So, I'm a bastard. I know it, admit it, and live it. I've been okay with it for quite sometime. Born fatherless, it seemed to be my lot in life. In the intervening years between birth and now, I've gotten pretty good at getting people to do what I want. It's really not that hard, and it has served me well on this long and winding road that we call life.
The problem with being good at something is that you get that much better at noticing when other people are doing it too - especially if they're doing it badly. Since my revolution is one of the mind and of thoughts, I figured I'd help out and offer some tips rather than just bitch about how crappy and transparent people that don't have a natural talent for this sort of thing really are. Read on if you want, but I have to warn you that I intend to be ridiculously arrogant, unrepentant, and downright mean.
Have some fucking principles. I can't stress this enough. You'll sleep better at night if there are certain lines that you just won't cross. Learn the limits of your conscience and set your lines a few notches back. You'll be glad you did when you can look yourself in the mirror in the morning and not want to retch. Me? I use my powers for good: helping people, making bad situations better, getting folks to think and grow, and generally trying to better my lot in life. I've been called a "Nice Machiavelli" and I'm rather proud of that distinction.
Learn to shut it off. If you're constantly playing politics and analyzing people, they become tools rather than real folks. Stepping stones if you will. Figure out who you don't need to be manipulative with or, better yet, start out honest with everyone and only switch gears when your hand is forced. Friends and lovers should be off limits, unless shallow and meaningless relationships are what you're looking for. This piece of advice will help because you can't fool someone forever, and if you spend enough time working your magic on someone, they'll eventually get wise and wind up resenting you.
Get a cat. I really mean this one. Few creatures in nature are as manipulative as felius catus and fewer still are as nice to have around. Get your cat young and watch how they train you from the get go. Sure, you'll get them to pee in the box, but they'll have the last laugh when you're late for work because you just have to stop and pet them.
Recognize your betters. If someone catches you or you find yourself being manipulated by someone else, accept it and learn from it. Don't keep it up if you get busted, but continue to submit on your own terms if you find yourself on the receiving end. In the first scenario, you only make it worse for yourself. In the second, you change the game and can start playing on your terms. Either way, you'll be better for it.
Honesty really is the best policy. Most of the time, you can get what you want by just asking for it. If you're forthright and honest, your reputation will carry you (and make people less likely to question you when you really do need to be manipulative). When you can, tell the truth and be transparent in your motivations. When you can't...
Lie. Lie. Lie. Go big. Tell a whopper that's three tiers deep. Then believe it yourself. Lie with sincerity so that you seem honest. Defend the lie. Make love to it. Keep it afloat until it rots and falters, then try to resurrect it. Apply bandages (read: more lies) when it oozes the puss of untruth. As soon as you fess up to a lie, you'll never be believed again, no matter what a stripper tells you. If you've resolved to tell a lie, ride it out to the bitter end. A bad lie can die, but grudges born from untruths rarely do.
Remember what I said about principles and honesty. I wrote that for a reason. You need to stick to your guns whenever possible, or you're just another lying scumbag.
Pick your fights. Win some, lose some. Engineering a few losses along the way that don't really hurt you sets the stage for bigger things later. Knowing when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em, when to walk away, and when to run will help you look for win-wins that everyone really wants. Learning to lose graciously will set the stage for bigger wins in the future.
Don't step to me. If you're reading my advice on manipulation and putting some things into practice, then you'll remember to recognize your betters. I'm thinking three steps ahead and I'll usually see you coming before you even start wanking in my direction.
Good luck. You're going to need it.