Manipulation or Preparation?

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While I was in the middle of recruiting season last year, I found preparation for certain structured interviews extremely stifling. I found them too cookie cutter and not testing for one’s inherent traits, instead for one’s ability to acquire certain new traits through rigorous preparation. I constantly felt like I was not being myself, somehow cheating the prospective employer to believe that I’m someone I am not. A lot of friends who had been successful in this process, tried to convince me that it was preparation and not manipulation. In retrospect, it seems fair because companies want to see how quickly you can adapt to the requirements at work and the only way to do this is by making everyone go through the same grind to see who can be sieved out. After a few good interviews and constructive feedback from interviewers, I started to see the value of practice in honing shortcomings and being better prepared for bouncers.

Now, if we are convinced that preparation can get us whatever we want, why is it not important in getting us people we desire? I have found it harder to convince people that preparation is not the same as manipulation when you are trying to make the best impression with someone you desire. Let’s just say that both are the same for now. I think the fundamental difference in the two scenarios of interviews and dates is that when we “manipulate” an organisation, it seems harmless since there’s no face, feelings or apparent damage that we seem to do to another individual and the organisation is just too big to care about our actions. However, when we “manipulate” people to make them like us, we feel guilty of the implications of our actions on that specific individual. This reminds me of some research I’d read ages ago about human reaction towards large scale catastrophes being a lot weaker than towards incidents involving a smaller group or one individual.

Now let me try and convince you that preparation is not the same as manipulation in the case of romantic relationships. In 2003, I watched Hitch and remember coming out feeling like one could achieve anything with solid preparation. No, I had not felt the same way after winning prizes or doing well in tests. I almost always thought the world was too random to be consistently gamed. But, till date, I continue to believe and propagate that with some listening skills and preparation, you could get anyone you desire! So, if you’ve watched the movie, you will realise that Hitch coaches his clients to pay attention to the people they desire, find out what really matters to them and make them feel special like never before. This is preparation, not manipulation because nobody is made to do things they don’t want to. On the other hand, if the clients were to get into this unprepared, they’d do and say all the things that have already been said by everyone else because they’d naively believe general flattery could get them everywhere.

Now, those of you who are suckers for spontaneity might hate this but spontaneity begins to fade after the first few times and more importantly your expectations of spontaneity leave you more disappointed than if you didn’t keep an eye out for it. I constantly joke about how the next generation might start dating from kindergarten because every generation is perplexed by the acceleration in its subsequent generation. Still, I was curious to learn how things were changing every minute and didn’t want to wait until my kids start posting snippets of their kindergarten love stories on social media. So, I signed up to be a relationship counsellor on a website to offer my time as a listener while I stay abreast with the evolution of love stories in today’s generation. The stories aren’t fundamentally different, but why don’t we ever learn from each other, previous generation, etc? True, we all learn from our own experiences but there’s lesser cost to learning it through someone else’s!

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One thought on “Manipulation or Preparation?

  1. It is a fine line… There is a story that an old man gets to heaven and gets to see both heaven and hell. First he sees hell. A big room full of starving, frustrated people. Each person has a spoon. The spoon is too long to be able to hold the handle and put the other end in your mouth. There is a big pot of food in the middle of the room… smell is wonderful, but everyone starving.
    Heaven… room is the same, people all have these long spoons, big bowl of food in the middle of the room… but the people have learnt to feed each other.
    Heaven is starting by feeding the other person first – both literally and metaphorically!

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