Can you spot a manipulator?

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There is a fine line between good leadership and manipulation.

Great leaders are known for empowering and building people. Manipulators are masters of stealing the talent of others for self-proclamation.

Great leaders, after the end of a victorious campaign, say something like, “We did it.” Manipulators typically get the ideas of others to say, “I did it.”

One of the biggest problems with technology in contemporary America is that youth are growing incapable of differentiating between leaders and manipulators.

Life is full of people who manipulate the crowd to achieve their selfish goals. Be aware of them! This bunch often tries to steal what you have or know for their own glory, without giving you any credit for it. Having technology skills is a good thing. Knowing the difference between good leadership and manipulation is a great thing.

Read carefully: Put your computer aside for a few hours each week in order to develop true leadership and political understanding. Learning about leadership and politics is a necessity in this highly technological world we live in today.

How do you learn about these topics, you may be asking? It starts by reading the right literature. I recommend people to start by reading two books: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell and the 16th century classic, The Prince, written by Nicollo Machiavelli. Reading is the beginning.

 Here is what I actually do. Please only share this method with your sister, OK?

In addition to unplugging once in a while from my smartphone, and reading extensively on the topic of leadership, politics and human behavior, I pay very close attention to what people  around me say and do.

Do they treat people equally or differently depending on who they are talking to?If people start treating others drastically differently based on who is around, chances are very high that this bunch isn’t trustworthy. I would even say that they are probably trying to steal something from people, maybe even you.

Pay close attention to human behavior! Are you receiving credit for the contributions you make, or are people stealing your ideas for self-gain under a facade?

 Sorry, technology won’t help you with differentiating between great leadership and simple manipulation. You need to equip yourself with knowledge in order to do that. Our children need to be equipped with skill sets that help them to differentiate between great leadership and manipulation – like understanding non-verbal communication skills and different speech patterns and emotions.

 I also like to operate under the law of opposites. If somebody tells me that he is a great leader, I immediately interpret this message to mean the opposite, because most people are actually the opposite of what they tell you in public. Look at the opposite of what you see. It is magical what you will discover.

You don’t need to look at some screen in order to differentiate between a leader and a manipulator.  Look for consistency in verbal and non-verbal behavior, instead.

The moment you see patterns of behavior that are incongruent with the person’s speech patterns, pay closer attention, take note and investigate. People these days rely way too much on what we call mediated communication in order to get to “know” other people.

Who cares what people post on Facebook? Remember: They are not in front of you making these statements.

 It is so much easier to spot a manipulator in person than online. The same can be said about a strong leader. Some people can fake behavior, but not too many.

By the way, I am not saying that people shouldn’t use technology in order to communicate. There are many cases of manipulation in computer-mediated communication, but what I am saying is that people, not technology, are better able to spot a great leader as long as they know what they should be looking for.  People need to understand that.

A lot of people are lost in the minutiae of cyberspace and are not developing the necessary skill sets they need in order to differentiate between leaders and manipulators.

It is our job to help them to understand that, plain and simple.

 ——— (Column published previously in the Cleveland Daily Banner)

(About the writer: Dr. Luis C. Almeida is an associate professor of communication at Lee University and a TEDx speaker. He is the author of the book “Becoming a Brand: The Rise of Technomoderation,” and a devoted Christian. He can be reached via his website at  luiscalmeida.info).

Can you spot a manipulator?

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