Techniques of Manipulation: Is It Better to Be Loved or Feared?

August 13, 2019

There are many different ways to make someone do what you want. In other words, manipulate them. Influencing people may be simpler than it seems. A look, gesture, or a few words may be enough to put another person at our command. However, a person can manipulate by feeding another person’s fear or exchanging favors. There are many techniques of manipulation.

In general, two techniques of manipulation stand out from the others. One is centers around imposition, while the other centers around compliance. They differ quite a bit from each other, and they each have advantages and disadvantages.

Using one or the other will depend on the skills of the person who uses them, the person they want to influence, and the environment. The social situation is also going to be a determining factor.

Manipulating through imposition

Sometimes, the objective of manipulation is imposition: to show that you are above others and they must obey. In these cases three are two useful processes for manipulating others. Let’s look at them now.

Techniques of manipulation: puppet strings.


When we obey something that goes against our own wishes, we do so because not following orders would mean consequences we want to avoid. To obey is to submit to the will and authority of another person.

However, not only do we obey people, but we also obey ideas, doctrines, and ideologies. Disobeying implies that we will have to pay a price, either in the form of punishment or in the withdrawal of a reward. It’s a common parenting technique.


To submit to someone means to do everything they ask. Submission differs from obedience in that, in this case, there is total dependence. When one submits, they do not criticize orders, they accept them as natural.

Failure to comply is not an option. These two processes, evidently, work through fear. People fearful of the consequences are going to be manipulated and coerced. For this reason, manipulating through imposition is considered an invasive technique.

Submission in the classroom.

Manipulating through compliance

As Nicolas Machiavelli asked, which is better: to be loved or to be feared? While the mechanisms of imposition will make us be feared, there are other techniques of manipulation that get the same result but make the manipulator be loved. They are processes based on compliance, as described below:


Persuasion is the use of words to convey information, feelings, or reasons. By means of the word, one tries to change the attitudes, feelings, or actions of other people. To manipulate someone through persuasion, you have to know him: his beliefs, interests, and needs. Based on this knowledge, persuasion employs logic, rhetoric, emotions, body language, and many other techniques.


Seduction can be considered the art of driving a person crazy. A more correct definition, however, would be the process by which a person persuades and emotionally impacts another with the aim of making them fall in love with them or doing them favors.

One of the most well-known mechanisms of seduction is the so-called “indirect game”: hinting at a feeling of attraction without showing it directly. Interest and attraction increase and the other person is the one who takes the first step.

Seduction, a woman whispering into a man's ear.


Acquiescence refers to systematic consent, acceptance, or approval. In psychology, acquiescence refers to the person who answers affirmatively without thinking about it first. From the perspective of compliance, acquiescence would consist of an affirmative response to any demand.


Exchange consists of giving in order to receive. If we want someone to do something, a good start is to do something for them. Considering Cialdini’s persuasion techniques, reciprocity refers to the need that exists in social relations to restore balance.

Making a personal confession leads them to tell us something personal. Giving a gift increases the likelihood that they will give us something in return. Therefore, giving something without prior notice or request can persuade the person who receives the gift to do something in return.

These techniques of manipulation based on compliance are less invasive. With them, you manage to manipulate others without them realizing it. Fear is not going to be the motor that drives them to obey.

However, these techniques are more difficult to maintain over time. Both imposition and compliance can be useful and have their own advantages and disadvantages. It all depends on what the objective is.