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Positive Manipulation & The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Stephen Covey - The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, 1989

When it comes to the genre of self-improvement and self-help books, Stephen Covey's classic The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is unquestionably one of the most influential. Although Crainer's review of the book, as well as the self-improvement genre in general, is decidedly negative and cynical, many people have found a lot of merit in what Covey, and others like him, have to say.

Admittedly, The Seven Habits offers advice that is double-edged; instructing people on how to act as though they genuinely care about others but only to the extent that it will make them money (Crainer, 2006). At first glance this type of advice may seem distasteful, as it appears to promote dishonesty. However, this book is not about how to be virtuous, but about how to be successful, and part of being successful is knowing how to use those around you to achieve the best results.

This idea manifests in many forms, such as how to best motivate employees or how to tell someone bad news without making it seem so bad. All of these techniques are examples of subtle manipulation. But manipulation is not a negative thing if that manipulation is being used to better the situation *for everyone.* Of course any manipulation that is solely for self-gain and at the expense of those being manipulated should be avoided, if for no other reason than this type of manipulation tends to have negative consequences for the manipulator in the long run.

Another point Crainer dislikes about Covey is the fact that “Covey suppresses his own negative feelings while at the same time preaching honest communication…The aim is to achieve the desired outcomes with minimal resistance” (Crainer, 2006). Just because someone chooses not to express his/her feelings does not mean he/she is lying. If one’s goal is to find a quick and effective solution to a problem, and introducing personal feelings into the conversation will only serve to unnecessarily complicate the situation, then not communicating those feelings is helping the communication process, not distorting it. Open communication does not have to include personal feelings for it to be open. Instead it can include ideas, perspectives, argumentative points, etc. Feelings are only useful to an open line of communication if those feelings are central to the discussion.

Although Crainer’s portrayal of The Seven Habits is undoubtedly biased and unfavorable, this classic has become an icon of the self-improvement genre for a reason, and has resonated with millions of people who believe that success is realistically attainable by following some very simple, and usually obvious, social rules.


Crainer, Stuart. Active Learning. (2006).The Ultimate Business Library. Capstone Publishing Limited.

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advice, books, business, collaboration, Covey, Effective People, ethics, management, manipulation, morality, nagotiate, opinion, self-help, self-improvement, Seven Habits

This post first appeared on Business Now - A Gen Y Perspective, please read the originial post: here

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Positive Manipulation & The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People


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