Did the title of this blog make you want to use “Reverse Psychology” more? Or maybe for a tiny bit of time you actually thought “Who the hell are you to tell me what to do!”
Well, studies say that it, to some extent, made you resist my tirade. Because the title asking you to stop using “Reverse Psychology” was in itself a form of “Reverse Psychology!” It’s the very same sneaky little tactic that psychologists taught mankind years ago and which has been exploited in every sit-com, movie, theatre and cartoon.
We hear a lot about reverse psychology especially when the matter at hand is related to negotiations or we want somebody to do something that they are leery of doing. But what exactly is reverse psychology and do people use it often to get what they want?
In layman terms, reverse psychology refers to getting someone to do something by telling them not to do that particular thing. There is a simple theory behind this process. Telling someone that they cannot do something or have something only multiplies their desire to attain it. They would not only assert their freedom but also resist your admonition and rebel against the feeling of being told what to do.
The effects of reverse psychology were proven by many researchers. In 2011, it was found that the warning labels on violent and horror movies attracted more youngsters in the age group of 9-21 years rather than deterring them. Another data suggested that 2-yr old children told not to play with a specific toy found the toy more appealing. We ourselves are the best examples of the success of reverse psychology. Have we ever listened to our parents when they tell us not to go out after dark? Or not to eat too many pretzels? Well, we always love doing the opposite. Rules are meant to be broken is what we believed during our childhood.
According to a psychologist, reverse psychology works best on people who have a sense of resistance in their nature. Agreeable people are easy to deal with and they go along easy with what we want. It is the stubborn and resistant people who give us a hard time. Reverse psychology is the best method while dealing with such people. The more attractive the action or item being restricted is, the stronger is the psychological pull and desire to obtain the item or action. And people become more rebellious as more arbitrary threats present themselves.
So how common is reverse psychology? Is it being used by people all around you to manipulate you? Don’t be surprised but there are people and organizations that actively practice reverse psychology to get what they want from you. Hank Davis, the author of Caveman Logic, suggests that reverse psychology is not as bad as manipulating someone. It is a human instinct. Accordingly to him, we all do what we can – consciously or unconsciously – to create an environment where we reap and get the rewards. But if course it might get embarrassing if you are caught in the act as most people won’t be appreciative of your efforts. So use it cautiously only when it is subtle, like marketing.
Reverse psychology is a great way to imbibe long-lasting behaviors. Reverse psychology works well with children but parents are recommended to abide by it only as a last resort. For example, if your child refuses to take a bath then just agree and ask him to do his homework. But make sure that the alternative you provide is less attractive then what you want them to undertake or accomplish. Reverse psychology in children is fruitful when it is followed by a reward or a challenge which the child has fair chances of winning.
Has it ever happened with you that your girlfriend says she is fine but when you say alright, she just bursts into flames and starts shouting that you don’t care for her? And you just stare at her because you cannot make any head or tail of the situation? Well, a woman saying the opposite of what she really means is a problem faced by all men in relationship. So next time you are in a similar situation, let go of your initial instincts and assume the opposite of what she really said. Under the rule of reverse psychology, she would be forced to trace back and as a result you would have a blooming relationship.
Though each one of us dream to work in a team-oriented and friendly environment, but most of the time work is just about doing what our seniors want us to do without a fuss. Have your boss engaged you in some boring task? Well, understanding how reverse psychology works sometimes comes in handy at workplace. Allowing people to understand and believe that they made a particular decision because they thought it to be really beneficial rather they because they were told to, would not only empower but also build healthy teamwork in workplaces. To make people do something they would really hate to do, offer them with a task more unpleasant and tiring.
Though a very strong and useful tool, reverse psychology should never be misused. Remember that people do not like to be manipulated. No matter how rewarding reverse psychology can be in your life but indiscriminate use can damage meaningful relationships.