unremitting attempt by each partner to prevail over the other.

People who accept this irrefutable fact will not regard every attempt at manipulation by their partners as a personal insult to which the only response is a declaration of war. Instead, they will join in the game and react with manipulative measures of their own.

Those who grasp this will recognize, in addition to their own striving for approval, that others are engaged in precisely the same quest.

One of the many advantages which accrue from the manipulative rules is that one attack need not be countered by another. The proper response may be a gesture which peacefully disarms the aggressor.

For reasons whose exploration must be left to philosophers, psychologists and other trained theoreticians, we are all engaged in a ceaseless struggle to get ahead. We all hanker to earn more and acquire greater influence and prestige by climbing the professional and social ladder.

On our upward route, we inevitably encounter one or two people who either obstruct us or could be helpful but are not.

Under the rules of manipulation, they must all be classed as opponents.

They include:

1. Anyone who occupies a position we covet ourselves.

2. Anyone who shares our designs on the said position.

3. Anyone qualified to decide who will climb the next rung or able to give us positive assistance in taking our next step.

Professional aptitude has a certain bearing on personal advancement, of course, but we all know that the best people don’t always get the jobs they deserve.

There are hosts of conscientious, hard-working and highly qualified idealists who pin their hopes of success on performance alone but never make it.

Why not?


Let Claude G. Hopkins, an American pioneer in the field of advertising and modem selling techniques, supply the answer. He tells us that it isn’t enough to be ‘good’: at least as important as skill and know-how, hard work and goodwill is the ability to persuade people to appreciate ourselves and our achievements and reward them to our advantage.

Because this seldom happens without our help, we must study the rules for success and lend practical effect to any inferences we draw about our future progress.

Where many of our ambitions are concerned, we find ourselves confronted by people like brick walls — people who have carved out a special niche in the hierarchy of coexistence: the status of an authority. The authorities most firmly entrenched in our minds are: Parents Superiors The stronger The State and those who claim to represent it Experts of all kinds The majority Title-holders

A child can be right a hundred times over in what it wants. If its father says: ‘I’m your father, I know better’, his view will prevail in the end.

If your opponent is someone who can barricade himself behind the authority of a government department, you labour under an immediate disadvantage. He can always find some regulation to invoke. This relieves him of individual responsibility and enables him to coerce you. You have nothing to invoke but your personal interests, and the State never tires of drumming it into you that the general good takes precedence over your own.

Doctors, lawyers, mechanics, plumbers and electricians — in a word, experts — all employ their superior technical knowledge as an aid to manipulation. Within and by means of a professional closed shop, they defend their authoritative status against outsiders.

Anyone who can invoke an authoritative status in his dealings with other people has, from the first, a greater prospect of securing his advantage. To an opponent, his status means: ‘I amount to more than you, I know more than

you, I enjoy the backing of a power you don’t possess.’

Throughout our lives we are taught to obey and acknowledge various forms of authority. Is it any wonder that a person should insist on exploiting this advantage in his dealings with others? It doesn’t even matter whether that person is a genuine authority or not. After all, not everyone recovers from an illness because a doctor has treated him. What confers an immediate advantage in the manipulation game is that one person should be capable of playing off his status against another.

Our manipulative counter-move can be launched from two different angles:

1. We ourselves acquire an authoritative status of some kind and use it against others.

2. We combat an opponent’s authority with different manipulative techniques and thereby neutralize his advantage.

One factor should always be taken for granted: behind any form of authority there lurks a human being with egocentric ideas, personal desires and weaknesses. He will thus be as susceptible to manipulative techniques as the next man — or woman — and these are available to all.

Why, asked that shrewd observer George Bernard Shaw, should the wife of a blind man wear lipstick? We might go further and inquire why women wear lipstick at all.

Why do they swathe themselves in exorbitantly expensive mink coats for the sake of a couple of hours at the theatre? Why must their hands gleam with gold and glitter with diamonds? Why do millions of the world’s women so assiduously feed the cosmetics industry with billions of dollars, pounds, marks, francs and lire? For the sake of a bit more colour in their cheeks, a few less crow’s-feet round their eyes, a touch of green or blue on their eyelids?

Why do men adorn their womenfolk with furs and diamonds? Why do they insist on owning a Rolls, Mercedes or Ferrari? Why do they jostle for government jobs which will give them an occasional opportunity to bask in public esteem? Why are there few sweeter moments in our lives than the moments when we can say, or just imply: ‘look at me, I’m so-and-so and such-and-such, and I earn so-and-so much’ — and detect a hint of envy and admiration in another’s eyes?

Why? Probably because we suffer from a persistent desire to impress. Even if we ourselves are not hell-bent on doing so, the appropriate behaviour is enforced on us by others. They are for ever challenging us to compete, go one better, keep abreast of fashion, prove ourselves. They foster our inherent and everlasting urge to be other than we are.

Where this endeavour is concerned, we all engage in a merciless and worldwide war of competition — one in which we hope at least to win the odd battle. Many people consider these minor victories so important that they stake everything on them — and not infrequently lose.

Others dismiss the whole thing as an irrational consumer-

society compulsion or call it enslavement by blind faith in economic progress. They are not so wide of the mark. There is a large element of irrationality in such behaviour, undoubtedly. On the other hand, we are all at liberty to decide how far we allow ourselves to be ruled by it. We are also free to discern and define the extent to which we are prepared to be challenged and exploited by others for their own benefit.

What is certain is that our ‘display behaviour’ is encouraged by others. The cycle into which they try to coerce us is invariably the same:

1. They persuade us to accept a certain standard, a behaviour pattern which they have established as correct and universally valid.

2. They promise us a reward if we model our behaviour on this pattern. They promise us promotion or medals. They guarantee us the admiration of others provided we conform.

