To me, and I suspect to many more people: the word manipulate is a loaded word — a word with negative connotations.
It conjures up the image of a devious person coercing someone into doing something that they don’t want to do.
There may be some truth in that, but is it really the full story?
It’s tempting to see the situation in terms of the absolute. But life is seldom like that.
I agree that all communication, to some degree, is an attempt at manipulation. But that’s not to say that all communication is bad.
If all attempts at manipulation were considered bad, no one would ever interact with anyone else for fear of being coerced against their own will.
If we agree that all communication is, by its very nature, an attempt to manipulate another; can there ever be such things as good and bad manipulation?
If so what is the difference?
I believe the difference is in the intent: If you are trying to manipulate someone into doing something illegal or immoral against their will then I would agree that is bad manipulation.
Likewise, if someone manipulates another person’s thinking for their own personal gain or gratification, that too could be considered questionable.
But if you are trying to manipulate, or rather, influence someone to nudge them away from unhelpful thoughts or behaviour towards a more productive way of thinking, then surely this type of manipulation is good.
The world is full of grey areas and contradictions; rarely can we see things in terms of black and white. I realise that this is a rather simplistic view, but I am tempted to think of the issue in these terms:
Manipulate = Not good
Influence = Good