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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 October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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