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4 Ways To Psychologically Manipulate Someone

4 Ways To Psychologically Manipulate Someone

Ever thought about using psychology to your benefit your everyday interactions with others? You don’t need a psych degree, nor do you need any mind-reading abilities. In our countless interactions with friends, coworkers, and superiors, we have the ability to manipulate the situation and capitalize on these social exchanges.

When I say manipulate, I don’t necessarily mean it in a negative sense. Manipulation can be used for good — convincing someone to take a vacation or doing everything possible to get that promotion at work. Below are several ways in which a mere awareness of the psychology behind our interactions can help benefit us more than we would ever expect.

1. Use Body Language To Your Advantage

The way the brain stimulates physical movements and reactions during day-to-day interactions is almost uncontrollable. This type of movement can signal a lot to those around you. What does that mean? It means that you can use body language to understand things that words won’t tell you, or even influence someone with more than just words.

I’m sure you’ve heard that 90 per cent of communication is non-verbal (hard to believe, but it’s actually 93 per cent), meaning that so much in our interactions can be lost just because we asked for that promotion with our arms crossed while looking at the floor.

Learning to read body language is just as important as properly conveying it — it’ll tell you if someone is genuinely agreeing with you, actively engaged in what you’re saying, or even if they think you’re a complete idiot. Persistently picking up on the body language of others will help you improve your own abilities and identify opportunities as well as dead ends for every interaction.

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Doing things like mimicking postures, gestures, and movements can help get someone to like you or agree with you. Nodding your head “yes” when you really mean “no” can incriminate you — interrogators rely on body language to determine culpability on a regular basis. We’re all animals and behave as such when stripped away from our more sophisticated form of communication, the trick is to use this subconscious interaction to your benefit.

Some interesting facts about body language: 

  • Open palms create a sense of trust: Legoland workers are not allowed to point. Instead, they offer directions by using upward-facing hand gestures.
  • Shaking hands with your palm facing downward signifies dominance and, with your palm facing upwards, submissiveness.
  • When laughing in a group, the first person you make eye contact with is the one you trust the most

2. Change The Perspective

Cloak the reality of those you’re attempting to manipulate with a reality that you’ve weaved — go matrix on their minds. This one’s about tact, cunning ability, and most importantly, rhetoric.

“My car only has x mileage, never you mind the rust spots…”

“My bad grades and academic probation in sophomore year, contrasted to the better grades in my senior year, show how much I’ve improved since then.”

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And the classic: “This home is a real fixer-upper — think of the potential.”

We do this every day — turning half-empty glasses on their sides. A lot of the time, perspective can really mean a world of difference in the way that someone looks at something. This perspective itself can be influenced by your descriptions. Rhetoric is a crucial factor that underlies this notion as it encompasses so many aspects beyond just what was said and how it was said. It relies on tone, content, and appeals to reason, character, or emotion. Use rhetoric to be as persuasive as possible, exaggerate when practical, and shift focus where necessary.

Put thought into how your arguments are structured and delivered, whether they appeal to someone’s emotion or logic. Do you sound like you know what you’re talking about even when you don’t? If you can’t convince someone to stop wasting paper because of environmental reasons, can you convince them with a flawlessly logical argument as to how less paper means less work? Thinking outside the box and re-framing a perspective on any given situation can do you good in how you see things for yourself and can also build on the efficacy of any argument you put forward.

Some facts to put this into perspective:

  • Convincing yourself that you slept well the previous night tricks your mind into thinking you did (otherwise known as “placebo sleep”).
  • The Dunning Kruger Effect: smart people tend to underestimate themselves while ignorant people tend to think they’re brilliant.
  • Studies have proven that your favorite song is likely associated with an emotional event in your past.

3. Leverage Your Knowledge Of Others

Rely on people’s psychological needs and use them as a pressure point. This might be a need to conform, to be accepted or included, or the complete opposite — the need to stand out and swim against the current. The risky decision maker can be goaded into making a poor decision, the quiet crowd dweller can be discouraged from pursuing anything that would lead them astray from the comforts of conformity.

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Their weakness is your strength, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to harness that to your advantage. Are they prone to overconfidence that can cause them to stumble? Are they insecure about something that can help you make a convincing point? Everyone has their kryptonite.

The more you learn about someone’s psychological tendencies, modes of thought, and characteristics, the more of an advantage you can gain over their thoughts and your overall influence on said thoughts. The key to success here is knowledge. Like every other point, it may be more crucial to understand your own pressure points. A solid defence includes an acknowledgement of your own insecurities and vulnerabilities

Psychologist Jim Sniechowski details the how-to’s of emotional leveraging whilst also shining a positive light on the subject in his article: Emotional Leveraging: It’s Really Not Manipulation? In it, he provides three basic guidelines to achieve utmost success when using someone’s emotions against them:

  • Remain aware that their vision is the product of an emotional base and, no matter how they rationalize their position, they cling to it for some emotional reason;
  • See that if you want them move in your direction, your task is to discover the emotional value that drives their vision — their sweet spot;
  • Understand that once you know their emotional sweet spot, you can craft an approach that blends their need with yours so that you both can feel successful.

4. Be Aware Of Proper Timing and Opportunity

The jaguar is an effective and calculated hunter. Ancestral legacies of success and failure have given it the biological ability of great timing. It knows when to pounce, when to strike hardest, and when to abort its chase.

Know when to make your moves. This is something we learn from a young age (don’t tell mom what you want for your birthday when she’s in a bad mood). The trick is to actively maintain an awareness and have your eyes constantly scanning for opportunity. For instance, try asking for certain favors when someone is tired or preoccupied (they’re less likely to put in the energy to disagree or refuse you).

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Don’t force opportunities, instead welcome them and keep your eyes open. If you’ve been waiting to throw a pitch at your boss, don’t force the conversation. This may require waiting for weeks before you get a good opportunity, but once you do, don’t blow it. When we encounter someone with, say, a proposal, half the battle can already be won or lost depending on their mood in the moment.

Fact: Recently, a study of more than a thousand court decisions found that judges, who ought to be our rational-thinking exemplars, are just as susceptible to this notion as anyone. The study confirmed that prisoners are much more likely (up to 65 per cent more likely) to be paroled early in the day or shortly after a lunch break.

Endless Possibilities

The wonders of psychology are endless. It’s a field worth exploring, but is only useful by first putting in the effort to learn and implement. The above-mentioned ways to exploit psychology barely scratch the surface and require little more than mere awareness to employ.

Each of the above factors are immensely useful in and of themselves. For instance, kinesics (the study of body language) can turn you into a walking lie detector if you care to be. If you don’t care to pick up on the impulses or tendencies of others, don’t care to expose situations to your benefit, don’t become aware of the body language that you exert and that others send your way, then you’re blinding yourself to a very interesting way to maximize on your exchanges throughout life.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via flickr.com

More by this author

Michael Woronko

Michael shares about tips on self-development and happiness on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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