Social Leader

Why Social Manipulation Is a Great Thing

You probably prickled the moment you read the words “social manipulation.” The term may have earned a bad rap, but manipulation, by definition, is simply skillfully using information for a specific purpose. While it might sound like a nefarious practice, the idea behind social manipulation is to influence social situations to your benefit using your personality and conversational skills.

Sometimes, your social manipulation tactics need to be subtle: the way you enter a room, the way you look at the people around you, or the way your presence naturally carries a certain weight. Other times, you need to be more active by using body language to show someone you’re interested in them, or to vocalize your observations about the people and situations around you.

A good social manipulator has to understand when to use one tactic over another. Do it wrong, and you’ll come off as awkward or off-putting. Do it right, and the benefits can be enormous. If you can control a room, you can control your destiny.

The Benefits of Social Manipulation

The Optimistic Workplace

If you’ve ever heard someone describe a successful person as “larger than life,” that person was unknowingly praising someone’s social manipulation abilities.

It’s not just about being loud or funny — it’s about being noticeable. When people notice you in a positive way, they want to know more about you. For entrepreneurs and advancement-minded professionals, getting the chance to demonstrate their value can be the difference between a big opportunity and a lifetime of wondering. The best social manipulators create situations to open doors for themselves that would typically remain shut.

You don’t want to trick people into thinking you’re someone you’re not. You want to demonstrate the kind of soft skills that make people interested to know more about you and what you can do.

Think of yourself as someone other people would want to meet. Many people in today’s isolated workforce lack soft skills. If you are a good conversationalist, read people well, and aren’t fazed by quick changes, you not only present the image of a potentially valuable business partner, but you also become that image.

Once your social manipulation skills help you forge connections with new associates and clients, they can help you go beyond the introductory phase and move toward concrete results. It’s much easier to land a contract or close a deal if a prospective buyer likes you.

After hearing 10 similar-sounding proposals in a single day, most clients don’t think, “Which of those charts looked the nicest?” They ask, “Who seemed like the person I would most want to work with over the long haul?” Be that person, and at the end of a long day of meetings, those decision makers will think of you.

Become a Better Social Manipulator

Social manipulation isn’t a negative tactic. Don’t think of it as some secret weapon or trick play. Instead, work to make social manipulation feel as natural as breathing. The more you learn to influence your surroundings by controlling your own behavior, the better the situations you’ll find yourself in.

These three steps will set you on the path to being a great social manipulator:

1. Constantly Observe

Don’t just notice the color of the curtains in the room. You need to find some fuel to make yourself relatable to the people around you.

Soon after I graduated from college, I was working on a short-term project as a freelance designer with a software entrepreneur. On the last day, I made an observation about him that I’d gleaned from what his nieces and nephews thought of him – based on the stories he’d told me during our time together. He told me my observation was spot-on, and 15 minutes later, he was making a pitch to hire me for his business development department — all because he was impressed by my ability to read him.

Really listen when people talk. Learn a bit about everything so you’re never left out of a conversation. Know a little about cars, sports, books, television, fashion — anything that might help you navigate a conversation with people you want to impress. If you know you’ll be spending time with a group of people who share similar interests, learn a little about those interests before the meeting.

Learn a bit about everything so you’re never left out of a conversation.

2. Stay Up-to-Date

You don’t have to stay glued to the radio 24/7, but you should know enough about current events and politics to get by. When you know something about a recent event and can provide an interesting and relevant take on the story, you integrate yourself into the conversation in a positive way.

When you prove to people that your opinion on one subject is valid, they’ll be more likely to respect your opinions on other matters. Use that to your advantage.

3. Always Have a Plan

Nothing looks more ridiculous than someone chatting up everyone he sees at the convention center, hoping for a miracle networking connection. If you go to many conferences or events, you’ve probably seen that guy at every one of them. Don’t be that guy.

Instead, know what you want to gain from an event before you go. Do you want to meet a specific person, or perhaps speak with a representative from a certain company? Think about it like marketing: It’s much more effective to target a specific audience than it is to make a general pitch and hope people notice. Prepare beforehand so you’re not the person standing on the outside of the circle looking in; rather, be the glue holding the conversation together.

Know what you want to gain from an event before you go.

If you tell people you’re trying to be more socially manipulative, you might get some nasty looks. If you don’t say the words but employ the practice, you’ll forge more connections and make the people around you enjoy your company more than ever before. Don’t get caught up in the stigma; embrace the benefits of social manipulation to see how many doors start opening for you. 


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Anthony Russo has been a self-employed business owner for more than five years, and his seven-figure agency, Identity Marketing, is recognized among the top companies in the field of experiential promotional marketing. Russo is also a professional speaker and an emcee for large national events.

  • Daniel Matthews

    The people who do this best also score the highest on the psychopathy test. In popular culture, we call them sociopaths. Plenty of these people do just fine in society, but they also lack empathy, which they make up for by faking it, as you seem to be advocating for here. The reason people don’t want each other to be socially manipulative is because it undermines trust. I want to trust that the person I’m talking to is actually interested in what I’m saying. If they are rocking the conversation purely as a means of gaining some sort of advantage in the business world, then I wouldn’t have had that conversation with them to begin with. In an ethical business model, genuine intent comes first. View my article on that here Thanks Anthony.

  • Came for the virtual finger wagging. Stayed for the good points and clean articulation.

    I’d note that you really need to be internally grounded to pull this off without destroying yourself.

    Being a “larger than life” person is a one-way ticket to isolation and depression once you begin to buy into your own image. If you go there, you’ll need to have a very secure personal identity and a group of intimate friends who won’t turn into yes-men.

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