Jay Rifenbary

Jay Rifenbary's Blog

Manipulation and Exaggeration - Partners in Deceit


The challenges of leadership can be many including dealing with change, motivating those you lead, attaining desired objectives, creating a culture of fairness, being fiscally prudent, and maintaining a workable foundation of organizational core values, to name a few. Two primary elements for achievement in any leadership endeavor are effective communication and honesty. As a lack of personal accountability continues to fester in our society, the use of manipulation and exaggeration only increases. As a result, these destructive behaviors undermine the need for accountability, honesty and diminish communication. Why? They facilitate excuses. Any of these sound familiar? “If only you were in charge I would have gotten that done.” “If they had let me do it my way.” “You should be in my corner on this one, I can help you advance.” “You are not going to believe what really happened.” “It’s all politics.” “There is no way this will work.” “She made me do it.“ “If we can only get rid of him.” “It’s always the HR Department’s fault.” “Don’t tell them, they’ll never know.”

This creates a practice of deception and therefore destroys the element of trust in any organization, family or relationship. Individuals do not communicate freely in environments where trust is questionable. Manipulation is defined as, “control or influence (a person or situation) cleverly, unfairly, or unscrupulously”, “alter (data) or present (statistics) so as to mislead.” The primary synonym for mislead is deceive, and deceive is defined as, “cause (someone) to believe something that is not true, typically in order to gain some personal advantage.” Manipulation is tangent to the truth. An individual who manipulates demonstrates a lack of personal accountability, integrity and is dishonest. It also creates a high level of misunderstanding and confusion since any manipulation thwarts an accurate flow of information. This hinders efficiency and productivity in the workplace, and harmony in any family.

In regard to leadership, manipulation creates dissension among those being led, because it distorts the truth. When an issue or situation is manipulated by a few, disagreement and conflict ensue. Some utilize manipulation to accelerate self-driven agendas. If twisting the truth can assist in enhancing their own ego, and sense of accomplishment, manipulation is the key to that end. The long-term end is self-destructive because the laws of nature have a way of coming full circle in regard to unethical behavior. If you are harmful, harm will be returned to you, one way or another.

Exaggeration is defined as, “represent (something) as being larger, greater, better or worse than it really is.” Like manipulation, exaggeration also creates a misalignment with what is actually the truth. In many instances it is used as an attempt to rationalize ones behavior, or position, on an issue. It can also be used to create unhealthy emotion by exacerbating a situation, i.e. making a mountain out of a molehill. Of course exaggeration can be humorous at times and is wonderful for effective story telling, but it is debilitating for an accurate assessment of the truth. Individuals of weak character use both manipulation and harmful exaggeration as an off ramp from having to take ownership for what they may have said or done. Also, do not confuse enthusiasm with exaggeration. One is usually honest excitement and the other is dishonest projection. I have never witnessed a situation where the use of manipulation and/or exaggeration has enhanced the success of a task, project or relationship. They are always deceptive in nature.

As Abraham Lincoln quoted, “You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” May we all make a concerted effort to never deceive and always be truthful, genuine and candid in our communication with others. As parents, it is imperative we educate our children in the destructive powers of manipulation and exaggeration. When practiced, these behaviors corrupt the truth and therefore deteriorate an individual’s self-respect, integrity and the development of a meaningful character. If at the end of each day you can say “yes” to having been truthful and accurate in communicating with others, then you will be a person of character and personal accountability. Enjoy the energy and freedom from having a clear conscience. It is truly a beautiful thing, and I am not exaggerating.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

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