Manipulates a strong word, isn’t it?

I’d imagine for many, it’s a damned uncomfortable one. We hate to be manipulated, don’t we? We feel powerless, duped: controlled by outside forces.

If that’s the case for you – you might not like what’s coming next.

From my own lived experience, I believe we are almost constantly manipulated, both consciously and subconsciously.

Before you think, “yikes, Miles, I signed up for LinkedIn advice! What’s this?!” don’t worry. It all relates to LinkedIn, and your success, in the end.


When we strip it back to its roots, manipulate actually comes from the Latin manipulare which literally means to pick something up and move it around.

Yes, manipulation has a lot of negative connotations, but looking at it through this lens helps us to filter leveraging it to our advantage. Manipulation doesn’t have to be a one-way, incontrovertible force, if you’re aware of it.

The truth is that manipulation is all around us. It’s everywhere. It comes in many forms and guises, and if we don’t become conscious of how we are being manipulated, we’re more likely to fall prey to its aims and designs.

Over the years (and especially heading into this new year in 2023) I’ve made myself much more consciously aware of being manipulated.

This isn’t always a fun process, especially as it forces you to think about how you might be participating, usually unintentionally, in whatever it is!

The good news is that the next step is figuring out what action you can take to break that manipulation’s hold on you.

When I first got into this some years ago (thanks, Rob Begg!) I’d literally place post it notes around my home saying “you are the master of your fate, captain of your soul”.

Maybe it sounds silly, but I wanted to be reminded all the time that it’s up to me to decide what I take on board and what I need to shut down or deflect.

I learned a key truth very quickly. If I want to change, then it’s on me to make it happen. I can’t (and won’t) be a victim of fate – and neither should you.

 Choosing to Change

So where was this subtle manipulation coming from? I found a few key sources that were exerting their influence over me.

Online Media

We have so many digital information outlets that feed us a steady stream of chatter every day. Perhaps it’s a little conspiracy theorist, but these news outlets and platforms do have agendas, and unless you’re very careful about critically reading what you’re shown, it’s easy to absorb someone else’s ideas as your opinions without checking if you actually believe them.

Ring, Ring, Ring

Here’s a fun exercise – next time you’re out in a café or watching the world go by, count how many phones are on the table or in people’s hands. We are addicted to what my colleague Eloise Leeson calls “nightmare rectangles”.

I found myself acting like Pavlov’s dog – it would beep, and I would run to pick it up. A year ago in December 2021, I put it on silent, and left it there. Now, I check it when I want to check it, and I feel free.


Is Your TV Always On?

We often get into the habit of watching TV because we like the company or the chatter in the background, but when we pause to think about it, that approach makes us extremely passive observers.

Without sounding too holy, try turning off your TV every so often, or get choosy about what you watch. I very rarely watch normal TV now, and opt for Netflix or Prime so I can choose what I’m genuinely interested in.


Fitbits, Oura Rings, and Apple Watches, Oh My!

Now, as some of you will know, Miles likes running.

On a Saturday, I love to do a longish run. However, I found my running watch beginning to take over. I’d pass some markers, I’d look at my watch, and think “Gosh, I am slow today.”

But actually, the reason I run has nothing to do with time, so the running watch gets left at home now.


So what does this have to all do with LinkedIn?

I did promise you I’d get to the point: LinkedIn will manipulate you if you are not careful.

There are four key areas where you might find yourself being manipulated – I’m sure there are many more, but let’s start small today and build ourselves up from there.

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Only One Way to LinkedIn?

Most people I work with and support on LinkedIn arrive with a strange sense of needing to conform to the ‘right’ way of using the platform.

This could not be further from the truth! There is no one ‘right’ way of using LinkedIn.

How you use it depends on your personal objectives, on what you would like to achieve and then, how you want to leverage the tools, functions and activities that will help you achieve your goals.

It’s a bit like driving a car at rush hour…

There are some great, courteous, patient drivers and then there are the mad ones (don’t roll your eyes at me, you know I’m right).

You don’t need to drive like an idiot! We’re all using the same road, so stick to your (hopefully!) courteous driving style, and you’ll arrive at your destination sooner or later. Ignore the traffic. It will manipulate you into being a bad driver, or worse – into not driving at all.

The same is true of LinkedIn.


Competitors < Audience

Many are focused on their competitors, rather than their audience. What’s happening here? Those competitors are manipulating them.

Firstly, who’s to say your competitors are even going in the right direction? I hear way too many individuals and companies talk about their competitors, instead of their audience.

Focusing on my audience and ignoring any so-called competitors is a mindset I’ve had for years. I focus on serving my audience. My competitors don’t have access to my client insights, so why would I involve them?

If you compete with your competitors, you will limit your potential and work within their limitations. You will get less from ‘less’, and it will be a counterproductive distraction.



It’s (Not) A Numbers Game

Find yourself compulsively checking those profile views and post engagements? I know how you feel.

When I first became a member of LinkedIn in 2004, I craved having a big network. It was like a badge of honour.

The homepage back then would show you your network and your 2nd degrees on the right in super big writing. It was a huge incentive to build your network, all to get that badge.

I have nearly 13,000 followers and connections now, but many folks have a lot more. Sometimes I wish I had half the amount, and was more selective about the audience and the industry sectors I choose to serve.

You can’t be all over LinkedIn. It just isn’t possible. You need to know your audience well, and where to find them, so you can show up in their world as a positive force for good.

Many focus on the number of comments, likes, and shares, but don’t unpack the data. This is where the term ‘vanity metrics’ rings true.

You might have big numbers, but if it’s the wrong audience interacting with your content, that’s a pretty pointless exercise.

The Subtle Saboteur of Low Self-Esteem

“Er, how is that manipulation, Miles?”

People genuinely really want to have a much better profile and start to get LinkedIn working for them.

But they don’t do anything about making it happen!

You choose to live with a limiting self-belief. You believe the lies in your mind that it’s too difficult, too time consuming, you’re not confident enough, or you enter a dark, extra-scary manipulative mode called “I can’t be bothered…”

This is, effectively, self-manipulation through low self-esteem – and it’s the scariest, subtlest form of all. But I do truly believe that you are too smart to be the only thing standing in your way.

The feedback I get from the people I serve is that the profile is the hardest part of LinkedIn.

Once you get that hurdle cleared, LinkedIn becomes wonderfully straightforward.

Now, please note – I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is doable.

If you believe the lies that your profile “isn’t actually that important” or it’s “too much work” to sort it out, you are literally working against yourself.

Your profile is an important digital anchor. You are expected to have one. You need it to be on-brand, regardless of whether you are using LinkedIn or not.

A profile is like a magnet. It will always be attracting or repelling something. Make sure you choose exactly what you want to attract.

Ask Yourself Two Questions

What is manipulating you into doing things you don’t want to do?

And what the heck are you going to do about it?

It is entirely up to you. But if you’d like a hand, just get in touch. My LinkedIn messages are open, and I’d love to hear from you.



Miles Duncan – founder b2b success systems. Transformative LinkedIn and CRM training for Professional Services

I set up my profile on LinkedIn in 2004 and fell in love with the platform. Since 2008 I have been helping organisations implement the rich resources of LinkedIn.

My next free learning event is Thursday 23rd February, it’s a lunch & learn session 12pm to 12.45pm, 10 steps to building the perfect profile.

You can register here:

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