Friday, September 24, 2010

Manipulation Vs Entertainment

The fastest way to offend me is to accuse me of being manipulative. Because, deep down, secretly, I'm kind of afraid I am.

My dad was a social magician: I realized at his funeral that there were probably 50 people there who were convinced that if he were on truth serum and asked, "Who is your favorite person in the world?", he would utter their name. They were all wrong, of course, because clearly it would have been me. Duh.

Thankfully for all of us, Dad never used his powers to raise an evil army, but he probably got more favors and second chances than most people.

I know inherited/learned some of his superpowers. The coach in charge of the high school student parking lot let me drive off any time I wished, and I think it was because I always acted glad to see him. I was on the Dean's Advisory Council in college, which got me ridiculous access to university resources, and I think it was because I acted glad to walk across campus with him one day by chance. One of my biggest professional successes as an IT manager happened because I acted glad to see a C-level higher-up in a break room.

The hand-on-heart truth? I enjoyed the company of Coach, and the Dean, and that COO. They were all neat guys, with interesting perspectives. I wasn't faking, I was genuinely glad to see them. But. Here's the tricky thing... I also wasn't entirely unaware of the potential advantages to being nice to them.

So now I'm in a profession where I am paid to be entertaining, and that very tricky thing gnaws at me. Sure, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but I wish I could somehow become less aware that I'm  putting out honey.

For example, I was flipping through feedback the other day, trying to figure out which one I hadn't seen before (because you have 90 days to leave feedback, but when I look at it, the feedback is listed in order of the call/purchase, not by when the feedback was left, which is patently annoying), and I stumbled across the name of a fun client who I haven't from in a while. "Awwww," I thought, "I wonder how he is?" I considered shooting him an email to ask how he was, but I was acutely aware that doing so is a marketing technique as well as a personal contact. Would it raise the value of my entertainment? Or be manipulative?

And this blog, even. Is it me sharing my thoughts and perspectives about the parts of my life that are touched by doing this job? A place to spit out my stories and feelings so they clear out room in my already-overpacked brain? Or is it manipulation to uphold my brand as "real" and "honest" and "open"?

The answer, of course, is: yes, it's both. It's all of the above. Dammit. There's just no way around it.

But do me a favor, please - and possibly yourself - and help me continue my denial. Try to pretend with me that I'm just being real and honest and open. Avoid accusing me of being manipulative. Unless, you know, you are entertained by manipulating women into getting furious... Wow, that just created an infinite loop in my brain.

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