40 Sneaky Psychological Tricks That Will Always Give You the Upper Hand

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Whether you’re shy and uncomfortable in social situations or the most seasoned extrovert, everyone can use a few tips to increase their social likability. These tips use basic psychology and will give you the edge in any social situation from mingling at a cocktail party to a job interview to office politics to dating.

This may be easier said than done, but assuming confident body language goes a long way towards great first (or second, third, one hundredth) impressions. People like confident people. We find them more reliable, trustworthy, and attractive.

This isn’t because their eye color is important, but by taking a moment to look and make note of it, you will be giving the perfect amount of eye contact. We all know eye contact is important in social situations. Too much is creepy and uncomfortable, and not enough makes us seem shifty and untrustworthy.

Mirroring someone’s body language is an effective way to gain rapport. Don’t overdo it in a distracting way, but subtly assume the same overall body postures. A person who stands at a distance with his arms crossed is less likely to feel comfortable with someone who stands close and uses broad open arm gestures.

I forget names the instant I’m introduced to someone. It’s terrible. Experts recommend using the person’s name a couple of times right away to reinforce it in your mind. This has an added benefit of making the person like you more! People like to hear their name. It makes us feel important.

Don’t like meeting new people or speaking in front of a crowd? Pretend you’re A-OK with it. You can trick your own brain out of its anxiety by acting like you’re comfortable in any given situation. If meeting new people makes you anxious, pretend you already know all these people. You will appear more at ease, which will make you more likable to the new people. It’s a win-win!

When you approach a group of people, notice if they turn their feet towards you when you join the group. If they do, you are welcome. If they turn their bodies or heads but keep their feet pointed away from you, then you are not welcome or have interrupted at an inopportune time.

If a person has not completely answered your question, or hasn’t come around to see your point yet, try remaining quiet when they finish talking. Your silence will compel them to continue talking.

If you expect to have a conflict with someone, seat yourself next to that person rather than across from them. Your position is less oppositional, and the person next to you is less likely to feel as threatened. This technique is handy to remember in conference rooms, or even your Thanksgiving table!

This one seems weird, but if it’s good enough for Ben Franklin, it’s good enough for us. Benjamin Franklin conducted an experiment where he asked people he had just met to do him a small favor. The findings show that people are more apt to like you because their brain will rationalize that they must already like you if they’ve done you a favor. This can be a small ask. Ask someone the time, or if they could please pass you a napkin from the bar, or ask someone’s opinion about something.

You can trick your brain to reduce the nerves. Our brains are wired to believe that we are safe if we are eating. After all, cavemen wouldn’t sit down to a meal if they were being chased by a bear. Don’t chew gum during your interview or audition, but a piece of gum while you wait might help ease your anxiety.

If you ask someone a question and they feel hesitant to answer, just keep looking at them. That will show that you’re not afraid of the answer, and help put them at ease.

A lot of times, people in groups will have food available but feel awkward about actually eating. That means you will convey a crazy amount of confidence when you crab a slice of ‘za and start eating.

If you see someone yawn, you will yawn. Sorry. That’s just biology. So if you’re getting the sense that someone cross the room is makin’ eyes at you, go ahead and yawn. If they yawn back, you know who they’ve been looking at. And that means you’ve got the advantage.

Want to know if the person you’re talking to likes you? Choose one word they say sometimes and smile/nod each time it comes out their mouth. If they like you, they’ll start saying it a lot more. If they don’t, they might avoid the word altogether. But at least you’ll know!

We’ve all done this — you blow a job interview so completely that your only chance is to ask the hiring manager if they’ll put the job on the line in a Paper, Rock, Scissors match. The stakes are high — you’ve been unemployed for months. If you really need to win, ask them a random question right before you start like, say, “have you ever eaten a mango whole? And why?” Psychologically, confused people are most likely to throw Scissors.

If you want someone to think you’re listening, first of all, actually listen. But if you’ve got that down, paraphrase what they’ve just said. That is tangible proof that you are paying attention.

If you have a job interview, make sure it happens on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. On Mondays, everyone’s mad just because it’s Monday. On Fridays, everyone’s thinking about the weekend. During the middle of the week? You’re everyone’s favorite.

