Elite AgentOPINION

Michelle Bowden: It’s a fine line between persuasion and manipulation

Negotiation is a core facet of real estate and there are many ways to get clients to see things your way. Influencing skills expert Michelle Bowden explains the difference between persuasion and manipulation, and why a win-at-all-costs mentality may not see you winning for long.

I’m often asked about the difference between persuasion and manipulation.

It’s an important question and one I’ve been refining my thinking on for decades.

While some will say it’s just semantics, I believe it’s important to understand the difference and be clear about our intentions when attempting to convince our fellow humans.

None of us wants to lie in bed at night feeling guilty or sorry about how we treated people that day.

When we engage in persuasive versus manipulative communication, and we achieve what we wanted, while the other person also reaches their goals, it’s a gratifying experience for everyone.


Manipulate – to influence or manage shrewdly or deviously.

Cajole – to persuade someone to do something by sustained coaxing or flattery.

Hustle – to pressure or urge someone into action.

Entice – to attract by arousing hope or desire; lure.

Snare – to catch or trap in or as if in a snare; capture by trickery.

I don’t know about you, but none of those words are particularly attractive to me.

You might achieve what you want, but at what cost?

Compare that to the definitions of ‘convince’ and ‘persuade’:

Convince – to bring by the use of argument or evidence to firm belief or a course of action.

Persuade – to induce to undertake a course of action or embrace a point of view by means of argument, reasoning, or entreaty and where there is a measure of freedom in the decision-making process of the stakeholder.


When deciding whether we are being persuasive or manipulative, it’s important to think about our focus or intent.

If you are solely focused on achieving your own needs without any reference or care for your stakeholder’s needs, then your approach to influence may be manipulative.

This is because you are so convinced that you must change their mind, you’ll often employ any means, including deceit or trickery, to get what you want.

Whereas, if you are completely focused on the needs and wants of your stakeholder, with no care or concern for your own benefits, and if you appreciate the need for your stakeholder to feel they had a measure of freedom in making the decision, then it’s less likely that you will trick or deceive them.

In the end, who cares if you’re manipulative or not?

Your prospect or stakeholder cares.

And that’s why it’s an important question.

If your prospect or stakeholder feels they were lured, tricked, or pressured into buying your product or service, or approving your big idea, they will likely experience buyer’s remorse and you’ll have an unhappy customer on your hands.

This could see them spreading the word that you are not to be trusted.

The point here is that you can check yourself.

Put yourself in your stakeholder’s shoes before your persuasive moment.

Ask yourself some questions so that you approach the scenario most effectively.

Questions to ask to be sure you’re in your stakeholder’s shoes:

1. What is this person thinking, feeling and doing before the conversation?

2. What’s important to them?

3. What are they hoping to achieve from this discussion?

4. How do they want to feel when we are finished?

5. What’s in their best interest?

6. What’s a win/win for both of us?

If you check yourself throughout the scenario to make sure you haven’t crossed the boundary from persuasion into hustling, you’re probably on safe ground.

You need to wonder about this in your daily dealings with your stakeholders if you are to be trusted and achieve success when you’re communicating.

Happy persuading.

  • Michelle Bowden is a presentation and influencing skills expert and author. work. For more information visit michellebowden.com.au

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Michelle Bowden

Michelle Bowden is Australia's expert on presenting persuasively in business. She's a best-selling, internationally published author of How to Present: the ultimate guide to presenting your ideas and influencing people using techniques that actually work. For more information visit michellebowden.com.au