Benevolent Manipulation

By you reading this, I’ve successfully lured you into being benevolently manipulated! But, don’t stop reading… it’s a good thing.

Should you and I interact, my goal is to do as much as I can to ensure that our interactions contribute to you being highly functional… and in turn, guide you to doing the same for me.


  • [buhnevuh-luh nt] – desiring to help others
  • [muh-nip-yuhley-shuh n] – skillful or artful management.

Combined definition: To artfully manage others to assist them in reaching their potential, recognizing that this will in turn benefit us.

This will be a short post. It’s really about an intent to understand the person you are communicating with. The idea is that whenever you encounter resistance or an issue (these are the easiest indicators), you stop for a second and think about how you can control the situation and work toward a “win-win” resolution. This is especially useful with people you will continue to interact with, as you will slowly find what works. Humans and trial-and-error go hand in hand.

Let’s look at a case study on how to manipulate me:

How To Manipulate Peter for Drawing Reviews

Scenario: You came to me with a set of drawings for me to review. I take them from you and begin to look at them. Your intent was that I review a few specific details, but you may not have communicated that effectively (or I didn’t listen).

Peter’s Actions: I review your detail, but they lead me to look at other things in the drawings. I start to:

  • Find things that aren’t complete (I wonder why they’re not complete),
  • Find incomplete comments that I had previously given (I feel that I haven’t been listened to),
  • Weird design stuff (I start to worry I’ll need to step in and rally things), and
  • The list goes on.

Your Reactions: You’re not happy, because you had only needed a specific range of input from me… and now you’re hearing about the things you already knew weren’t done. Depending on how well I deal with things, perhaps you’re also worried that I seem grumpy. It’s a cascading list of potential sub-optimal outcomes.

Alternate Universe: You realize that communication is best when it is specific, and focused on the end product that you need. You also know that Peter’s eyes wander and he looks at other things. You print out ONLY the thing you want reviewed, or you circle it and write “look only at this”, or you have notes in the set that relate to incomplete redlines… so that when I reference other drawings, I see that it’s ongoing and you have noted my previous concerns.

Result: You have managed me to respond appropriately to what you want/need. You allow me to operate at my highest level for allowing you to be at your highest level.

This is Life!

We all want to operate at our best. We are weak and we are prone to our own shortfalls. When we are at our best, we try to overcome these… but when we are tired/grumpy/hangry/etc… we may not be the people we want to be. If people approach us with an optimized “Peter-centric” approach, then we’re starting off on the right foot and we can control the unintended consequences.

Another example:

Perhaps permitting is getting you down? Permitting is staffed by people.

  • Make it as easy as possible for them to do their job.
    • This is just life: CLARITY in what you give them. Clear documents that consolidate the things they’re looking for.
  • Think about what they are concerned about, and try to correct it in advance.
    • This is just life: AVOID doing the things that you know annoy people!
  • Include things in the project that appeal to their approach to their job.
    • This is just life: GIVE them something that they can recognize as theirs and find a sense of ownership.
  • Realize that their job isn’t to make your life miserable. It’s to do their job.
    • This is just life: UNDERSTAND their job and how you can assist them in doing it better.

Wouldn’t it be an amazing place to live if each of us operated at our highest level of expertise, and those around us helped us to do that? Sigh… dreamy…

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