Ask Alignor

Isn’t it inherently manipulative to figure out other people’s interests and use that information for your own benefit?

In short, no. The interest-based approach to negotiation is persuasive but not inherently manipulative. While the approach can certainly be misused by manipulative people, that is a choice, not an imperative. It is useful to distinguish between two concepts: manipulation and facilitation. Manipulation is convincing others to act (or not act) for your own benefit without regard to whether it satisfies the legitimate interests of the other person. At worst, manipulation involves tricking people to do things that harm their true interests. Facilitation, on the other hand, involves persuading others to act (or not act) in a manner that satisfies their legitimate interests (even as you also satisfy your own interests). While somewhat imprecise, the concept of “win-win” comes close to describing facilitation. Facilitation is at the core of interest-based analysis. Manipulation, on the other hand, often relies on trickery, imbalances in power and information, and other unethical methods of coercion.