First, to persuade is...
Not inherently manipulative. We have all found ourselves in the position where we were persuading someone to do something, for our benefit or theirs.
When you share your favorite recipe, you're persuading someone to try it. When you leave a review for a business, you're offering a breadcrumb that persuades the next potential customer.
All human beings practice the "art of persuasion."
The question is how.
A highly persuasive person knows what they want and what they believe in, AND they've mastered communication techniques that help them be more assertive in spreading those ideas.
The thing is, most people don't like feeling "persuaded" because they don't like to feel manipulated. (Free will and all.)
Positive persuasion is motivated by altruism – in other words, you're actually trying to help.
But, there are two faces to every coin.
When you hear persuade do you think manipulate?
ie. The car salesman stereotype.Pyramid schemes. That time you were easily convinced by the flash of a "persuasive" gimmick that you quickly regretted falling for later. Opportunities to live and learn, right?
But at some point, the scales can tip, and you're no longer being persuaded, you're being lied to. Persuasive has devolved to deceptive.
Masters of manipulation, like con men and cult leaders, are masters because they take it to the next level and coerce deep levels of trust from their followers.
Where Marketers Get It Wrong
A granular list could get pretty long, so we'll try to paint it with a broad brush.
When trust gets taken for granted. It can be hard to bounce back once it's been broken. Perfect product and all.
Where communities are treated like numbers on a screen. Anything goes just to see that number tick up.
When no one gets curious about who those people are. Patrons are reduced to pawns in a game.
Where shortsighted goals are prioritized over long-term gains. Because a long game considers more than vanity metrics require.
How To Protect Yourself
What can you do to protect yourself from being (a) manipulated or (b) manipulative?
Practice the art of persuasion.
Learn how to assert yourself.
1. Get in touch with your own beliefs well enough to easily express them to others. It may be harder than you think because our thoughts are not always what we think, and what we think is not always how we feel.
2. Look for the why that motivates action. Theirs and yours. To relate to others, first, you want to understand your values. It makes it easier to spot chances to connect, share your experience, and cut to the point with language that lands.
3. Get curious about who you're talking to. Ask questions first. Let people tell you what they want you to know, so you can learn what you need to know. One anecdote can reveal a whole worldview. Curious about your value system? It works in reverse too. What's a story you love to tell and why?
4. Trust yourself to elicit trust from others. Learn the power of discernment, starting with yourself. How you gauge worth and trustworthiness out in the wild is directly tied to how you relate to those aspects in yourself. It's also an energy people can sense – one that attracts or wards off those that would see you as prey.