Your suit color is sending a message, so pick wisely. Navy is warm and trustworthy. Gray is classy and dependable. Black is upscale and classy. So wear Navy if you’re interviewing for a teaching job, gray if you’re interviewing for a security job, and black if you’re interviewing to be a sexy international super-spy.

Psychologically, people tend to think those who smile too big are not serious people. So again, maybe that’s what you’re going for! If you’re applying to be a clown at a child’s party, smile big, But if you’re trying to manage an international corporation’s investment portfolio, maybe tamp it down there smiley.

You’re being judged at all times while you’re on location for a job interview. Whether they want to or not, hiring managers will take what you’re doing in the waiting room into account when they’re forming a mental picture of you. So why not read a book out there? Look dignified, for chrissakes.

An experiment saw two groups go on mock interviews — one group who pictured the last time they were completely empowered and one group who pictured a time when they were utterly defeated. The first group, who envisioned moments when they were all-powerful, were much more likely to be chosen by hiring managers. So think about that time you bullied a kid and stole his lunch money. It was a bad thing to do and don’t do it again, but it will get you a job.

The Construal Level Theory tells us that the close we are to something, we’re more likely to be specific in our thinking. And since you want to be specific when you’re selling your qualities to someone, sitting close will make you more likely to label those specifics (as opposed to talking about your general skills, like being a “hard worker” or “team player”).

Not to get you in your head, but what your hands are doing in a conversation conveys a lot of information. So here are the two things to try: steepling your fingers (which conveys confidence) or showing your palms (which suggests you’re genuine).

“Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior” author Leonard Mlodinow suggests that psychologically, people are more likely to believe that quicker speakers who talk loudly and expressively are clever and smart. So give talking with your hands a try.

Studies have shown that people actually feel more warmth towards someone when they make a simple mistake. Use that to your advantage by actually answering the “what’s your greatest weakness?” question. not only will you stand out by not saying that is secretly a strength like everyone else (“Sometimes I’m too hard a worker.”), you’ll earn some affection from the question-asker.

26. Compliment everyone.

Obviously, people like to be complimented, so yes, tell whoever you’re talking to that their shoes are working for you. But also? Research indicates that speaking positively of a third party makes you look confident. And that makes sense if you think about it in reverse — don’t people seem super not confident when they trash other people?

You build rapport and strengthen your relationship with people when you show them you trust them enough to hand off a secret. So think of one secret you can drop before meeting whoever it is you’re trying to impress (the fact that your first kiss with your wife kinda sucked is usually a good one).

Turns out, we can’t turn to people next to us and chew them out. The positioning is too awkward. The trick, then, is to scootch up next to anyone you feel might be ready to blow their top at you — it’ll keep help keep their anger in check.

If you have customers coming up to your counter, putting a mirror behind you will give them a chance to see themselves — to really see themselves — before they act like Karen-like (i.e. yelling at you for things that aren’t your fault).

This is a tip for the salesmen amongst us, but once you’ve bantered a bit and have made your pitch, shut up. Confidently stating what you are asking someone to do makes it clear that the ball is in their court, and if they can’t come up with an excuse not to buy, they’ll buy.

If you’re coming across as sad and schlumpy during the early part of the week, you can change that for yourself. See, Mondays are bad, and we’re already looking forward to the weekend. But putting something cool on your calendar for Wednesdays means you always have something to look forward to. For me, that great Wednesday thing is watching AEW Dynamite, because pro wrestling is awesome.

32. Go big, and then go home.

A lot of us know that, to get someone to do you a big favor, you ask them to do a little favor first. But this can work in reverse too. if you ask someone to do you a big favor (“Can you please make my mortgage payment?”), they’ll feel so bad about turning down that request that they’ll jump at your next request (“Can I borrow 20 bucks to go to TGI Friday’s for lunch?”)

In group settings, when everyone laughs, people will often look first at the person they like the most. This will give you interesting insight as to who in your friend group is feelin’ who.

Redditor pamaci explains this hack perfectly: You know how a joke ceases to be funny when you have to repeat it? Use that to your benefit. If that asshole in the group is making jokes at your expense, act like you can’t hear him and ask him to repeat it like three times. By the time he says it a third or fourth time, no one’s laughing.

