Persuasion, Manipulation, and Ethics

There is a thin line that goes between persuasion, manipulation, and being downright unethical. There is a huge difference between what is persuasive and what is manipulative or unethical. However, there is a certain degree wherein these ideas come into a junction. Perhaps, the shared meaning between these words is influenced and is dependent on the objective and the intention of the speaker.
To be clear on the similarities and or differences of these words, the definition of each must be placed into position. Persuasion is an act of influencing or pleading others to understand and recognize certain ideologies, beliefs, viewpoints, etc. Manipulation, on the other hand, is a form of social control wherein others are dealt with forcefully, capably, or cleverly, to bring about an end that is beneficial to the manipulator. (Merriam-Webster, 2008) Judging by the definition of the word ‘manipulation’ makes it unethical.
If persuasion were a form of influence, then it would be accurate to establish the idea that in persuading an audience, there is a sense of sending out information and enlightening the audience to sway and encourage them to believe in or adhere to an idea. Manipulation on the other hand is a more dynamic    way of bringing about action and change to the audience. (Sager, 2008) If it is a cleverly way to win over an audience and controlling them to accomplish an objective, it would also be precise to establish the idea that in manipulation, there might be a tendency to go beyond what is ethical, such as covering-up the truth, to make people believe in or adhere to an idea. (Maxfield, 2007)

Somehow, persuasion and manipulation are one in the same in the sense that both ideas are common in their objectives and purpose, and that is to cause change behaviorally or ideologically speaking to their audience. The difference between the two lies in their means of carrying out this objective. Persuasion is only a part of the bigger picture and that is manipulation. However, persuading an audience does not make it manipulation or an unethical act.
Maxfield, D. (2007). Influence vs. Persuasion and Manipulation. Retrieved: February 28, 2008, from InfluencerBook. Website:
Merriam-Webster. (2008). Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved: February 28, 2008, from
Merriam-Webster Incorporated. Website:
Sager, Lynn Marie. (2008). Persuasion Versus Manipulation – What’s the Difference?.
Retrieved: February 28, 2008, from EzineArticles. Website:—Whats-the-Difference?&id=980122

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