Empathy and manipulation are generally viewed as opposite traits or if considered the same, a good application and a bad application.
I think of empathy and manipulation as two closely related skills – empathy being able to understand another person’s emotions and interests with manipulation being the skill to influence or direct the person who’s emotions and interests you have empathy for.
You can have empathy without being able to manipulate, but you cannot manipulate without empathy. Or at least, you can’t successfully do so.
Neither one is good or bad in and of itself, as they both depend on an accurate ability to understand another person and both have an influence on said person’s response and actions.
It is good empathy and manipulation if you use your skill to steer the person towards an improved state and It’s bad empathy and bad manipulation if you use your skill to veer the person towards a state or action that is more in the interest of yourself or others than themselves.
Also, bad manipulation is when said manipulation is done poorly and is noticed by the subject person.
The best manipulation is to position the person to think the action or state was their own idea and the result also being in their genuine interest. Which means that you must ascertain what the person expects their interests to be and direct them towards that.
As tempting as it is to think that we know better for other people, we don’t. We don’t know their experience and worldview, their capacity and resiliency or desires.
So a good manipulator is capable of managing themselves and not imposing their will onto others and considers that we can often just barely manage our own lives without taking on the responsibility for other people’s lives.
Often the best manipulation is to just assist the person to a place where they can see possibility and begin to act in their own interest – a push start if you will.