On a scale of 0-10, 0 being “not at all” and 10 being “ridiculously easy”, how easily do you think you could be manipulated into buying something you didn’t actually need?
Take a moment to think about it, and see what number you come up with.
It’s an interesting question, isn’t it?
Recently I asked the same question across multiple social media platforms to see what people thought.
Overwhelmingly the result was that people scored themselves mostly in the 0-2 range, commenting adamantly that if they didn’t need something then nobody could make them buy it. They also tended to very strongly express the view that hard-sell would never work on them, and that any attempts to sell them something they didn’t need would be met with immediate refusal.
Unfortunately, the evidence from the Real World is that most people massively over-estimate their ability to resist!
Whilst they generally scored themselves in the 0-2 range, the majority of the public are actually far higher. Sadly, most would be in the 8-10 range.
So why the disparity between how we perceive ourselves and reality?
Need versus Want
The reality is that we don’t actually buy things because we need them, we buy because we want them.
Of course, we may attempt to justify our decision by looking for proof that we need it. However in the end, the decision to buy is born out of want.
We buy because we want The Thing, or more accurately we want the feeling that we think The Thing will get us.
Emotion drives our buying decisions, not logic. Want, not need. Desire, not requirement.
So, when we think about whether someone could persuade or manipulate us into buying something we didn’t need, we think about it logically and we conclude we would not buy something if we didn’t need it.
Completely forgetting that when we are in the midst of buying, we are being driven by want (emotion) rather than need (logic).
During my survey, a small number of people did mention that they could not be manipulated to buy something they didn’t need, but if it was something they wanted then they might be much easier prey. Which is an important distinction, and one to which we will return on a moment.
Manipulation is a very emotive word. It has a lot of baggage, and carries a lot of connotations.
For many, there is a belief that manipulation only affects the weak-willed. That the stronger-willed, and the more intelligent, can’t be manipulated because they are too strong and too clever to fall for it. And very few people would consider themselves to be weak enough of stupid enough to be manipulated, so they believe it can’t happen to them.
Which in turn creates a false sense of security, which causes us to lower our guard. After all, why be on the lookout for something which isn’t going to affect us?
Why Is This A Problem?
We believe that they can’t manipulate us, because that only happens to weak-willed individuals.
We believe that we only buy what we know we need. So we believe that nobody can persuade us to buy something we don’t need.
The problem is that all of us can, and often are, manipulated!
You see, the unscrupulous know we are not going to buy something we don’t think we need, so they don’t try to sell us what we don’t need.
Instead, they are very skilled at gradually building within us a desire, which becomes a want, for what they just happen to be selling.
Once they have built up that want, they help us to feel good about buying. They give us a way to rationalise a need for it. Now we are buying something to fulfil a want and a need. How can we fight such a powerful combination? How could we ever doubt that we must buy it?! After all, we want it and we need it.
So many of us fall for it because the unscrupulous are very skilled at this form of manipulation, they use multiple layers of it, they identify their targets carefully. And we fall for it because we are not even looking to guard ourselves against it because we don’t believe it can happen.
Until it’s too late and days later we are thinking “Why did I ever buy that?”
So what would happen if we were more aware of the possibility that we could be manipulated? What would happen if we were much better informed about the various tricks, tools, and techniques the unscrupulous use?
That’s the premise behind AntiManipulation, the book I’m currently writing. A book which in some ways I’ve been creating for over a decade.
Award-winning coach, international speaker, multi-time best-selling author, hypnotist, occasional magician, and writer of this post, Keith spent his first 40 years suffering from several phobias including being terrified of speaking with strangers. After one incident too many, he started studying and training in NLP & hypnosis to conquer his own issues, found he was rather good at it, and changed careers (aided by redundancy at just the right moment after 20 years in IT). He helps people transform their deepest fears into their greatest strengths, and having helped over 5,000 people across 5 continents, he is the UK’s #1 Fear Strategist.