It is human nature to need validation and recognition. That’s great news for you because few things are as easy to exploit as people’s need for attention and approval. If you want to be successful and to accumulate more power you must learn to take advantage of this near universal weakness. Here are three reasons it is so easy to exploit people’s need for validation and recognition.
Easy to Send Them Down the Wrong Path
People who need to be praised are easily influenced. These people pleasers won’t innovate unless others tell them their ideas are good. They won’t move forward with a project until they are told they are on the right track and until their supervisors recognize them for their great work. You can easily send these people down the wrong path by praising their bad ideas and criticizing, or even better ignoring, their good ideas. Because these people want to be loved and praised they don’t trust their own instincts. Instead they react to your feedback. You use your feedback to shape them and their work.
This technique can best be understood by studying how popular girls in middle school and high school treat the other girls. They have mastered this mind game.
Easy to Cause Confusion and Delay
Another effective way to exploit this natural need for validation and recognition is to constantly give contradictory advice. Alternate between praising and panning a given idea. Your needy colleagues won’t know how to react. If you are artful, you can confuse them and cause them to delay making any progress. They will not know which direction to go. While they are stuck trying to figure out how to make you happy, you can be racing towards the finish line on your own project.
Getting someone to do nothing is often even more destructive to their prospects and their ego than getting them to do the wrong thing.
One of the most brazen ways to take advantage of those who crave recognition and validation is to listen to them. These people are often very well attuned to what others want and need. If you learn to listen to their ideas and filter out their pleas for attention, you can gain a lot of insights into everything from office politics to the wants and needs of the customers.
You can use the other two tactics to keep these needy, attention-seeking competitors from taking action on any of their good ideas and then grab those ideas for yourself. If you are skillful in your manipulation, the person you stole from may not even realize what you did. They will be too focused on gaining the recognition and validation that drives them.
The need for validation and recognition is a powerful force. If you want to succeed in the corridors of power you must learn to not only guide that force in others, but also to eliminate it in your own mind. You cannot afford the luxury of this weakness. Let others have the validation and recognition while you consolidate your power.