Character may be called the most effective means of persuasion. –Aristotle

Character Counts!  Walt Whitman reminds us that ‘We convince by our presence!’  Here is a question I hold: Can a person of ‘Character’ employ with integrity, coercion, manipulation, persuasion or influence?’

In many of his writings Greenleaf addresses coercion, manipulation and persuasion.  In one of his clearest statements Greenleaf writes: ‘The prime test of persuasion is that the change is truly voluntary.’  [Greenleaf: ‘Persuasion as Power’].  Greenleaf’s definition of ‘persuasion’ more closely represents a definition of ‘influence’.  There are many definitions of coerce, manipulate, persuade and influence.  Here are my current working definitions.  Gentle Reader, as you will note, my definition of ‘Influence’ closely resembles Greenleaf’s definition of ‘persuasion.’

Coerce = using leverage in order to get someone to do something [the ‘something’ might or might not be reasonable or logical].

Manipulate = to get someone to do something they would not freely choose to do.

Persuade = to convince someone to do something using logic and reasoning.

Influence = the capacity to use inquiry rooted in integrity, over time, in order to allow the other to emerge and to emotionally own his/her own thoughts, decisions and behaviors/actions so they will choose to be unconditionally response-able, responsible, appropriately reactive and accountable and to then say with conviction ‘This is where I freely choose to stand!’

As a reminder, here is Greenleaf’s definition of ‘Persuasion’: A person is persuaded on arrival at a feeling of rightness about a belief or action through one’s own intuitive sense. One takes an intuitive step, from the closest approximation to certainty to be reached by conscious logic (sometimes not very close), to that state in which one may say with conviction, ‘This is where I stand!’ [Greenleaf’s ‘Persuasion as Power’]

Gentle Reader, consider that coercion is neutral.  The context and motivation to coerce will help determine whether it is more virtuous or more vicious.  For example: The parent who sees their child playing in the street might well snatch the child up and sternly say: ‘If you go into the street again you will be punished!’  This is, by definition, coercion.  Here is another example: Last year a person pulled into an immediate care facility and collapsed at the wheel.  A doctor and a nurse were called to the car.  The doctor immediately ‘barked’ – yup…yelled loudly – for the nurse to do somethings.  No questions asked by the nurse.  Here is one more: the manager tells an employee to ‘just do what I tell you or you will be put on report!’  Three examples, two were more positive and one was negative (vicious).

On the other hand, Gentle Reader, consider that manipulation is always vicious.  The one being manipulated is always being deceived into behaving in a way or in ways that the person would never freely choose if the person had all of the information.

By definition, persuading and influencing are virtuous.  The one being persuaded or influenced at minimum has to ‘freely buy-in’ and at maximum will ‘freely choose to emotionally own’ the behavior/action and outcome/consequences.

Greenleaf reminds us, over and over, that at our best we are living paradoxes of virtue and vice (his terms: good and evil).  We are imperfect.  We will stumble and at times fall.  Greenleaf also notes that what is crucial for the servant, first (leader or follower) is that he/she consciously decides to coerce, manipulate, persuade (or influence).

Mindsets cannot be changed through coercion. –Pervez Musharraf

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