Getting Your Way: Good Old Fashioned Manipulation

Manipulation gets a bad rap. Manipulation means “to control or influence another person or situation cleverly, unfairly, or unscrupulously. Who doesn’t want more control or influence over other people or situations? I know I do!

My family manipulates me all of the time, and I’m okay with that. Here’s what happened recently—


A couple of months ago, my wife and I were talking about cooking, and I casually threw out that I was a better cook. She’s already better at everything else than I am, so I figured maybe I could claim a highly subjective victory around something I don’t really care about. However, the two girls overheard this and chimed in. It turns out, of all of the people who regularly cook for the girls, my cooking came in third. I threw no happy dance. I came in third out of four people. My wife was #1 on both of their scorecards.

Why the Back-story?  

I don’t like to cook, I don’t want to cook, and when I’m left on my own, I open a can of tuna, which makes me the favorite cook for my 3 cats and 1 dog. Heck, anything that goes through the can opener is tops with them. Anyway, my feelings weren’t hurt hearing that I’m not good at something I don’t like and don’t care about. And fortunately, I’m not called on to cook very often. Finding out how I ranked diminished my desire just a bit more.

But my 15-year old daughter had hip surgery recently, which turned her into an immobile, articulate, demanding toddler. She couldn’t even get to the bathroom without help. This situation required my wife to serve as an unpaid, live-in, full-time nurse for my daughter.

“I can’t do everything,” she told me after a few days. “Can you be responsible for dinner?”

I said YES before I fully understood that she didn’t just want me to cook for myself but for everybody in the house. It’s not that I’m selfish (debatable), but I have a family with very specific dietary preferences and limitations. I’m a free-range eater. I eat anything within my range. If I can reach it, I eat it. I’m pretty easy that way. But in my house I have vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, GMO free, organic-only eaters.

I’m a card-carrying carnivore due to religious reasons. I figure if God didn’t want me to eat meat, he wouldn’t have equipped me with incisors and canine teeth. But due to my wife’s request, I tried my hand at making something everyone could eat: a vegan carrot-ginger coconut milk soup.

Moments after serving my immobile daughter her dinner, I heard her yell from the bedroom, “This soup is delicious! Thank you so much for making it. Can I have more?”

Turns out, that was music to my ears.

Two days later, I made a vegan vegetable soup to even greater rave reviews.

Right now, I’m making a yet another vegan dinner.

Thank You: Manipulation Done Right

My wife didn’t manipulate me into making dinner. She just asked me to do it. No one made my daughter like my meal or compliment me. She just did it. In fact, no one in my family used any clever, unfair, or unscrupulous tactics to control me into making dinner.

Manipulation done right isn’t clever nor unscrupulous. But you can readily control or influence a person or situation by just using two powerful words: Thank You.

Thank you says many things in small package:

  • Thank you says I noticed what you did. How many times do we mow the lawn, pay the bills, work long hours on a project, or go above and beyond, and no one notices? When we think that no one cares or notices what we do, it’s easy to say “Why bother?
  • Thank you says you matter to me. After spending hours in the kitchen cooking the last couple of weeks, I have an entirely greater appreciation for what my wife goes through most nights. Think about that employee who gets asked to do something urgent at the last minute before it’s time to leave for the day. Thank you is personal. It’s not directed at the universe, fate, good luck, or karma. It’s directed at YOU, because what YOU did matters.
  • Thank you says I am grateful for you. Research continues to show that lack of recognition and appreciation are at the top of the list of why employees leave companies. Conversely, a 2014 Boston Consulting Group survey showed that appreciation was the #1 employee engagement booster across all cultures, age groups, and industries.

Now get out there and “manipulate” a few people today while I go check on dinner…

P.S. The example I used about my family was NOT about manipulation, nor is using Thank You as a way to make others crave your leadership. In fact, the only manipulation (clever, unfair, or unscrupulous) technique used in this entire blog was putting manipulation in the title in hopes it would make you read it. Sorry about that. Won’t happen again!

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Terry says:

    Thank you for that story! (No pun intended). You hit the nail right on the head about how we all crave appreciation, and how far a simple “thank you” can go. I have found myself wondering “why bother” in the past, and then all of a sudden someone said “Thank you for producing this report every week. I find myself looking at it almost daily.” Needless to say, that made it all worthwhile – and on top of that, now as I spend those sometimes long excruciating hours doing that report, I know at least one person appreciates what I’m doing and it will make a difference in their day.

    1. Hi Terry. Isn’t it amazing how much that little “thank you” becomes fuel for pushing ourselves even harder?! I had the great fortune of working for a boss who expressed gratitude for my work regularly and specifically. Once I heard “thank you” from him, I just continued striving to deliver a repeat performance. Thanks for your comments!

  2. Mahnaz Dadi says:

    Hello Scott,
    Great article! Very well written!
    It reminded me how important it is to say thank you and appreciate everyone around you!!
    So “Thank You” for bringing a very simple but very important point to light!!
    Mahnaz Dadi

    1. Hi Mahnaz! Thanks for taking the time to respond 🙂

  3. Andy Butler says:

    I like all your posts, but this one was great!

    1. Thanks, Andy. I’m not lying when I say that comments like that encourage me to keep writing! Thank you is like being handed the keys to the kingdom, yet many people put those keys in their pockets and insist on trying to bash through the door!

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