home Psychology The Lost Art of Manipulation

The Lost Art of Manipulation

I believe in manipulation. In fact, one of my life-long goals is to master this sly art. Retaining the capacity to convince a crowd, influence a team, or even persuade an acquaintance is a vital skill that every individual should strive to attain.


Last week I was manipulated. I had been wallowing in a bad mood. Due to certain unavoidable circumstances, I was, to say the least, very woebegone. I have the tendency to pass my misery on to others when I’m upset. To avoid spreading my toxic frustration in this case, I had escaped into the recesses of the freezing, dark night. In the open air I could quench my internal inferno and think positive thoughts in solitude without the threat of hurting or wrongly influencing my friends. I had been outside for a few minutes, analyzing my brain waves and “chilling out,” when my buddy, Christian, appeared. I told him he’d better stay away because I was feeling sour, but he ignored my demand. We started to talk. As we chatted, I could feel his manipulation altering my current state—my exasperation, annoyance, and bitterness slowly dissolved into a smile. Christian was cheering me up—manipulation. Halfway through our conversation, he took my hand, pulled a blue Sharpie out of his coat pocket, and drew a smiley face on my fist (yea, I’ll probably die from some form of ink poisoning). I instantly felt better. One little selfless act, and I was manipulated into a good mood.

Here’s the thing, the world looks at manipulation as a bad thing. And indeed, it certainly can be used for evil. But manipulation in and of itself is simply controlling, handling, or influencing another person. Maybe words like “control” or “handle” scare you. But why? It’s not bad to “control” a crowd or “handle” a situation. If the world learned the art of manipulation like Christian used on me, we would all exist in a state of blissful peace. Each person would genuinely care about the well-being of others; we would freely share happiness, cheerfulness, and joy with everyone we encounter.

There are many articles online regarding the art of manipulation. I hate to be repetitive, so I’ll take a different approach.

The interesting thing about manipulation is that not only can you practice it on others, but on yourself. I have often been tempted to embrace a nasty mood or just feel frustrated. Simple fail-proof manipulative techniques have quickly turned my attitude around 180 degrees. How? I’m so glad you asked!

Disclaimer: the following acronym is not my own. It is in fact from Christian, the master manipulator.


S stands for Surrender. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, surrender is a vital aspect of manipulation (especially when manipulating yourself). True peace and serenity cannot come to your life if you retain hate, anger, bitterness, shame, or guilt in your heart. Science has proven that not only are these emotions detrimental to mental health, but also may have serious physical side-effects. Surrender. Forgive (yourself and others). Let things go. Yeah, life sucks sometimes—I know. But give yourself and others a break. Allow those feelings of stress to roll off your shoulders. Surrender those negative thoughts and avoid complaining (yes, this is easier said than done. It takes time, patience, and practice. But the effort you put into surrender will always be worth it). Imagine your life as a beautiful work of art. Each frustrating event is only working to refine and define your character. Take advantage of them. Learn from your mistakes. But let the negativity go. Examine you life. What’s holding you back from your true potential? What steps can you take to eliminate this negative energy? Got it? Now surrender.

M stands for Merry. Okay, so we already know that life isn’t all butterflies and roses. But a powerful aspect of manipulation comes from your attitude. Many people don’t realize that attitude is something they can control. Often times we don’t even want to. After all, it’s just easier to be a grump than making an effort to be cheerful. But really, no one ever positively influenced another by acting frustrated or angry. If you’re not feeling cheerful, there are a few simple solutions I recommend.

  1. Smile. Even if you don’t want to, the very act of smiling will make you feel better, more cheerful, and ultimately happier. Seriously, try it. Plus, smiling is proven to be contagious. Smile at a stranger. See how they respond.
  2. Sing. Yeah, I’m a horrible singer too—but it helps. Almost without fail, if I’m frustrated, angry, depressed, etc., and force myself to sing a cheerful, happy song, my attitude and outlook changes for the better!
  3. Dance. Okay, this is one of my favorites. It may not be appropriate in all situations, but it works beautifully if you’re alone. Just play your favorite upbeat, happy jam, and dance around the room like a maniac. Heightens my mood every time.
  4. Gratitude. Cliché? Perhaps, but totally proven. Maybe it feels like your world is crumbling, but are you alive? Did you wake up? Can you walk? Are you breathing? Do you have a roof over your head? You can read. You have access to this awesome website!

This doesn’t mean you should walk around obnoxiously exuberant and laughy all the time. But merriness is absolutely vital when manipulating others.

I stands for Innovate. This is a key point when manipulating others. See, manipulation take effort. Often times, you have to think about how you’re going to approach people. This is where innovation comes in. Get creative. Are you going to give them a hug? Write a friendly note? Be a listening ear? Shoot confetti in their face? What will you say? How will you be an encouragement? Innovation doesn’t mean overthinking. If you’re going to talk to someone, talk to them—don’t overanalyze. But as you go throughout your day, just be aware of the people around you and think of ways you can manipulate them. As you focus on the well-being of others, not only will you feel happier, but you will have an aura of selfishness and approachability—vital aspects for manipulation.

L stands for Live. This is the only self-centered part of SMILE—but it isn’t selfish or negative. What do you enjoy doing? Take time for your hobbies, family, and friends. Enjoy nature. Take risks. Pursue adventure. Spend time alone. Think about life. Think about yourself. What makes you happy? What motivates you? Meditate. Sing. Laugh. Splurge. Run. Scream. Go insane for a few minutes every day. Jump into a pool with your clothes on. Swing. Play tag. Do cartwheels on the lawn. Cook a fancy meal. Set something on fire. Do something out of the ordinary but totally awesome! Live!

E stands for Explore. Yup. Explore life. Read good books. Listen to podcasts. Watch movies. Talk to interesting people. Never stop discovering. Seek wisdom with your entire heart. Learn something new every day. Take time to notice details. Appreciate beauty. Stop and look—just look around you. What do you see? Take deep breaths. Allow time to slow. Never, ever stop exploring. Exploration leads to positive manipulation. As you explore, you will become aware of the people who need your help. Explore peoples’ lives. The very act of listening and genuinely caring for others brings a sense of happiness to you and to everyone you encounter. So go and explore. You only live once. Make the most of this life.

And this, my compatriots, is manipulation. Wouldn’t it be incredible if every single person on the planet mastered this art? What a different world we would live in—one where selflessness reigns and people genuinely care for one another. Inspired?

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not. – Dr. Seuss

It only takes one person to change the world. So remember: SMILE and today will be AMAZING!

Thoughts? Comments? Let's discuss...