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Understanding Manipulation Techniques: The Power of ‘Divide and Conquer’

by | Jul 9, 2023 | Motivational


Our exploration into common manipulation techniques brings us to the strategy of ‘divide and conquer.’ Used in various contexts, from political tactics to personal relationships and even in business and legal situations, understanding this strategy can help you not be used in someone else’s game.

Understanding ‘Divide and Conquer’:

The ‘divide and conquer’ strategy involves causing division among individuals to weaken them, making them easier to manipulate or control, or possibly giving the manipulator a leg up on competition. By causing disputes or fostering misunderstanding among parties, the manipulator can assert control or get ahead and achieve their desired outcome.

Recognizing ‘Divide and Conquer’:

Identifying a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy requires keen observation and understanding. Here are some signs:

  1. Seeded Disputes: In a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy, the manipulator often initiates or instigates conflicts among other parties. They do this by exploiting existing disagreements or introducing new points of contention. For example, in a business scenario, this could involve someone repeatedly pointing out disagreements between team members or departments to create an environment of constant conflict, making it easier for them to influence decisions or assert control.
  1. Isolation: Another key aspect of the ‘divide and conquer’ technique is isolation. The manipulator tries to create distance between individuals or groups, making them easier to control or influence. This could be physical separation, such as assigning team members to different projects so they don’t communicate as much. But more often, it’s psychological isolation, achieved by fostering misunderstandings or promoting different ‘camps’ within a group. This isolation can make each person or subgroup feel unsupported and more likely to rely on the manipulator.


  1. Control Through Confusion: This sign relates to situations where an individual or entity gains from the confusion or discord they’ve created. By keeping others in a state of turmoil or conflict, the manipulator can assert control without much resistance. In a legal context, for example, one party might deliberately complicate negotiations, causing confusion and disputes among other parties. Amid this chaos, they might push for decisions or agreements that primarily benefit them.

Responding to ‘Divide and Conquer’:

Once you’ve identified this tactic, here’s how to respond:

  1. Promote Communication: Direct and open communication is an effective countermeasure to the ‘divide and conquer’ strategy. By maintaining regular, honest dialogues among all involved parties, you can clarify misunderstandings, resolve disputes, and preempt the seeds of discord. This strategy is particularly important in business scenarios or legal negotiations where clear, timely communication can prevent confusion and the ensuing manipulation.
  1. Stand United: Unity is a powerful antidote to the ‘divide and conquer’ tactic. Standing together, supporting one another, and maintaining a united front can help resist manipulation attempts. It’s important to remember that the strength of unity lies in mutual respect and understanding – it doesn’t require absolute agreement on all matters. Rather, it’s about handling disagreements constructively and maintaining solidarity in the face of external pressures.
  1. Professional Consultation: In complex situations, such as intricate legal disputes or significant business transactions, professional guidance can be invaluable. Lawyers, mediators, or business consultants can provide objective advice, facilitate effective communication, and help navigate any manipulation attempts. They can ensure all parties understand their rights and responsibilities, promoting fair dealings and preventing any single entity from exerting undue control or influence.

By implementing these strategies, you can effectively counter the ‘divide and conquer’ technique, fostering a more transparent, cooperative, and equitable environment.

Legal Context Example:

An example can be found in small business operations, where a manipulative employee might sow discord among team members to advance their own agenda or position. In this scenario, a professional mediator or human resources consultant can help identify the issue, promote open communication, and restore a cooperative team environment.

Personal Context Example:

In a personal context, a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy might occur within a family or among a group of friends. For example, imagine a situation where you and your siblings are trying to decide how to care for an aging parent. One sibling, who wants to have the most influence over the decisions, could use the ‘divide and conquer’ technique to assert control. They might start spreading misinformation or highlighting disagreements between other siblings to create discord and confusion.

Here’s how you can identify and respond to this situation using the strategies mentioned:

  1. Identify: If you notice that most disagreements and misunderstandings seem to originate from or involve this one sibling, it might be a sign of ‘divide and conquer.’ Other signs could be feeling isolated from your other siblings or noticing that this one sibling seems to benefit from the confusion or disputes.
  1. Promote Communication: To counteract this, initiate direct and open communication with all your siblings. Address any misunderstandings or disagreements openly and honestly, ensuring everyone’s views are heard and considered.
  1. Stand United: Encourage all your siblings to stick together and make decisions collectively. Despite any disagreements you might have, it’s important to maintain a united front when dealing with care decisions for your parent.
  1. Professional Consultation: If the situation becomes too complex or difficult to handle, consider seeking help from a family therapist or counselor. They can provide objective guidance, facilitate effective communication, and help navigate any manipulation attempts.


By understanding the ‘divide and conquer’ tactic and knowing how to respond, you can maintain healthy relationships and make decisions that are in everyone’s best interest.


The ‘divide and conquer’ technique is a powerful manipulation strategy that has been used for thousands of years in war and politics, but it can also significantly impact personal relationships, business environments, and legal outcomes. By recognizing and understanding this tactic, and knowing how to respond, you can foster fairness, cooperation, and transparency in all your interactions. Stay tuned for our next few blogs where we will move on from individual manipulation techniques to related topics.