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3 Ways Social Manipulation Can Take You to the Top (Without Everybody Hating You)

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Social manipulation gets a bad rap. Utter the phrase in polite conversation and people think of human marionettes or some evil, mustachioed villain. It may sound negative, but it’s really a great thing.

Manipulation is defined as “the skillful handling, controlling or using of something or someone.” Social manipulation entails using personality and conversational skills to tailor social situations for one’s own personal gain.

Moreover, it is about reading situations and knowing when to act. It played a pivotal role in the growth of my company, Identity Marketing.

Here are three tips for using social manipulation to establish a company:

Related: 5 Steps to Master the Art of Negotiation

1. Use personal relationships to help business relationships.

If you can control a room, you can control your destiny. That doesn’t mean you have to control the people -- just your own actions. Sometimes, it’s subtle -- as simple as head nods. Other times, this control requires specific observations of the people around you.

You need to project a confident aura, whether it’s how you walk into a room or how you look at people. That attitude, coupled with assured body language, opens people up to your way of thinking.

A practice of relationship building happens early in your career that serves as a sort of prequel to social manipulation. This process isn’t necessarily about getting yourself noticed in a room; it’s about building your credibility. Instilling confidence in someone by exuding confidence and competence is a key facet of social manipulation.

Before I started Identity Marketing, I was emceeing events. I didn’t get these gigs through luck or connections; they came through hard work.

I built a relationship with a client at an event thanks to personal traits I embodied and the quality of my work. This approach is like a magic act. Subconsciously, a magician feeds messages that come into play later. I gave my client trust without yet knowing the payoff.

Related: 12 Mind Tricks That Will Make People Like You and Help You Get Ahead

2. Know when to ask.

Timing is everything. You can build all the connections you need but still fail because you mess up your timing.

That night at the event, a promotional staffing agency couldn’t provide the 20 staff required. I took the account manager out for a drink, and when he asked whether I thought my agency could do staffing -- which wasn’t our original business plan -- I said, “Absolutely.”

If I hadn’t offered to take the account manager for drinks that evening, the window of opportunity would’ve closed, and I’d still be emceeing events for other agencies.

Knowing when to capitalize is everything in business and social manipulation. I was understaffed and ill-prepared, but I knew there was no better time to seize that opportunity. Listen to your client, and know when there’s an opening to work something in your favor.

Sixty-two percent of customers feel like being listened to is very important in building trust. Paying attention to the needs of a client or potential client establishes credibility and keeps you in a position to benefit in the future.

3. Jump in headfirst.

I didn’t stumble over my answer when the client posed his question. Everything about my relationship with the account manager suggested I was confident and trustworthy, and if I hadn’t projected those qualities in that moment, he might’ve started to doubt me.

Once you’ve pounced, you need to produce. This stage of the process isn’t just about your abilities; it’s about your employees, too.

When I’m out with a large group of staffers and industry people, I carry myself differently than I would with current or potential clients. These are the people who keep my business running, and I rely on their trust.

You’ve worked hard to put yourself in a position to help a client and build your own business. The final portion of social manipulation is putting a top-notch staff into a relaxed atmosphere with a room full of prospective clients. Doing that helps build the kind of trust that simply saying, “I have a great team,” never could.

Social manipulation isn’t a dirty word; it’s a simple way to establish trust. That trust opens doors to your future, and when those opportunities appear, you have to pounce.

Related: How to Convincingly Fake Confidence, Happiness and Other Necessary Feelings in the Workplace