Who knows if this is actually the case, but Redditor V171 claims to be a psychology research assistant, and he says that people are more likely to listen to a charismatic leader if said leader reminds them of their death. Could that just be because it takes a ton of confidence to remind people of death, which is objectively the most uncomfortable topic? Could be!

When asking for something you want, use the word “because” in your ask. See, the word “because” has a powerful psychological effect — it forces the brain to believe that there is a reason for the request.

I’ll again turn to a Redditor, this time scottymac23, to explain what to do in this specific office situation: If you and a co-worker are slacking off and your supervisor comes up and starts saying “what the hell are you doing?” or blaming your group for something, just look at one of your co-workers and don’t make eye contact with your boss. Your co-worker will likely be looking at your boss and when your boss sees you looking at the coworker the anger will be directed at them and not you. It works almost every time. A guy I worked with used to be the laziest and always started screwing around but never got in trouble. He told me his secret and I have used it successfully ever since.

This is a great bar hack to get one over on your friends from Redditor hollis10 Always buy the first pitcher. You’d be surprised how long you can drink on the phrase “I bought the first one”.

39. Ask a person for help. Don’t ask people for help.

The Bystander Effect is a psychological finding suggesting that, when help is thrown out to a large group of people, no one will respond. But asking individuals? Well, that makes the help much harder to refuse. So don’t ask your entire office if anyone can lend you a hand moving this weekend — ask just Ted in Accounting. (Plus, Ted just likes to be made to feel special.)

You’re not going to jump right into it on first dates or interviews — you’ve got to do a little small talk first. So make sure you’ve got a little warm-up routine ready to go. Having will make whoever you’re trying to impress more likely to be impressed when you shift to the bigger topics.

People want to be heard and validated. One way to show that you’re really listening is to rephrase what someone has just said. This shows that you understand, care, and are paying attention.

When a group of people laugh together, each person instinctively glances at the person within the group they feel most connected with. Want to know who is secretly sleeping together, or who is on the top or bottom of the social hierarchy? Check out where everyone glances next time something hilarious happens.

If you want your first date to stand out and be a success, try adding something genuinely exciting into the mix. The hormones released by excitement, surprise, and even fear help create a bond.

This one can be tricky. Obviously, some touches are inappropriate. Don’t touch someone because you’re curious what they feel like, or for any sort of self gratification. But a touch on the arm or shoulder can help create warmth and intimacy. This can be especially effective during moments of excitement, laughter, and happiness. A (totally platonic) touch reinforces the good feelings.

Body language mirroring is natural to some extent. If you want to encourage someone to agree with you, nod your head while you speak. They may find themselves nodding their heads in response, which could trick their brain into thinking it agrees with you!

We all know that a good handshake is important. It can’t be too weak, or bone crushing, and no one likes sweaty palms. But did you know that cold hands make a bad first impression? Make sure your hands are comfortably warm when meeting people. If you tend to have cold hands, a quick trip to the restroom to wash your hands in warm water should do the trick.

We all want to be remembered, especially if we want to stand out in the interview process. People tend to remember the beginning and the end of things better than what happens in the middle. If you can, try to arrange your interview so that you are first or last in the line of candidates.

People like having a choice, and if you want something you will have more success if you give people choices. Rather than asking, “Would you like to donate to my cause?” try, “Would you like to make a $5 or $10 contribution?”

The Halo Effect is a psychological phenomenon where a good impression in one area influences a person’s impression in other areas. You can use this to your advantage in a job interview, on a date, or anytime you want to make a good impression. Find something you both like or something you have in common. It doesn’t have to be a big thing like you’re both into skydiving or Star Wars. It can be anything. “You’re from Minneapolis? My grandmother used to live there and I have the best memories of visiting that city!” Soon you’ll be talking about how great Minneapolis is, and the interviewer will feel all warm and fuzzy towards you. The Halo Effect means that those warm, fuzzy Minneapolis feelings will influence his feelings about your job qualifications.

If you want to get people on board with an idea, be as excited and enthusiastic about it as possible. If you want a person to be excited to see you, show them your excitement to see them. Everyone falls for the dog who is so happy and excited to see his person come home. Be that dog. Show your exuberance and people will respond in kind.

