People Share The Most Effective Psychological ‘Mind Tricks’ They Use That Actually Work
Psychology is one of the most interesting disciplines to study. It helps us to better understand human behavior as well as the power of the mind. There are many ways to manipulate the quirks of the human brain. By understanding how it works, you can use it to your advantage. Leveraging your mind to work in your favor does not take hours of studying or a psychology degree.
In fact, just understanding a few simple loopholes about how our minds work can give you a giant leg up in many areas of life, be that personal, professional, or social. Just take it from the following internet users, who recently shared the most effective psychological mind tricks they use that actually work wonders for them.
#1 Numbers To Nullify
If you need to de-escalate a situation and get someone to communicate, start by asking questions about their personal information (I work in emergency services). If someone is totally distraught and shut down, asking for their phone number, address, or birthdate can pull them out of an emotional place and bring them back into a headspace where they can talk about what happened more easily.
#2 Here For Hiccups
If someone says they have the hiccups, ask them to prove it. Nine times out of ten, their hiccups will disappear. Having to summon a hiccup will trick your diaphragm into not hiccuping. I’ve been able to twist it around on myself with some success as well, but it takes practice. You realize you have hiccups, then try to hiccup. Actively try to make yourself do another one. It’ll stop.
#3 Process Of Elimination
I picked up this mind trick from a friend of mine. Whenever he was trying to pick out a spot to eat dinner with his girlfriend, instead of just asking “What do you want?” and getting the typical “I don’t know, anything” answer, he starts with, “What do you NOT want?” I used it a few times in some of my relationships and it’s the godsend question.
#4 Criticism Sandwich
Delivering criticism “sandwiches.” Instead of purely criticizing someone, tell them one thing they do well, then one thing that needs improvement followed up by one more thing they do well. You’ll be amazed at how much more likely the criticized will respond, and it forces the criticizer to focus on remaining constructive. Compliment-criticism-compliment.
#5 Sounds Of Silence
I wear noise-canceling headphones at work. 90% of the time, they’re not playing any music. I just want all my weird coworkers to go away. And it works. It doesn’t only apply to the office environment, either—if you’re ever on a bus or out running errands, you can always wear headphones to keep people from talking to you. There seems to be this unspoken “rule” that if someone has their headphones on, you don’t bother them.
#6 Laughing For Likes
When you are standing in a group and somebody tells a joke, people tend to look towards the person they like the most while laughing. So if ever you were wondering whom in your group of friends is closest to whom, just tell a funny joke and observe—you might be surprised to discover where your friend’s loyalties actually lie.
#7 Focus Point
Eye color. If you’re having a hard time maintaining eye contact but you’re afraid of coming off as disinterested, focus on the color of someone’s eyes as you’re talking. Take in variations, hues, flecks, etc. To the speaker, you’re paying rapt attention, but as a person who has a hard time keeping eye contact, you’re no longer looking into the eyes, but at them.
#8 Thank You For Your Patience
Always thank someone for a behavior you want from them. Instead of telling a guest or customer that you’re sorry for the wait, tell them “Thank you for your patience.” It works wonders. That’s why whenever you’re put on hold during a phone call, the automated messaging system will constantly thank you for your patience.
#9 Too Much To Do
I work front desk in a medical office. Patients hate updating their paperwork. I used to say, “Look through the pages and make any changes.” They would groan and reluctantly take the paperwork, or just complain about it. Now I say, “ALL YOU HAVE TO DO is make a few changes.” Saying it that way makes them think it’s not much to do. They will usually take the clipboard without complaint. It’s the little things.
#10 Name Dropping
When you need to find out a name for a lead, you say “Oh, is John still managing up there?” They’ll say, “No, it’s Mark now.” Works with anything, just use a fake name or object.
“Is that your Focus outside?”
“What? No mine’s the Ferrari.”
#11 Tuning In
Music. Putting headphones in and playing the music that I know I’d want to hear if I was in a certain mood in shifts me over to that mood immediately. For example, if I’m sad and I want to be happy, I’ll play a song that I usually listen to when I’m in a good mood. This method really helps when I need to calm down or when I need to feel happier.
#12 Sanction Of Smiling
Smiling. Smile at the bartender and they’ll be more likely to come to you quicker. Smile at your colleague in the morning and they’ll be more open to the request that you’ve got for them later. Smile at your kids and they’ll feel loved. Smile at your partner and they’ll wonder what they’ve done that’s made you so happy. Smile at me and I’ll smile back; we’ll both feel great for a few minutes.
