One should not be too straightforward. Go and see the forest. The straight trees are cut down, the crooked ones are left standing.
Chanakya – Fourth Century, B.C.
Ulterior motives. The phrase alone conjures up images that turn our stomachs. Unscrupulous salesmen, conniving politicians, backstabbing friends and coworkers, cheating lovers, lying children, ad nauseum. It seems the world is full of devious manipulators who tell us one thing just to get another. In fact, few things infuriate us more than discovering the ulterior motives of others. We feel betrayed, cheated and violated. How could others resort to such trickery and deceit against us? This is not a rhetorical question. There is an answer. And chances are, you’re not going to like it.
People have ulterior motives because oftentimes that is the only way we can be persuaded to do anything.
Don’t believe me? You will shortly. But first, there is one more bit of bad news we need to get out of the way.
Ulterior motives aren’t just the tools of others, but of ourselves.
Or as Aristotle said, “All that we do is done with an eye to something else.”
It is appropriate to begin here since ulterior motives lie at the heart of all forbidden persuasion. Whether it’s propaganda, mind control, mental programming or any of the other forbidden areas, it is ultimately the masking of intent that makes them viable tools for change. So it is imperative that we come to terms with this fact early in our study.
Why We Can’t Be Straight with One Another
Honesty is the best policy. If you want something, just come right out and say it. Be honest and forthright. Your listener will respect your honesty and will evaluate your request on its merits, and arrive at a rational, well-thought-out answer to your proposal. If you don’t get the results you wanted, it just wasn’t meant to be. If you believe this, let me suggest a few simple experiments.
If you’re single, next time you meet someone you’d like to date, tell them everything you want out of a relationship right up front. Tell them everything you’ll expect from them if the relationship progresses. If intimacy in the near future has crossed your mind, be sure you tell them. Or let’s say you’re a salesman and you’re meeting with a prospect, lay all your cards on the table right up front. Tell them you’re hoping they buy your most expensive model and an extended warranty. And don’t forget to tell them about all the extras you’re going to hit them up for. And finally, if you’re a parent of a teenager, next time they rebel, just tell them you’d like them to stop. Give them a few good reasons and assert your authority. See how well they respond.
Would you approach influence situations like this? Not if you want to be successful.
You can’t, not because you want to be deceitful and conniving, but because, regardless of how much we like to think we live in a rational world, we don’t. While there are times we can and should try to persuade others honestly and directly, more often than not, this is impossible.
Something is amiss. We cry out for others to be honest, then deny them. We despise those who are dishonest, then bow to their hidden desires. Are we lying to each other?
Are we lying to ourselves? Are we forcing each other to choose between being honest failures or unscrupulous manipulators? Yes, yes, and yes. But only if we continue to cling to the belief that what we want is communication that is honest and forthright. In reality, we don’t. We often want something else entirely. But before we get to that, let’s take a look at some of our behavioral tendencies that often make it necessary to hide our intentions from one another.
we explored the idea of resistance in persuasion so we would highlight three behavioral tendencies that often necessitate our use of indirect communication.
Tendency #1: People resist unwelcome attempts to persuade them.
Tendency #2: People can’t resist what they can’t detect.
Tendency #3: People sometimes believe what they are told, but never doubt what they
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