Persuasion, Selling & Manipulation: The Hierarchy of Effective Communication

After years of experience in the field, I’ve found that there is a hierarchy in ways one can convince another person of something. Understanding this hierarchy is critical for effective communication from the C-level down.


The Hierarchy of Effective Communication

Manipulation: Lacking the Character Traits of Honesty, Integrity & Civility

The lowest plane of communication that includes darker motives is manipulation, where someone preys on another’s vulnerability. For example:

  • Emotional vulnerability like a recent emotional trauma
  • Misplaced sentimentality
  • Intellectual vulnerability like ignorance or weakness in critical thinking capability

Manipulation usually involves the deliberate use of misinformation (from outright lying to presenting speculation disguised as information) or the deliberate withholding of pertinent information which is true but damaging to one’s argument. Manipulation can also involve the use of force, harm or the threat of both. In other words, manipulation lacks the character traits of honesty, integrity and civility.

Selling: An Important Skill to Possess

Selling is also a way to convince someone to agree with you in a transaction. It’s an important skill to possess and one that most folks are familiar with on some level. Why? Because No matter what you do, 50% of your job is sales. One sales method I’ve learned is the “FAB” approach: Features, Advantages and Benefits.

  • Whether you’re selling an idea or a product, there are certain features that produce advantages.
  • Those advantages create benefits.
  • People buy benefits over features and advantages.

When selling—whether you start there or end there—you’ll need to communicate the benefits.

Persuasion: Building Durability in Agility

Persuasion is an even larger concept than selling. While selling is more of a mercenary transaction, persuasion isn’t transactional. It’s enrolling someone in an idea or point of view. Although an eventual transaction may or may not exist, persuasion lives beyond the transaction: there’s durability to it.

While both selling and persuading require effective discourse, achieving durable persuasion requires you to be as genuinely open to persuasion as you are ready to persuade.

Why You Need to Seek Higher Planes of Communication

Why are these distinctions important? When you try to convince someone of something, you must be on guard. It’s easy to slip from persuasion to manipulation, especially if you make the issue more important than the relationship. This is a common mistake when anyone in a position of authority tries to advance a defective argument or bad position with anyone subject to that authority.

The bottom line is this: manipulation erodes trust, and trust is the lubricant of Agility. It negates friction in relationships, working or otherwise.

There’s Power in Effective Communication Amongst a Team

For any initiative such as Agile to work, solid communication must remain top of mind. If you’re struggling with team communication or with implementing Agile the correct way within your organization, reach out to us by sending us a message today.