Smile at everyone when you meet them, smile in a job interview, smile at the shop worker, the trash man, the postman, the random dog walker in the park, the person who nearly bumped into you on the street, the barista, your teacher, your parents. Smile at yourself in the mirror and give yourself a cheeky wink. Writing ‘smile’ is making me smile. And I feel great now so I’m going to get a sandwich.
#13 Passing It Off
I used this technique at university where I couldn’t stand the thought of having to answer questions in front of a group of people. If you find yourself in a situation where someone (a leader, tutor, manager, etc) is asking questions that must be answered and you want to avoid being picked, then here is my tip:
If the person locks eyes on you as they ask the question, break eye contact with them and look towards another person in the room. Their attention is diverted to that other person just as the question ends and the person they are now looking at feels compelled to answer. If, however, the person starts asking the question while looking at someone else, then look at that other person and hold it so you can’t get suckered. Use it sparingly because if you do it enough on the same person, they will be onto you.
#14 Imposing Ideas
I work as a creative director. I have a lot of great clients who unfortunately work with a few awful managers. These managers usually abide by the following mantra: “If it’s not my idea, it’s not a good idea.” What I’ll do is take my client’s ideas or my own and tell the managers that they were derived by Google, Tesla, Amazon or Samsung. They jump at these ideas. It works like a charm. Employ this sparingly, though. Using it as an easy escape is not a good idea. It works, but know when to use it. If you use it all the time, it won’t make you look any better. It will also allow people to be promoted who aren’t capable of doing the job. Good luck everyone!
#15 Necessity Of Need
I currently manage around 240 people between six restaurants. It’s often hard to get them to do what is needed. I have found that saying “I need your help” is sufficient to get them on board. People want to feel needed and like they are making a difference. Expressing to them that you require their assistance will make all the difference in the world.
#16 Production In Boredom
When I get bored, I usually play video games for hours or resort to wandering around the kitchen looking for food even if I’m not hungry. Now, I try to force myself to do something productive instead, whether that be washing a few dishes, playing with my cats, taking a shower, going for a walk… you get the drift. It’s helped with my depression because I feel like I accomplished something rather than just sitting around binge eating.
#17 Choice In The Matter
Give kids two choices instead of letting them pick from a variety of options. You can have more control. It could be two points of time—like now or in 10 minutes. Or, do you want the red or the blue shirt? Things like that work wonderfully. The kids feel in control, but really, they have absolutely no control. This can work on some adults too.
#18 On A Tilt
If I’m having a conversation that’s a bit difficult, I’ll repeat the last word or phrase that the other person said, with a slight tilt of my head, as if I’m rephrasing it as a question. Most of the time, they’ll expand or elaborate on what they said previously, and then move on to something else too. I can keep a whole conversation going just by doing this.
However, a lot of the time, it’ll also help the other person to open up. They’ll feel like they’ll be able to have their say. Sometimes it’s useful when you don’t give a heck and can’t be bothered with the conversation, but you also don’t want to be rude. At the same time, it’s very useful when you do want to hear from someone, and genuinely want them to share something. So, it can be used for both good and evil.
#19 Coin Toss
At this point, this tip is pretty well-known, but I’ve been using it for a few decades and it has a special spot for me because I came up with it (even though I was probably the three-billionth person to come up with it). Flip a coin if you can’t decide something, and then decide whether or not you feel happy or disappointed with the result that it gives you.
#20 Monsters In The Closet
If a child tells you they’re afraid of a monster in a closet, instead of telling them there is no monster, ask them to describe the monster and what they think the monster is doing there in the first place. Then ask them how to get the monster to leave. It will help them alleviate their fear far more effectively than instinctively trying to tell them there is no monster.
#21 Toxic Behavior
Have a toxic person you need to deal with but you don’t want to call them out directly and risk bearing the brunt of their meltdown? Tell a story about how some “annoying idiot” behaves in a certain manner and how frustrating it is. The toxic person’s ego will take over and they will tone down that behavior. Works like a charm. Also, it’s safe, because they’re narcissists and couldn’t fathom that their behavior is frustrating, so they won’t make the link and figure out what you’re doing.
#22 Nodding In Agreement
This is dumb and shouldn’t work. But I’m a bartender, and if I ask someone if they want another drink and nod my head at the same time, most people are inclined to say yes. It works the other way around too—if I ask someone if they want another drink and I shake my head at the same time, most people are inclined to say no.
#23 Picking At Projects
I work as a project manager. I put at least one noticeable grammatical error in my work (a project plan for example) before I deliver it. People always want to correct something even if there isn’t something to correct. So, I leave an error for them to find so they won’t pick on the content you worked so hard on.
