6 thoughts on “Question of the Day

  1. In my opinion, you can persuade using ethical, sincere arguments, but you can only manipulate by employing some form of deception. Manipulation hints not just at influence, but also control, and implies a lack of scruples.


    1. Hey Ramona,
      I suspect most people have the same view as you’ve written here. I know I certainly did.

      But not long ago somebody posed this question to me and encouraged to look up the words. In fact they seem pretty similar to me – Manipulate according to Webster’s is “to manage or influence by artful skill.” There are other definitions but for our purposes, I think this one is what we’re talking about. And Persuasion again according to Webster’s is “To induce to believe, convince.”

      I don’t know about you but in looking at the definitions I find the words very similar and would guess that each word would come up as a synonym for the other if one were to do a search.

      The other notable thing is that there is no mention in either word’s definition of intent – in other words ethical or unethical, sneaky or above board, etc.

      Now certainly in the unwritten dictionary of society we know one word is bad and one word is good (unethical vs ethical) but I think it’s interesting how society assigns meaning to words, or value, or classification that strictly speaking isn’t there.

      Anyway, I just thought it was an interesting thing for writers to consider. Words are our tools and we certainly manipulate them in order to persuade people, right?



  2. I think this comes down to an ‘Not all rectangles are squares” argument. Persuasion is simply one form of manipulation, albeit a somewhat direct one.

    I’d also say that the ethics of the act depend entirely on the context. If I get people to donate to an animal shelter by showing a cute kitten photo with a “Help!” caption, then I’ve not done much persuasion, but I have manipulated them by playing on their heart string. I’d say that’s an ethical manipulation.

    If I run a smear ad on a political opponent that’s full of half-truths, then I’m attempting to persuade voters, but I’m doing it unethically.

    That’s my $0.02, anyway.


    1. Hi Fred,
      Thanks for your comments. I agree with you completely. It’s not the words that are bad per se. And yes one can manipulate both ethically and unethically – just as one can ‘persuade’ ethically and unethically.

      And where can I see that puppy because I just love puppies 😀


  3. 1. Yes. 2. I teach Freshman Composition so I am thinking about these things a lot. I suspect manipulation (from L. manus, hand) is a strong arming, a persuasion where the person is not give a choice in the matter. They may think that they are free, but they are not. In contrast, persuasion is what we see Martin Luther King Jr. doing in his speeches, where he always treats his listeners as potential allies and lets them come to his conclusions freely.


    1. Wow teaching composition must be quite an experience – especially when dealing with young, energetic minds. Kudos to you, I really admire teachers. They work hard and often don’t get the acknowledgment they deserve.

      I don’t think necessarily that either is bad. Manipulation is moving something with skill, persuasion is convincing someone of something. I think it may even come down to the sounds of the words themselves. Manipulation sounds meaner somehow, right?

      Anyway, I love to ponder things like this – language – I find it fascinating.

      Have a good one. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.