3. Once we comply with their standard, they use us and our fellow-conformists as an example to others: ‘Look at them. They behave properly — why don’t you?’ And the others, their confidence shaken, say to themselves: ‘If so many people behave like that, it’s bound to be right. I suppose I’d better follow suit.’

We play both roles in the above cycle, and continue to do so until we perceive what holds it together and break out rather than allow our behaviour to be wholly dictated by others.

In other words, we recognize the rules of manipulation and make use of them in two ways:

We personally determine the extent to which we allow ourselves to be manipulated.

We no longer tolerate exploitation by others but employ their methods to our own advantage.

The media comprise newspapers and magazines, radio, television, posters, films and books. They purvey information, entertainment and a multitude of messages which certain people have selected, devised or prepared for our consumption. The media are vehicles which transmit the manipulative stimuli of the few to the many — vehicles of advertising in the broadest sense. Anything we uncritically absorb and faithfully comply with will influence us as the few intend. Anything whose underlying associations and ulterior motivation we critically explore and accurately identify will be useful to us to the extent we deem right for our purposes.

Victor O. Schwab was active in advertising for over 40 years before he embodied the fruits of his experience in a book (How to Write a Good Advertisement, Harper & Row, 1962). The introduction to that book lists five factors which Schwab considers vital to the selling of a product:

1. Capturing the attention of a potential customer.

2. Pointing out an advantage which the product has, or could have, for him.

3. Proving that advantage.

4. Arousing the customer’s desire to avail himself of that advantage.

5. Persuading the customer to act.

These, then, are the classic principles observed by every good salesman who accosts us through the medium of press and television advertising — or from behind a shop counter — with the aim of inducing us to buy.

Bear one thing in mind: no salesman begins by asking if we really need his product. He simply asks: ‘How can I make my product so attractive to the customer that he will ultimately buy it?’

But advertising is only part of what the media confront us with. There are also the so-called factual accounts, documentaries, on-the-spot reports and news stories with which they deliver events great and small to our door and explain the nature of so many things.

All these pressures influence our views and decisions as far as we allow them to. Furthermore, the media and their masters have built themselves an authoritative status of their own: that of the all-knowing and always right. And right they always are, but only until we run a personal check on what is right for us too.

We should never forget, either, that the media are themselves products which aspire to be bought by us. The principles on which they operate are identical with those which Schwab put at the beginning of his book on advertising techniques.

What can we infer from this?

We can take it that always and everywhere, whether in the media or on the counters of any store, there is a discrepancy between the actual product and its value to us and the content of flattering statements designed to sell it.

At this point, no one could blame you for lodging a protest. ‘What!’ you may say. ‘Am I expected to regard my family as an opponent too?’

Of course you are, even if the word strikes you as a trifle harsh at first. I had a fresh demonstration of its aptness only this evening.

My three-year-old son came toddling upstairs to my study, one hand gesticulating wildly, the other clutching a peeled banana. He was bawling hard, and big fat tears were rolling down his cheeks. It took me some time to discover what he was trying to tell me.

It turned out that he would have preferred a nice piece of chocolate to the banana, but his mother thought a few vitamins would be better for him than ‘all that sweet stuff, which only ruins your teeth’.

I shared her view that a banana would be better for our heartbroken son, and tried to explain why. If you have a family of your own, you’ll know just how much weight such arguments carry with young children.

Then, out of the blue, I said: ‘All right, if you won’t eat the confounded thing, at least give me a bite.’ The request took him aback. He stopped yelling and instinctively clasped the banana to his chest in a possessive way, staring at me as if to say: ‘What’s the matter with you? Have you really given up trying to make me do something against my will?’

In the end he held the banana out. I took a hefty bite and chomped contentedly without taking any more notice of him. He must have concluded that the banana wasn’t so bad after all, because he soon retired into a comer and noisily consumed the rest.

Perhaps his need for attention was satisfied now that he had

prevailed on both parents to spend time on him and his problem.

A trivial everyday occurrence, you’ll say, and quite rightly so. However, everyday life provides the widest possible scope for mutual manipulation. Our little family circle behaved precisely according to form.

The child wanted some chocolate. His wish was not fulfilled.

His mother wanted him to have a banana instead of chocolate.

The child persisted in his wish. Not having the authority or resources to fulfil it himself, he fell back on the one method available to him: tears.

He also sought an ally in me, hoping that I would help him fulfil his wish.

I, for my part, could have exerted my authority and somehow compelled him to eat the banana. Suspecting that I would only gain a limited success and utterly fail to convince him, I resorted to another method.

This appeared to satisfy the child’s need for attention.

I was confirmed in my superior paternal status, which pleased me.

My wife was quite happy too, because I had relieved her of a problem without storing up trouble for the future.

As an additional bonus, I had preserved my image in her eyes.

It was a minor manipulative game in ten moves — one which turned out to the satisfaction of all parties. Reflect on the probable outcome if, instead of gently manipulating my son, I had forced him to eat the hated banana against his will.

Finally, let me ask you once more: isn’t it true that each player in this domestic manipulation game was an opponent of the others?

I must concede, in general, that I owe much of what I have learnt about the subject of ‘manipulation’ to my wife and children, and not merely to twenty years’ experience as a journalist, copy-writer, public relations consultant and television writer.

Above all, I have learnt that there is virtually no difference

between the ways in which various categories of people persuade each other to do as they wish: politicians and voters, car manufacturers and customers, parents and children.

That is why we ought to shed our awe of the professional manipulators and cease to regard manipulation as a highly suspect technique whose use should be eschewed on principle.

Why, indeed, should it?

We all try it from childhood onwards, with varying degrees of success. We are therefore quite justified in exploring this faculty and developing it still further.

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