Starting with WHY can come across as manipulative

Dan Gregory @DanGregoryCo

Ok, so we all know that understanding our sense of purpose, our WHY, can add meaning to our work and also help make that work intrinsically motivating. However, starting with WHY in your communication can also come across as a little calculating and manipulative.

Let’s start with why that might be the case.

Part of the problem is that it frames our initial communication in a persuasive mode rather than one of simple request. 

In other words, by the time the request is actually made, it can almost feel like we have ambushed them. After all, given all the evidence and reasoning we’ve hit them with, how could they say no to our inescapeable conclusion and pitch?!

This means, someone might reasonably respond by saying, “Just tell me what your want and stop trying to persuade me.” Persuasion, in and of itself, can often come across as manipulative. You may even be able to think of ocassions where this happens in your personal life as well as in business.

So, how might we avoid this while still anchoring our communication in our purpose and sense of WHY?

Firstly, all influence ultimately begins with empathy. This means, to be influential and persuasive, we need to increase our understanding of their motivations and their WHY.

Until you are able to align your WHY with theirs, your communication will almost always come across as self-serving.

Secondly, demonstrate how your highest value serve theirs. Your communication strategy should borrow more from the world of cafe conversations and less from court room arguments. Too often, in the pursuit of efficiency we sacrifice efficacy and engagement.

Instead of thinking of communication as a linear, to and fro exchange where one of you wins and the other aquiesces, think of it as two or more people moving towards a shared sense of understanding and meaning.

Finally, be clear about the value your WHY provides for others, not simply how it aligns with your beliefs and passions. And, just as critically, understand that though personally motivating, it may not be for everyone.

If we want to appear authentic in our communication whilst not coming across as manipulative or scheming, perhaps, “Why should they care?” is perhaps a better place to start than why you do.

Find out how Dan can help your team stand out as thought leaders in your industry through in-house workshops on Culture & Purpose. Contact or visit

Dan Gregory is an author, speaker, trainer and social commentator. He helps leaders, teams and other smart people to be “people smart” through developing Forever Skills including: 

#Purpose - Culture & Leadership

#Persuasion - Sales & Marketing

#Positioning - Thought Leadership & Personal Brand

#Performance - Performance & Experience Design