#24 Thank You, Next
Say “thanks” instead of “please.” We were taught this in teacher’s college. For example, “Put your phone away, please” makes it sound like they have a choice. “Put your phone away, thanks” makes it sound like they don’t have a choice and you have already finished the conversation so they are less likely to answer back.
#25 Day’s Detail
Say, “Tell me about your day,” instead of asking, “How was your day?” I do it when I really want to chat with a person and not get the usual “It’s been okay,” and then nothing out of them after that. I saw this tip online a while back and I am amazed at how well it works. You get some info out of the person that you can maybe relate to or share similar ideas and stories with.
#26 One For Later
This will get buried but when I quit soft drinks, I left one can in my car. I called it my “last can.” I never told myself I was quitting. I was going to save my last one for when I really wanted it. I was doing three cans a day for years and now I’m four months soft-drink-free this month. I still haven’t “quit.” I’m just saving my last one.
#27 Social Engineering
If you want to immediately build a positive first impression with either a stranger or a potential work acquaintance, then start by giving them a sincere compliment. You can compliment something they wore or something they’re doing, but the rules are:
a) It should be something they obviously value: a personalized watch, taking care with their make up, maybe a skill they are doing, something they obviously put thought into.
b) It should be a sincere compliment: people can tell when you’re telling them their crazy hat looks good when you really think it’s over the top.
c) It should be specific and preferably relate to their character or values
d) You should have an open-ended follow up that invites them to talk about themselves.
Yes, it’s social engineering. It works, use this power for good.
#28 Gym In Steps
When I am too lazy to go to the gym I use this one. Basically, I try to convince my mind to do everything step by step. “You don’t need to go to the gym, but just pack your gym bag for the next time.” Then it becomes, “You don’t need to go to the gym but you still need to get dressed.” Until finally, it turns into, “You don’t need to go to the gym, but you could always just walk to it.” It sounds really stupid, but somehow it works for me.
#29 Designed Drawbacks
I use this one at work: loss aversion. People are programmed to obsess over the negatives. Let’s say you are pitching an idea and it has five benefits and two drawbacks. People will obsess over the two drawbacks no matter how much the five benefits blow it out of the water. They can’t help it. They’re not being stupid, they’re just being human.
So flip it. Write it about the five drawbacks of NOT doing it compared to the two advantages of not doing it. People will now focus on the five original benefits because they are now aware of what will be lost by not doing it. The two advantages of not doing it will hardly get a mention. It works like a charm, so long as you execute it correctly.
#30 Ignoring Insults
If someone’s angry and giving them space just isn’t an option, just completely ignore it. Don’t ignore them, interact with them normally exactly as you would if they weren’t angry. Pretend everything they say is being said calmly and cheerfully, and simply don’t acknowledge any insults or obvious attempts at getting a reaction out of you.
This works way better at calming them down than being overly apologetic or sympathetic. It’s also surprisingly easy to do since the mindset of pretending they’re not angry is a challenge—an active task to accomplish, versus the inconvenience of simply trying to stay calm just for the sake of it. In time, the tension will fizzle out.
#31 No Apologies
Avoiding using sorry whenever it isn’t necessary. If something is taking longer than anticipated, don’t keep apologizing as it puts you on the back foot. Instead, thank people for their patience. Generally, they’ll be a lot more understanding of the situation. I come from the UK where we have a huge apologizing culture and this handy trick has helped more times than I can count.
#32 Flowers For Nothing
Gifting something, even something tiny can drastically improve your position with someone, especially when there is no need to. When doing this in a relationship, I have found that giving your significant other a bouquet of flowers on a random occasion is much more appreciated than doing this when there is a gift to be expected.
#33 Playing Footsy
Point your feet to indicate interest or disinterest in someone. It’s incredibly effective. This is basically Body Language 101. What a person does with his or her feet can be highly indicative of their emotional state. The farther a body part is located relative to the brain, the less we are concerned with its behavior and thus the less we are able to control it.
#34 All Works Out
This is pretty obvious, but when I’m at the gym and someone makes eye contact with me, I give the head nod and then “fix” my headphones to make it obvious that I’m not taking them out. I’ll then turn the opposite way and play with my iPod until I find the “right” song. This never fails me. I’ve also been told that I seem very unapproachable which is great for me since I do not like human interaction.
#35 Focusing On The Positive
I distract myself. I know myself, and some recurring patterns such as negative thinking must be broken before they spiral out of control. For instance, if I’ve agreed to do something in a weak moment, such as help sell lottery tickets in a concession stand, when Sunday morning comes around, I immediately change my focus to the cup of hot chocolate I’m having afterward.