If you don’t know something, admit it. If you need help with something, ask for it. This communicates humility and self-awareness, which are traits people admire in others. They’ll also know they can count on you to do something correctly, even if you’re not completely familiar with the task.

If you want someone to choose a specific option, give them a list of three choices and put the one you want them to pick last. They’ll be more likely to choose that one since it’s freshest in their mind.

In order to show that you are truly listening to someone, look at one eye, then the other eye, and then their mouth. Keep this triangular pattern going for the entire conversation. They will feel as though you’re really paying attention. On the other hand…

If you want out of a conversation, do the opposite: Look at one eye, then the other eye, and then their forehead. This will communicate that you’re done with the conversation and have better things to do than listen to them talk.

If someone tries to loudly talk over you, just keep talking. But this is the real trick: Don’t raise your voice or change your cadence at all. Just keep talking exactly like you were doing before they tried to interrupt. They’ll feel awkward and will most likely back down.

As much as we might like to think we’re special, humans respond to operant conditioning the same way other animals do. When someone does something you like (such as your roommate doing the dishes or your significant other making the bed), thank them for it and give them a compliment. On the one hand, they’ll be pleased and become more likely to repeat the behavior. On the other hand, it’s also just a nice thing to do.

If you use phrases like “I need you to,” people will respond as though you are in a position of authority (even if you really aren’t). You can also choose to phrase it as “we need *blank* to happen” if you want to get something without pulling the full authority card.

You can get very far in life if you’re holding a clipboard and walking with purpose. Nobody thinks to stop the person with a clipboard who clearly is in the middle of an important task. Take advantage of it.

When walking on a crowded sidewalk, don’t make eye contact with people who are in your way. Rather, look above and behind them in the direction you’re trying to go. They’ll subconsciously take the cue and move out of your way.

The idea behind this psychological trick is to dangle something someone wants in front of them. If you see someone at the bar you want to approach, keep your first interaction brief — introduce yourself, ask a few questions, then say, “I have to go back to my friends, but let’s talk later about [something you just talked about].” The person will automatically start to look forward to your next interaction and may even seek you out themselves.

Working on a group project? If you want someone to do something, start by asking them, “Can you get started on this?” Getting started on something sounds like less work than actually completing a task, but chances are that once they’ve gotten started, they’ll go ahead an finish it.

If you’re giving a presentation in front of a loud crowd, there’s a fail-safe method for getting them to be quiet. Simply start mouthing words and gesturing as though you’re already talking. They’ll see you and quiet down almost immediately.

Do you ever get the feeling that you forgot something at your house — maybe you left the oven on, or your straight iron plugged in? In order to combat this feeling, use the “point and call” method. When you turn off the oven, physically point at it and say out loud: “The oven is off.” Later, you’ll remember doing this and give yourself peace of mind.

If someone is trying to engage you in an argument, simply be polite, agreeable, and positive. Smile and say, “maybe you’re right” when they try to egg you on. Nothing takes the wind out of a jerk’s sails faster.

If you want someone to do something for you (or buy something from you), ask them and then immediately say, “you’re welcome to refuse, of course.” This quickly places them at ease rather than making them feel pressured, and can often even have the effect of them agreeing to whatever it is.

Want someone to like you? Ask them questions about themselves. People love talking about themselves.

When you see someone you know, your eyebrows subconsciously raise, and they also raise theirs subconsciously as a way of communicating that you know each other and there is no threat. With that in mind, you can reverse-engineer the eyebrow raise. When meeting someone for the first time, slightly raise your eyebrows and then relax into an easy smile. This will trick their subconscious into thinking they already have an established rapport with you.

If someone asks you to do something and you don’t want to (or can’t), just say “no,” or “Sorry, I can’t.” No further explanation needed. This might throw them off a bit because people usually try to give excuses for why they can’t do something. But in most cases, you don’t owe anyone an explanation, and “No” is a complete sentence.

The next time you don’t want to do something you know you’re supposed to be doing tell yourself you’ll count to five and then do the thing. This short-circuits the part of your brain that provides excuses for why it’d be better to eat ice cream instead of going to the gym.

As we’ve already said, body language is of the utmost importance. If you want to appear confident, uncross your legs and arms (but don’t go manspreading, k?). Alternatively, if you want to discourage people from approaching you, keep your arms and legs crossed to form a barrier.