That’s Just What They Want Us To Do
Using reverse psychology is a popular way to get people to do what you want, especially if you know they wouldn’t do it if you asked them directly. Since you are not being completely honest, it can be manipulative. If you were being totally honest, you would either ask them to do what you want to do, and if they didn’t want to, you might create some kind of tit for tat to persuade them.
But since you’re readying a post about using reverse psychology, you suspect that’s not an option. We will assume from this point forward that you have their best interests in mind, and aren’t seeking to use psychological tricks to get them to do something that will benefit you at their expense.
Fundamental Principle Of Reverse Psychology
The basic premise is you tell them to do the opposite of what you really want them to do. Since you know they will respond by doing the opposite of what you tell them, they’ll eventually do what you want. Here are some common examples.
A salesperson may be talking to a client, and he might decide that using reverse psychology is the best angle. Why would he decide this? Perhaps he asks the client to sit down but the client remains standing. Perhaps he asks the client to follow him and the client goes in the opposite direction. Since the salesperson has noticed the client always does the opposite of what the sales person recommends, he decides to use reverse psychology.
He describes the product, shows the client the price, but then recommends the client not buy the product. Since he is a salesperson, and both he and client know that the salesperson makes money by selling things, he’ll have to be very convincing. He might say something like this:
Well, this is the product, it’s got these features and benefits, and the price is X amount. But you know what? Something tells me you won’t get much benefit out of this. I don’t think this is the right product for you. You’re the kind of guy who needs something a little less expensive, maybe a few less features. Why don’t I show you a few other models?
This would work if the client is a little offended at the suggestion that they might like a less expensive model and would buy the product just to demonstrate his financial alpha-ness to the salesperson. This is not recommended, as if it doesn’t work, the customer might complain to the salesperson’s boss.
Combination With Ego Stroking
When using reverse psychology, it sometimes helps to very covertly say the reason you are suggesting the opposite (of what you really want) is that the customer or target is inferior in some way. In proving their superiority, they’ll do the opposite to show you a thing or two.
This is a common technique in TV interrogations. The police interrogator has the person they are pretty sure is the bad guy, but they don’t have a lot of evidence. The only way they can get a conviction is by coaxing a confession out of him. One common TV strategy is to pretend the interrogator doesn’t believe the bad guy is really the bad guy, because he’s not to commit the crime.
Not smart enough, not clever enough, not brave enough, etc. This is commonly done by the police interrogator saying that the suspect is only being talked to because the interrogator’s boss says so. The interrogator even goes so far as to admire the real bad guy.
Back And Forth
If the interrogator talks about the real bad guy (and pretends the guy he’s talking to isn’t the bad guy), while saying the guy he’s talking to could never pull of this kind of crime, it eventually gets to the bad guy so much he needs to brag to the interrogator that he really is the bad guy. This usually takes a few hours, and it involves going back and forth several times.
The cop will talk about how he admires the criminal, that most criminals are dumb, or not clever, etc. Then he keeps apologizing to the person he’s interrogating, saying he knows that he could never do such a thing, but he’s only talking to him because his boss wants him to.
Subtle Relationship Technique
If you have a partner that sometimes likes to “take charge” an effective way of using reverse psychology is letting them be the ones who choose what you want them to choose anyway. If you know a little bit about their ego makeup, you can (very carefully) set up some choices, give each choice a value, and then let them choose.
This is the common technique in women’s magazines for getting their men to do things that demonstrate their masculinity. Open up jars, pretend to try and fix things, only to have hubby or boyfriend step in and show the poor lady how a man does things.
Lucy and Ethel Barbecue Strategy
This is the strategy Lucy and Ethel used on I Love Lucy when they wanted Fred and Ricky to build a barbecue. They knew if they asked the men to build a barbecue, they would refuse. So they built one themselves. Only they purposely build it as horribly as they could, stacking up concrete and bricks in a clumsy haphazard way.
Once Ricky and Fred saw what they were doing, their male egos had to step in and “show them how it’s done.” This was a perfect example of a very common female strategy of leveraging reverse psychology and the male ego to get their men to do what they wanted. This works so well, that even when the men kind of realize what’s going on, they still feel good in their masculinity.
Choose What You Want
If you are going to leverage reverse psychology, you must have a clear outcome of what you want. The main problem with us humans is we rarely have a clear idea of what we want. We generally have a collection of good things and bad things, and we’ll take any of the good things and be unhappy with any of the bad things, but outside of that we are pretty vague.
The clearer you are on a desired outcome, the more you can leverage reverse psychology. However, understand that we tend to do this anyway, but it’s generally correlated to the specificity of our desires. If we have a collection of vague desires, we’ll use vague strategies of reverse psychology.
Frame The Outcome Correctly
If you want your target to take a certain action, frame it so them completing the action will verify that they have a desirable trait. The more this is connected to their ego, the more this will work. A typical example when women pretend to be weak so their husband or boyfriend will do something is to leverage the general, and positive, male ego trait of being strong and masculine.
But you can choose any positive trait they would like to believe about themselves. Their intelligence, femininity, persuasion skills, communication skills, leadership skills, or any general trait that most people would gladly accept as a label of their abilities.
Pull The Trigger
There are several ways to pull the trigger. In Lucy and Ethel’s case, they took the time to build the barbecue. Of course, this was also for a TV show, so this might be an extreme example. The amount of effort you put into the pulling of the trigger will be related to how much effort and motivation will be required on their part.
Try Yourself And Fail
You may attempt to the task yourself, and fail, so they will feel motivated to step in and “show you how it’s done.” Or you can talk to yourself, and act like you are going to try, you might not succeed, but you don’t really believe you have any other options.
Ask For Their Advice
If you carefully phrase the problem as needing the skills that they would like to believe they have, but act as if you don’t quite recognize they have those skills, this may work. For example, if you suspect that they are capable of doing something, and are sure they can complete the task if properly motivated, you might act like they are incapable. Maybe googling some for-hire services that might work while they are looking over your shoulder.
This would be an indication to them that you may believe they aren’t capable. One way to make sure is to ask them to help you find somebody to do the job.
Be Positively Grateful When They Are Successful
The most important rule when using any reverse psychology is to never let them suspect you are using reverse psychology. Nobody likes to be tricked into doing anything. So when they complete the task successfully, make sure you give them honest and genuine appreciation, and even apologize for not thinking they were up to the task.
This way, if you ever need such a task done again, you can ask them directly, reminding them how successful they were before.
Be Kind If They Fail
It is possible they may fail at the task. If so, don’t act disappointed or let down. Give them honest appreciation for trying, even apologizing for putting them in that position.
Give Them Something To Live Up To
This is one of Dale Carnegie’s principles in “How To Win Friends and Influence People.” Reverse psychology is really a modified version of this. In getting anybody to do any task, Carnegie suggests associating the successful completion of a task to a positive label most people would enjoy.
In adding reverse psychology, we are insinuating they aren’t capable of doing the task, and will be motivated to prove us wrong by showing us.
Many Ways To Skin A Cat
Depending on your relationship with your target, you will be much more successful in any and all persuasion if you know more about what’s important to your target. If you know a great deal about their self image, so long as you frame any suggestions or ideas that will enhance any positive aspects of their self image, you will have an easy time persuading them to do anything.
Mind Persuasion has plenty of books and courses all designed to help you become much more persuasive and influential in your relationships.