i often see people being wary of manipulating others. a common sentiment: “i read the 48 laws of power (or a cia psyop manual, or how to win friends etc), and it blackpilled me. i see that behavior everywhere now, i see it in myself. it’s hard for me to not manipulate people or view everything as shallow status transactions or hostile ploys for love and attention”

i used to think the same way, and i still mostly do, but i’m working on changing it. this post is an intentional move in that direction.

i used to not think too much about hygiene, or smelling good, or taking care of my skin, or picking out nice clothing, or decorating my spaces, largely because they all felt, at some level, manipulative. i semi-intentionally developed bad posture when i was younger so i’d stand out less.

i was afraid of making active choices about my appearance that might make people like me more than they otherwise would. because how is that a good way to treat other people? to manipulate them into liking you?

but that’s not how people work. everything you do affects how you are seen. you cannot opt out of people’s interpretation of your behavior. just because you stop thinking about it doesn’t mean they do. and ultimately, e.g. smelling good improves the experience of the people around you; it’s not just about making them like you more, it’s about helping them (and you) have a good time.

this is true of saying people’s names too. don’t do it every sentence, sure, but don’t avoid saying people’s names because you know that it’ll make you like them more. that’s a dangerous form of self sabotage that kind people love to engage it.

saying people’s names makes them like you more, and it makes them like themselves more. it pulls them into the moment.

all this to say, pending some much needed editing:

prosocial behavior is still prosocial even if you know you’re doing it to seem prosocial. people benefit from hearing their name. their lives are better when you ask them questions. and, broadly speaking, your life is better when people like you.

NOTE: if you have the opposite problem where you can’t stop people pleasing, this advice is NOT for you! go be feral and demonic, generally don’t ask people questions if you don’t want to, don’t feel captured by obligation. it is not impossible to thread the needle here, you can dress well and smell good for yourself, even though you might be afraid of manipulating other people, and still be distant or cold in conversation when that feels more authentic than warmly asking tons of questions in an attempt to make the other person happy.

tldr: follow your heart. presenting prosocially is only bad insofar as you feel like you’re dissociating to do it. be less afraid of improving other people’s lives