August 17. Manipulate or be sincere, which way to go?

August 17. ” A pleasing personality helps you win friends and influence people. Add character to that formula and you keep those friends and maintain the influence.” (Zig Ziglar)

The start of this quote is a reference to the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, written by Dale Carnegie, and the basis for the Dale Carnegie Course. When I was an instructor for the Dale Carnegie class, I was sometimes asked if the 30 human relations principles weren’t really just manipulation. If a person diligently followed the principles, were they not really just manipulating the people around them?

At first blush it might appear that it could be so. Remembering and using people’s names, appealing to their noble motives, letting them think the idea is theirs, and others might give the casual reader the impression that Mr. Carnegie was intending to have his class members “play to the audience”, and influence them for their own personal gains. And, honestly, a person who is bent on the art of manipulation and under handedness could indeed use the principles as a boiler plate for success. But, as I told my class members, that success would be short lived and hollow.

A person who takes the class, or even reads the entire book will soon learn that it is only with sincerity of heart – character in Ziglar’s words – that the principles can have a sustained effect. It is only when a person’s own personal, fine character shows through the filter of the principles, that lasting success can be achieved.

The amazing thing is that all of us are pretty good at detecting when someone is manipulating us, or when someone is being insincere. We all know that icky feeling we get when a particularly slick salesperson is trying to convince us that we NEED their product. We can sense that their use of our name is contrived, that their smile goes no farther than their upturned lips, and that their handshake is rehearsed and perfunctory. The truth is that if we are paying the least bit of attention, it is easy to know when we are being manipulated. It isn’t because they use a set of principles like those from Dale Carnegie, it is how they use them.

Why can we so easily tell when we’re being manipulated? Because the person’s heart is not in it, and their true character shows through. When that character is out of line with the way they are acting, then it is just that…acting.

When this question would come up in my classes, I would tell them that yes, they could choose to use these principles to be insincere and manipulative. But I warned them that it was going to take a LOT of work. They would have to create a whole persona for themselves that would have these principles as its core. They would have to spend all their waking hours maintaining that persona, lest they be caught in the lie. They would have to stamp down their real self below the surface so that no one, or only a very select few would see. And then what? Would those who see their real self be treated like dirt? How would they decide who sees the real person, and who sees the fake one? It would definitely take an inordinant amount of work to create and maintain this fake persona.

Wouldn’t it be easier, I would ask them, to just follow the principles sincerely? Wouldn’t it be easier to let the principles permeate their ACTUAL character, and help that character to flourish and be more effective?

Ziglar is 100% right in this quote. Having a pleasing personality will only get you so far. It is the character behind that pleasant demeanor that will be the ultimate determination of whether you will maintain influence and keep friends. If you ask me, I will tell you to be sincere always.

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