The truth about reverse psychology and 4 steps to mastering it

The funny thing about reverse psychology is that we implement it far more than we think we do.

Often, we’ll be wanting something to happen so badly that we do the opposite trying to bring the desired result to us.

Have you ever thought you were going to lose your job and were so upset about not wanting to lose your job that you didn’t even realize that you’d be happier without the job?

Confusing yes, but it’s true.

Sometimes, people go to great lengths to make things happen that we don’t even realize we are doing them.

Some might argue that self-fulfilling prophecies are to blame here, and in a way, yes, they are; but reverse psychology is a tricky form of self-fulfilling prophecy that leaves us dumbfounded when we get what we want.

Before we talk about the 4 steps to using reverse psychology, let’s talk about a few important truths about using reverse psychology.

Here’s what’s important to understand about reverse psychology

Reverse psychology, like all forms of communication, can only be as effective as it is utilized.

If you are too obvious, you lose the opportunity to influence someone who responds best to direct requests.

What’s more, you always want to check in with yourself to determine the reason for using reverse psychology, because let’s face it, it’s a form of manipulation.

Now, what you are trying to get might be harmless enough, but don’t play it down for what it really is: manipulation.

Whether you are trying to get your spouse to agree to see the movie you wanted to see on Friday night or you are vying for a new job position, using reverse psychology can be very effective.

If used in the wrong context or in an inappropriate way, imagine how uncomfortable it will be when the person you speak to realizes that you have been trying to manipulate them?

It’s awkward for everyone. That’s why it’s so important to understand the motivation behind what it is you are trying to achieve and decide whether or not just asking for something directly would be more effective.

Plus, let’s not forget how you might feel when you get the thing you want and recognize the manipulation that it took to get your way.

Now, we’re not harping about manipulation, but we are trying to make you see that reverse psychology has a bad reputation for a reason.

It requires a special understanding of what is to be undertaken and a maturity that can handle the consequences of getting what you want. We all think we want certain things in life and then suddenly we have them.

Did we really just do “anything it took” to get what we wanted? Have we hurt people along the way?

Have we done things we are not proud of? Many of us have and yet, we don’t acknowledge that reverse psychology might have had a hand in that bad taste in our mouths afterward.

Compliant vs. Resistant People

One of the first things you’ll notice about utilizing reverse psychology is that it does not work on everyone.

There are generally two types of people: compliant people and resistant people.

Resistant people tend to be more bias, jaded, and black and white about things, whereas compliant people tend to just follow directions without much blowback.

If you decide to use reverse psychology, you need to decide what kind of person you are dealing with.

Keep in mind that no matter how hard you try, a person still has a free will and can decide to go in any direction they choose with their decision making.

Just because someone has leaned into reverse psychology in the past doesn’t mean they will again in the future. Do not put all your eggs in this basket.

You may find that someone who was predictable and compliant in the past has learned new lessons and changed directions.

Choosing to Use Reverse Psychology

Here’s the thing about reverse psychology: we tend to use it a lot on children to get them to do what we want them to do.

Before you implement reverse psychology tactics on grown men and women, ask yourself why you are doing this?

If it is for the person’s own good, which is almost never is, then fine; but if you are doing it to further your own agenda, you might want to take a break and reconsider your approach.

You may find that being reasonable and ready to listen to someone is all that needs to happen to get someone to agree with you on something.

And it might be worth considering that if they don’t agree, there might be a good reason. Consider how making them do something they don’t really want to do may hurt them.

Surely, that is not your intent, but we often act from a self-serving place and don’t think about how decisions will impact us, or other people, in the future.

4 steps to using reverse psychology

Have you ever felt like you were being duped into doing something against your will?

Has a friend ever convinced you to do something that you already said you didn’t want to do?

Has your mother ever gotten you to clean your room even after you swore you wouldn’t do it?

That’s probably the power of reverse psychology at work!

Reverse psychology is that process that many people use to convince someone to do something in a roundabout way.

Unfortunately, not all reverse psychology is positive. Many people use this power to manipulate others into doing things for them and it can ruin friendships and relationships if it’s used incorrectly.

Here is how you can master the art of reverse psychology for good…not evil.

Step one

When you want to convince someone to take your side of the argument or agree to a certain activity, you start by planting the seed of choice.

You offer them options related to what you want them to do. Let’s say for example that you want to convince your husband to take a cruise this summer but he really wants to visit his parents out west.

While that sounds lovely, you really want to work on your tan and catch some rays on the blue ocean on that dreamliner cruise ship you’ve been eyeballing online.

You can start planting the seeds for getting your cruise this summer by talking about all the fun things that are offered on the cruise.

Suggest several things you could do while visiting your husband’s parents and then drop some ideas about the cruise.

It’s always best to talk in future tense when using reverse psychology because then it will sit for a while in the other person’s brain.

Step two

Revisit the idea several times. Ask questions about the options you presented and get a feel for how your husband feels about the trip out west.

Talk about friends who have taken cruises and look at pictures in a place where your husband can see you viewing your friends having a great time.

Talk in future tense about how you can’t wait to go on a cruise. Then drop subtle hints about how it doesn’t cost any more money than going to visit your husband’s parents in the grand scheme of things.

Or, whatever the topic or choice happens to be that you are trying to gain the upper hand in.

Step three

Start offering up the choice in real time. Ask your husband how he would rather spend time on his vacation now that you have presented all of the fun things you can do on a cruise.

You could say that you really don’t think the cruise is the best use of your money right now, and then you’ll suddenly find that your husband is coming around to the idea.

He is going to start to think that he can sit in his parents’ living room for two weeks or he could go on a cruise to a new place.

If you start saying things like, “it’s probably best we spend time with your parents” then he’ll start to rethink that prospect and reconsider an alternative option: the cruise.

Step four

If he suddenly says he wants to take the cruise, continue pushing to visit his parents.

This is solidify the fact that he really wants to take the cruise and then you don’t look like the bad guy for skipping out on his parents.

Suddenly, this whole thing feels like his idea and he is advocating for the cruise harder than you are. And you’ve won!

So the next time you want to win an argument, take a cruise, or even get your significant other to clean the house, try using reverse psychology to get what you want.

Remember to not use this power to hurt people and always do it from a place that makes it clear that you are acting in everyone’s best interest.

Sometimes it just takes others a little longer to see what you see. Keep at it and with time, you’ll get good at getting people to take your side and give you what you want.

There’s no shortage of ways to capitalize on using reverse psychology and you can really get ahead, and take others ahead with you, when you do.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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