Thursday, September 3, 2009

An Empathic Perspective on Intent & Manipulation

Intent and Manipulation. Is Empathy manipulation? Can it be classified as manipulation if the intent isn't to harm and is, instead, to help heal the other person or to help them grow? Can you really say that is a form of manipulation that goes in the same category as manipulation done to harm others or for personal gain? Lets take a look, shall we?

The Definitions

To Manipulate is to influence, manage, direct, control or tamper with something to one’s own advantage. Manipulation is the devious management of some situation, especially for one’s own advantage. Another website calls Manipulation artful management.

Intent is defined as the act of turning the mind toward an object; hence, a design; a purpose; intention; meaning; drift; aim. Intention is defined as a determination to act in a certain way or to do a certain thing; purpose.

Positive Manipulation is a way of converting negative energy into positive through the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of your persona. It is actually a common occurrence that most of us know how to apply to some aspects of our lives, but choose not to use in others.

An Empath is a person who has an acute or highly developed sense of empathy. Empathy is the capability to share your feelings and understand another's emotion and feelings and is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes".

Emotional Intelligence
is the ability, capacity, or skill to identify, assess, and manage the emotions of one's self, of others, and of groups.

One definition of Interpersonal Skills says that a person who exhibits interpersonal skills considers and responds appropriately to the needs, feelings, and capabilities of different people in different situations; is tactful, compassionate and sensitive, and treats others with respect. Another says Interpersonal Skills are those essential skills involved in dealing with and relating to other people, largely on a one- to-one basis.

Intent, Manipulation, & The Empath

Did you know there are no negative connotations attached to the word Manipulation? You might be looking in the definition section of this discussion and going 'huh?', but its true. At its most basic level manipulation is neither positive or negative.

The positive and negative influences appear with the intent of the person who is manipulating. If they are seeking to teach and/or help someone, then the intention is positive. If they are seeking to harm, use and/or abuse or doing it for personal gain, then it tends to be negative.

An Empath is defined as one who is capable of sharing the emotions of others and being able to 'see through another person's eyes'. Basically this is the ability to see from another person's perspective and feel what they feel. It is the gift of understanding if utilized correctly.

Did you know that quite a few Empaths score high interpersonal intelligence when they take the What Intelligence Type Are You Quiz?

Or that most Empaths are a certain personality type, which when seen through Jung's Archetype Personality Quiz is generally categorized as the Idealist with its subcategories being the Champion, the Counselor, the Teacher, and the Healer.

While your at it, try the Communication Skills Assessment which rates your level of interpersonal skills with others. And the Emotional Intelligence Quiz which will evaluate several aspects of your emotional intelligence and will suggest ways to improve it. And how about the Empathy Quotient Test which measures how easily you pick up on other people's feelings and how strongly you are affected by other people's feelings.

Here's the catch with all of these quizzes. They all measure how well you deal with other people in some respect or another. They all measure your capacity and capability for manipulation. But in this respect its not negative manipulation, its positive.

And even if you don't score high on some or all, it doesn't mean you aren't just as fully capable of loving, caring, and helping others as someone who scores high. Its a quiz, after all, not an all knowing all seeing infallible guide to who and what you are. Its a generalized questionnaire based on a general consensus of traits and skills attributed to these things. That's it.

And its there to help you learn about yourself, and show you areas you might focus on developing further. Its not there to make you feel small, guilty, ashamed, or anything else.

But I shall digress since I seem to have strayed from the main point a bit. Emotional Intelligence, Interpersonal Skills, and yes, even Empathy, are are forms, tools and methods of manipulation.

Businesses use these skills on a daily basis, to motivate workers, engender a team spirit, raise productivity, to sell products, and for customer service. People use them in much the same respect as they go about their daily lives. Their subconscious mind assesses, based on observation and the use of the other senses, what the best method of approach is for a particular person/situation and then the conscious mind does it. This eases the path of communication between two people.

But again we come to the main point of this discussion. At its core, no matter how it is expressed.....manipulation is still manipulation. There are no negative or positive connotations to it until one adds in the intention of the manipulation.

Without these things, though, there would be no basis for communication between two people, much less businesses, communities, religions, societies, or nations. In fact none of those things would exist either.

So is it a normal and natural thing for an Empath to scan others they encounter, even online, without permission, particularly at first meeting? Is this manipulation and/or inherently wrong? Or is it a natural thing that even people who are not Empaths do on a daily basis to interact with others?

Well let me ask you this.....whats your intent? How deep do you scan when you look into others emotions? Do you reach in to their core and find their weakness when you first meet them, or do you scan the exterior for things that you might be able to help them with and then approach them with genuine respect toward their feelings? Are you feeling things they are carrying around on the surface, or thinking about in that moment which carry emotional energy off them in all directions for you, as a receptor, to pick up or are you digging around in their brains for their deepest held secrets without permission? Like I said, whats your intent?

Intent and manipulation are only negative, if you let them be, if you cling to one description you read or hear, based on your own experiences. But there is always more than one side to a story, and then there is a core to it, which is its basic truth, which goes beyond intent. What this means is, it might seem like I'm comparing Empaths to Emotional Manipulators, and in a sense I am, because each is within the same spectrum of possible intentions when using manipulation. But that's only on the surface. My main point is that we all use manipulation in one sense or another, and that its not about the manipulation, its about your intent.

An interesting article on constructive or positive manipulation is called Your Boss Is A Monkey, by Dan Heath and Chip Heath. It talks about a book called What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love & Marriage, by Amy Sutherland.

Point is, the lessons are all around you if you are willing to look, listen, and analyze it. Its in animals, plants, people, and even the Earth itself. And we utilize it for all kinds of things. But it doesn't make it bad, unless our intentions are bad. And it doesn't make you evil, unless you believe all manipulation of any kind is evil. Think about it.

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting post! I just REALIZED that my teachers are pretty manipulative in the positive way you just described. How COMPASSIONATE and SELF-LESS of them. Thanks for communicating, Michael!