The deals have been made. I don’t have any particularly good reason to weasel out of it, and yes, it’ll be cold and I have to deal with people. But accepting these facts and jumping right in is an excellent way of handling the uncomfortable. Dwelling on the negative aspects of something is a surefire way of ruining any chance of a positive outcome.
#36 Learning By Teaching
If there’s something I’m struggling to understand, I try to explain it to someone else who understands less. It helps me work it through. Obviously, I don’t pretend I’m an expert or anything, it’s just a strategy we used in group study sessions at university that was surprisingly effective. It’s almost like a pseudo-confidence booster.
#37 Just Breathe
I don’t know if this is a trick, but before you answer a question, take a deep breath and let it out. Before you make a decision, take a deep breath and let it out. If you’re in an argument, take a deep breath and let it out. If you’re getting verbally attacked or insulted, deep breath and let it out.
Slowly breathe in.
Slowly breathe out.
So many times, it’s stopped me from saying something stupid or dumb or illogical. It allowed me to make better decisions and return some great zingers. It also stopped me from saying hurtful things. A lot of your mental state is tied directly to your breathing through the way your body reacts.
#38 Time To Hang Up
I work at a call center and sometimes I get people who just want to talk, which is usually fine! However, I also sometimes get people who like to talk about conspiracy theories (Pizzagate, fluoride mind control, etc.) I had tried for weeks to get off the phone with different lines, but nothing worked well. Then I realized that I was making the call about me. These people are selfish and lonely. So I tried, “Oh wow. I’ve taken up a lot of your time! I’m so sorry! Let me get off here and let you get back to your day.” It works every time. It’s THEIR call and THEIR time.
#39 Instilling Trust
I tell my kids, “I trust your judgment.” It gives them a confidence boost and helps them make better choices. They become more conscientious and trustworthy. It’s awesome. I said that to my seventh-grade son yesterday and he put his hands on his hips and said, “You know mom, I think I will email Mrs. Price. I’ll get back to you.” He strolled out of the room like a MAN.
#40 Contributing Nothing
When someone is trying to throw excuses or if they’re being difficult about something, the best way to handle it is to stare back with mild interest and contribute nothing to their monologue. If you don’t give them anything to work with, they’ll talk themselves into a corner and lose confidence in what they’re saying.
I learned this trick from an old director who used to control pretty much any meeting room scenario by being the most silent and impassive person in the room. I fondly remember the time someone asked him a ridiculous question and he just stared at him for about 15 seconds. Fifteen seconds is a long time to be stared at in a room full people. The guy wilted into his chair and nobody could work out if the director was angry or just quietly mulling it over.
#41 Distraction Through Interest
When I do something annoying or bothersome to my husband and he goes quiet, I wait a few minutes and then ask him a seemingly innocent question, usually on the subject of how certain car parts work, or something mechanical. This gets him rambling about cars for like, five minutes and then bam! He’s happy again and not quietly brooding. I’ll never tell him I do that because I’m afraid it won’t work anymore if he knows about it. It’s foolproof though. It works every single time, no matter how bothered he is.
#42 Just A Minute
If someone is taking up too much of your time talking and you’re trying to break away, do this: while they are talking at you, glance over their shoulder, and quickly shoot up a “just give me a minute” hand gesture. Then, immediately return to the conversation before the person talking at you has time to really look back and see who you were gesturing to.
They usually get sheepish and try to finish up very quickly, but it actually makes you look generous for allowing them to finish their conversation when you clearly are needed elsewhere. People might not mind holding you up, but they get worried about who else they are holding up, and that usually cuts conversation very, very quickly without having to say anything.
#43 In Hot Water
I work as a lifeguard and patrons aged 16 and under aren’t allowed in the hot tub. Often times, they go in anyways and lie about their age. So my go-to is always, “Are you 15 years old?” and that often anchors them into the idea that I only need them to be 15. They’ll usually answer yes, and then I can book them, playing the underage card.
#44 Who Has The EpiPen
Be direct and personal when you need things. Instead of asking IF anyone has an EpiPen, ask WHO has an EpiPen. Instead of saying someone call 911 point to someone, say, “You, in the blue jacket. What’s your name? Tom? Okay Tom, go call 911 and come tell me when they are on the way.” Assertiveness without rudeness is usually effective.
#45 Airing Out Bad News
I do heating and air. When I have to break the bad news about an expensive repair, give the client the higher end of the price range for the repair, then get the actual cost. When they realize that they might be able to save some money, they usually calm down.