Why does Reverse psychology works?
Reverse psychology is based on an emotional phenomenon called “reactance” that describes what in practice is that negative emotion that the mind generates when someone tries to convince us of something.
Reactance appears as a response to a possible threat in the behavioral freedom, when rules or laws that constrain this freedom of action are imposed. Thereby the “victim” of reverse psychology is challenged and motivated to act in the detriment of their constraints.
There is a famous quote that says “Nobody likes to be sold but everyone likes to buy”. More than that it has been concluded that when using negative statements like “I should not forget to call my grandmother to tell her happy birthday”, we tend to accomplish exactly the positive statement “I forget to call my grandma …” .
When reverse psychology becomes negative?
Excessive, unjustified or thoughtless use of reverse psychology can do harm to the trust of the person to whom it is applied.
Ex: If you repeatedly say to a child “I bet you can not run better than me” you can destroy his self confidence. Instead training him or challenging him, will strengthen his self-confidence because he will be motivated to participate in the competition and win.
Some examples of reverse psychology:
In the famous series The Simpsons, Homer is in a discussion with his own brain immediately after reading a book of paternal psychology:
Homer’s brain: – Don’t you understand? You should use reverse psychology!
Homer: – Ooohh! Sounds too complicated …
Homer’s brain: – Ok! Don’t use reverse psychology!
Homer: – Okay! I will use it!
You have a roommate that never cleans the toilet. So far you have used peaceful statements like “you should also clean the toilet. I am tired of cleaning all by myself. ” Obviously they did not work.
What can you do? Stir up a controversy by saying “Ok! Don’t clean the toilet! I want everyone to see how much you like the dirt and how rude you can be. “
Saying that you will probably provoke your colleague and start a heated exchange of remarks. Finally to complete the argument you say “Ok! I give up! You won! Are you happy?”. So your partner will feel guilty for having “won” because he really doesn’t have anything against you personally but the way you say things. Thus, it becomes more sensitive to emotional and reverse psychology. If he still doesn’t want to clean the toilet you can say something like “I’m going to throw the cleaning products, because we no longer need them anyway.” By this you push him even harder to get to work.
If he agrees by saying “Ok. I’ll do it!”and doesn’ t act, but promises to do it just to get rid of your mouth, you can provoke him again:” I don’t think you will. You never finish what you start. “
By now the chances for him to get to work have increased, just be careful not to exaggerate. If he is conceited he could become indifferent and never clean up again.
You have a friend that likes a girl but he is to shy to ask her out. What you can do is to challenge him by saying “Do you like boys? Why don’t you ask her out?”. By know your friend will do everything possible to prove vice versa/other way around and invite the girl out.
“I’m not saying you should do that.” The person to whom it is addressed must now take into account what has been said since he wasn’t asked to do it explicitly.
Let’s suppose you have a roommate that doesn’t like to wash the dishes. You both use the same dishes but only you wash them. It would be logical and honest for you to say:
“Hey, can you wash the dishes today? It is your turn. I have washed them yesterday. “
If he’s a lazy person obviously it will not do it, so you must challenge him causing discomfort. You can say something like:
“Hey, I’m tired of washing the dishes by myself, so I thought of buying disposable tableware. It’s okay with you? If that’s ok, you should give me money and I’ll buy a few for you. What do you say?”
The discomfort is that he will have to pay you now, so he will prefer to get up and wash the dishes.
Let’s suppose you are a salesman in an IT store that wants to sell enough to get the highest commission.
Client: Could you give me some information about this HDD 250GB? I want to be sure it will work for me.
You: What kind of computer do you have and how do you want to use this HDD?
Customer: I have a Windows computer, it has 2 years and I need to store the photos. I have about 30 GB of photos.
You: 250GB is certainly more than enough to store photos, as long as you don’t add more files or programs will be sufficient for your needs.
As you realize, the last sentence already installed the seed of uncertainty in the customer’s mind persuading him to consider a bigger HDD just to remove the feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.
What should you remember regarding reverse psychology.
- Reverse psychology will help you make someone do something, suggesting them to do the opposite.
- The more emotional the person is, the better.
- When you say “Don’t do that”,you’re not only forbidding “that” but also suggesting “that” being done.
- If the person finally accepts to do something, but you’re not sure it will, you could show doubts and so will motivate him/her to do the job quicker and proving that you are wrong.