Is Communication Necessarily Manipulative?
Skolny Organization

Zig Ziglar, Snake Oil, and Extolling the Manipulative Motivator versus the Sine Qua Non of Honesty

Why Manipulating Others Is NEVER a Good Thing

The GTIdeology comprises ‘7 Radical Ideas to Impact the World.’

There is an idea, a nasty, dangerous one, bandied about, that it is okay to manipulate others “for their own good.”

Consider the self-righteous, condescending arrogance packed into that idea. Others must be lied to and manipulated to do what you want or believe they should because you know better than they what that is and/or they are incapable of acting apart from your manipulation.

Of course, manipulators do not speak that frankly about their thought process and assumptions about those they manipulate. That is because they are manipulators and manipulation always, universally precludes honesty.

That includes “motivating others.”

If you fancy yourself a motivator in the classic sense, you are a manipulator. You are deceiving those you claim to motivate. Manipulation is dishonesty and, therefore, manipulators are dishonest. Even essentially honest individuals, when they choose to manipulate others, embrace duplicity.

That you claim it is for others’ own good only makes you obnoxious.

In as far as you believe that you are helping others by manipulating them, you are also lying to and deceiving yourself. The combination of dishonesty and the arrogance it takes to manipulate others “for their own good,” at best, is obnoxious.

At worst, it is outright nefarious.

“Motivation” is about Extolling the Motivator

One of “motivation”’s own clichés makes the point. That “I would run through a wall for that guy” is a common phrase to praise a leader as an outstanding motivator. But think about what you are saying: You would not run through the wall for yourself. That is “motivation”’s real and nefarious objective.

Motivation is always about extolling the motivator.

Now consider the real problem with that. What happens when you run into a wall and the “motivator” is not there with the motivation? You are not going through the wall, are you? That is because the motivator never wanted you to go through the wall.

Motivators are always about aggrandizing themselves.

You were being manipulated to say, “I’d run through a wall for that guy!” The self-help industry (which I suspect is ironically what many people who talk about the “good” kind of manipulation have in mind) is the pinnacle of that manipulation: It is manipulation for money.

Buying books, buying seminar tickets, buying audio tapes —from the self-aggrandizing “motivators” whom you extol. it is paying for motivation and when they invariably don’t work, what are your told?

That it’s your fault.

That your belief wasn’t big enough (whatever that even means) or that you didn’t work hard enough or that you did not have a positive attitude, which means you did not read enough books, attend enough seminars or buy enough products.

That you didn’t spend enough money!

Snake oil (and chauvinism) for sale! Try reading“See You at the Top” with a critical, rather than sycophantic eye.

Hell, Ziglar outright admitted the fact in his own homey and platitudinous way, along the lines of just like your body needs a bath every day, your brain needs one of his books every day. It’s a vicious cycle: The self-help products program you to believe the self-help products are necessary to “success.”

And when success does not follow, they teach you that you need more motivation. For incremental improvements you do make, it is only evidence that you need to spend even more money to get even better!


It is evidence that you are being manipulated. And in the case of snake oil shysters like Ziglar, you are being manipulated to spend more of your hard earned money on another book and extol the motivator for manipulating you.

But people do improve their lives!

“But, Vince!” you exclaim, “people improves their lives with those books.

Perhaps a few but not the vast majority. If motivation worked, the same people wouldn’t be relying on the same motivators day after day, year after year, while living the same lives they sought help for in the first place. And for the minority that it does “improve,” it does so externally, but not in any real way. Here’s why.

The individual remains dependent on the motivation.

Motivators manipulate your belief and desire while misleading you about the effort required. Hence, a manipulated individual is not motivated. She or he might be enthused but the indivdiual is not doing what she or he does as a function of self-worth, but because she or he is performing for the manipulator. It is a lesson we learn in childhood: That others’ approval depends on performing to their specification.

Nothing more.

Admittedly, if you have been sabotaged and undermined your whole life — which is typically what draws an individual to manipulative motivation — that manipulation can feel good. Of course, so can a prostitute.

That doesn’t mean it is ultimately good for you. It does not matter if the performance is for parents, pastors, professors, or professional snake oil sellers, an individual performing for others is never a healthy, functional individual.

The Sine Qua Non of Honesty

Contrary to popular notions of manipulative motivation, motivation does not depend on desire or any emotional state, only incentives. Motivation is finally an internal factor, the final impetus for actually taking or not taking an action. External motivation depends on manipulating perceptions of reality, the incentives and disincentives, the costs and benefits, of acting.

When external incentives bear costs (often others’ approval or disapproval), whether real or perceived, that are greater than the perceived benefits of our authentic desires, rational individuals will choose against what they want. This is why people choose to marry people they know they should not or choose to allow their parents to destroy marriages. It is why people choose to start abusing drugs or choose to embark on careers they do not want. It is why they choose any myriad of other irrational options and objectives in their lives.

They lack the self-worth to choose what they want.

Worse, they lack the self-worth to understand why they will not make those choices. I am not a psychologist or intending to play one on the internet. I’m sure the reasons why and tactics with which we deceive ourselves are myriad what I do know from simple observation is that we live in a society that promotes self-deception and that it precludes all other forms of honesty.

That is what manipulative motivators will never give you and do not want you to have, the self-worth to tell yourself the truth, because if you stop deceiving yourself, you will no longer be deceived by their manipulations — or in need of them.

The individual relying on motivation never understands her- or himself.

In last week’s rejoinder, I wrote about the central role of self-understanding in communication. It almost goes without saying that self-understanding demands self-honesty. It is the most important lesson I have ever learned: Self-honesty, brutal, uncompromised honesty about the brutal, unvarnished facts of reality and ourselves is the sine qua non of honesty.

Genuine, authentic action can never be taken without it. Self-honesty is the necessary beginning of Greatness through the Individual.

About Vince Skolny

Vince Skolny is currently launching the Skolny Organization, a family of for-profit companies, on his radical idea that greatness is only created through the Individual. Its essential purpose of impacting the world by creating and encouraging greatness through the Individual in business, life, and society.

Vince’s publishes his weekly rejoinder to SkolnyOrg’s #GTIdeology Happy Hour twitter discussion here on Medium every Monday.

Pronounced G-T-Ideology and comprising “7 Radical Ideas to Impact the World,” the Skolny Organization’s GTIdeology is a comprehensive ideology for business rooted in Vince’s philosophy of Greatness through the Individual.

Connecting with Vince

The very best way to connect with Vince is by hanging out with him on Twitter, you can also follow Vince on LinkedIn or join his fledgling Facebook community.

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