Without going to much into my personal psyche, here are some things I know:

  • People can be manipulated relatively easily (1)
  • I know where I can learn to do exactly that (2)
  • I choose not to for moral reasons: I'm a firm believer that I should convince people with arguments and appeal to their ability to reason logically

I often think of imaginary dialogue situations and I thought of bringing up something like "I could manipulate you to do what I want, but instead I'm having this nice conversation with you because I'm not a manipulative jerk."

While I want to convey that I'm trying to be good-willed and essentially put myself in a huge disadvantage if I ever would want to manipulate the other person later (I won't, but the other cannot know this for a fact), because the other person will likely be more wary of me, I cannot help myself but think, for some reason or another, that saying this line above would somehow make the other person think less of me. Is it generally a bad idea to tell people that I could be a manipulative jerk if I wanted to? And if so, how else could I convey my good-willingness to have a civilized discussion instead of some behind-your-back action? (3)

Own thoughts: I think it doesn't sound so good because it is basically the interpersonal equivalent of "Look, I have access to nukes and you don't, and that's cool because I won't use mine." and I can see why that is bad. Also, maybe the other person isn't aware that people can be manipulated easily and I don't want them to get any bad ideas. I feel morally insecure enough about posting this issue on the Internet already.

EDIT: Now with chat room! :D

(1) There are enough studies to support that claim, the most commonly known one is the one were people are manipulated into "giving" other people painful electro shocks.

(2) Obviously, I'm not telling how because this can be easily misused.

(3) Behind-your-back action includes, but is not limited to, long time schemes to reach the personal goal as well as some impulsive "after drinking this much, let me know exactly how this person you know is and tried to intimidate me" action

  • 2
    I think this question should remain. This is a Q&A about interpersonal skills and this is a good example of what never do to do, ever. Under any circumstance. The question just needs minor adjustments to give it more focus.
    – Clay07g
    May 14, 2018 at 5:04
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    I answered this assuming you were just asking whether or not this is a good way to achieve your goal of demonstrating good faith. What you've said in the chat room make it sound like you're more interested trying to make a case for your ideas, and also like there might be some specific situations involved that your question isn't conveying. All of that adds up to a bit of concern that this question isn't really in a good place in terms of clear context and goals.
    – Cascabel
    May 14, 2018 at 6:30
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    Whether or not something is a good/bad idea, right or wrong, is primarily opinion based and because of that discouraged in our help center. Although conveying wanting to be good-willing instead of behind-your-back might be a better question for IPS, right now I'm not sure how to make it a good question. Is there any reason these people aren't already convinced of your good-willingness? Are you getting any signs people suspect you of going behind their back? Do you want people to recognize it when you exhibit certain behaviours and call you out on it?
    – Tinkeringbell
    May 14, 2018 at 8:18
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    Ultimately, you need to make this question about an actual real life situation, not a discussion on morals and ethics. You'll find out that when you act like a jerk, in real life, you won't get a chance to explain to everyone how you are "technically not morally bad", at least not before someone knocks you out. If you can edit the question to fit that model, and ignore the ethics, you might get some re-open votes.
    – Clay07g
    May 14, 2018 at 15:29
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    It seems like you're coming from a very holier-than-thou perspective. Why is it that you feel the need to tell people you're being "nice" to them? What do you gain from this? May 14, 2018 at 21:09

2 Answers 2


It's a bad idea.

Manipulation shows poor interpersonal skills. Actually, horrible interpersonal skills.

Threats are just as bad. You can't just threaten people with manipulation and act like you're doing them a favor. In fact, that is manipulation itself.

And to be honest, your arrogance and willingness to insult peoples' intelligence are appalling. If you go into conversations with this twisted arrogance, you are not showing interpersonal skill.

Telling someone that you can manipulate them only shows you're a sociopath and basically tells them that they are stupid or that you believe you are a wizard.

No one wants to talk to a person like that.

Don't do this. Ever. And honestly, stop thinking like that if you want to improve your interpersonal communication skills.


If your goal is to show a person that you're good-willed, do so by actually demonstrating that. Whatever the situation is, try to do right by the other person, and that will over time show them that you have good intent.

Telling people that you've considered being a jerk but decided not to is at best going to show them that you have extremely poor judgment, and give them an incredibly obvious reason to question you. More likely it would come across as manipulative in and of itself, perhaps an attempt to intimidate. Everyone knows that other people could turn out to be jerks, and a big part of socializing is trying to sort out who they want to be around and who they should steer clear of. Your ideas here would send a strong signal that you're in the latter category.

(And realistically, the fact that you're even asking this suggests that you may not understand other people as well as you think, and you might have a hard time getting very far with your imaginary manipulative situations.)

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