Manipulation is an old form of evil. It lives on because it works. As I listened to a conversation, I realized it was manipulation. I am not sure anyone noticed. The words were silky smooth. The tone of the speaker’s voice was upbeat, even hopeful. If I did not know some of the thoughts behind the words, I would have admired the smooth way difficult things were being addressed. As it was, I found myself amazed.
How could someone so blatantly say things that he did not believe? Why would someone feel compelled to use flattery as a tool? Is there ever justification for a blatant lie?
This form of evil has existed in every generation. One lawyer’s introduction to a tyrant for a legal case that was being brought before him reflected the kind of words that I witnessed.
“We are much aware that it is because of you and you alone that we enjoy all this peace and gain daily profit from your reforms. I’m not going to tire you out with a long speech. I beg your kind indulgence in listening to me. I’ll be quite brief.” (Acts 24.4)
Even as I approach the soapbox, ready to reprimand, I realized that I have played this role far too many times. It is easy to tell people what they want to hear. Doing this opens doors. Difficult subjects become easier. Results beyond reach now appear to be within my grasp.
When you are in a discussion, avoiding your blunt opinion with the intent of moving the conversation forward is diplomatic. People know that you may have a view, however they do not always want to know what it is!
There is a line between working with people where they are and using flattery to gain an advantage. One does not always need to agree in order to find something good about another. The pivot point lies between motivating others and pushing them in a direction they do not want to go. It is more than intent, it a combination of intent, respect, and freedom.