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.
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.”
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
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.
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).
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.
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