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We All Manipulate People, What if We Didn’t?

eyeIn reading a column about prayer and prosperity in religion this week, it occurred to me that there are times when I try to manipulate people.

The column was talking about using prayer as a way to manipulate God into giving you what you want, specifically wealth. Though I could write a whole other column on the fact that that seems wrong, I won’t.

I’m still kind of ambivalent about religion but I like to explore the topic as a study and because sometimes I find answers there.

The thing is though, as the column wore on I realized I have prayed for prosperity before seeking some kind of help from a god I’m not sure exists, simply to improve my situation and not because I wanted a relationship with faith and God and the like.

Then in that vein I realized I have done other things solely to get something out of a situation that I want. This includes flirting with girls, approaching business opportunities and other things and in essence I realized that I have used tricks to manipulate people and that fact alone puts a pit in my stomach.

This line of thinking carried on, leading me to question if I was a psychopath or a narcissist and while I know I’m not, it was a valuable opportunity for me to reflect on the idea that it feels inherently dishonest to go into a situation solely seeking something in return.

It occurred to me that a good majority of people do this, maybe without even thinking.

We’ve all gone into a situation like a business meeting or a date and used little tricks to ensure the outcome we hope for, whether it’s complimenting someone or making eye contact or a strong handshake or saying the right thing, we’re all under the impression that if we do it right, we’ll get what we want.

Just look at the practice of networking in business, you go into it solely to make connections in order to improve your standing or your situation in a career. You go into it in hopes that knowing someone important will not only give you a leg up but a better job or salary. It feels sleazy and fake but everyone does it.

The question is, what does a life without trying to manipulate people look like? It seems like it’d be a happier more honest existence.

I’ve talked before about burnout when it comes to hustling and hustling is inherently the practice of manipulating people into giving you a job or a salary. I think that’s why it takes so much out of you.

Back to the picture of a life without manipulation though, it’s an existence where you submit yourself to the whim of the universe or God or your superiors, working silently with your head down accepting the things life throws at you both good and bad. It seems like a much more honest way to live and it includes the acceptance and the contentedness of life as it is, never trying to finagle yourself into a better position and being perfectly fine with the simplicity of life without the gnawing ambition.

It seems a lot simpler and lot less stressful to live life as it is and to take the good with the bad without constantly trying to get things from people.

At this point though, I realize that sometimes I even try to manipulate without conscious thought and it’s going to take some self-awareness of how I act in situations to stop the hustle and to be more content with life as it is, but I feel like I’d feel a lot better about things if I put the brakes on trying to get something out of life and it’s myriad situations.

If nothing else, it’s something to think about.

We All Manipulate People, What if We Didn’t?

Michael Hedrick

Michael Hedrick is a writer and photographer who has lived with schizophrenia since he was 20. His work has been featured in Salon, The Week, Scientific American and The New York Times. You can purchase his book 'Connections' here or Follow his blog on Living with Schizophrenia here.

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APA Reference
Hedrick, M. (2015). We All Manipulate People, What if We Didn’t?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Jun 2015
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