Sometimes in relationships, parties are evasive when it comes to certain topics, not being honest about what they really think or feel. If you feel this is happening in your own relationship, especially if the evasion is in regard to a major event, you can try using reverse psychology. Maybe your boyfriend tells you he wants to take a break, because you've become too clingy. Cheerfully tell him fine, you were just thinking that you were relying on him too much anyway. Then don't contact him in any way after that. He may abruptly change his mind and beg to resume the relationship.
Or maybe you've been discussing having children with your wife. You're pretty sure she wants to start a family now, but she says it's wiser to wait a little longer. You say, "OK, let's wait two more years" She may suddenly say she wants children sooner than that —like, now.
In the case of business, experts say it's most useful for those in sales. It's not appropriate to employ this technique to try and persuade people to buy items they don't need. But it can be helpful, and appropriate, to use the technique on customers interested in your product [source: Loewen].
There are several ways you can incorporate reverse psychology in sales. One is called "disqualifying the client." In this scenario, you tell the customer he can't afford a particular item, or it's not appropriate for him, in the hopes that will make him want it all the more.
Let's say you're helping a couple find a new car. You show them everything in the showroom except two luxury vehicles in the corner. They ask why you aren't showing them those two, and you say it's because those cars are expensive — the implication being that the couple can't afford them. The couple insists on viewing them, then purchases one of the two just to prove they can afford a pricey vehicle [source: Michalowicz].
Another common reverse psychology technique employed in sales is to ask your customer, after you've given your pitch, to rate your product on a scale of 1 to 10. The customer likes it a fair amount, so he rates it a 7. You appear surprised, and say you thought from his reaction he was going to give it a 3 or 4. Oftentimes the customer will then explain why he rated it a 7. As he rattles off the product's positive attributes to you, he basically sells himself on it [source: Michalowicz].
Author's Note: How Reverse Psychology Works
Researching and writing this article reminded me of my childhood, and the reverse psychology my older (and much-adored) sister would regularly employ on me. Every Saturday, one of us was in charge of cleaning the upper level of our home, while the other girl took the main level. Our mom let us decide who took which floor. The upper level was smaller, so less to clean. I preferred it, so did my sister.
When Saturday rolled around, Sue would say something like, "I really want the downstairs today. I hate cleaning the bathroom [upstairs]." I knew that meant she really wanted the upstairs, as did I, so I would readily agree to the arrangement. But then she would start talking about all of the reasons cleaning the upstairs was a drudge, and how she was so glad she had the downstairs today.
Even though I knew exactly what she was doing — employing reverse psychology so I would let her clean the upstairs without a fight — she made cleaning the main level sound so appealing I'd always capitulate She would grudgingly agree to switch, then laugh at me as she sprinted upstairs to clean the area she really wanted all along. To this day I don't know why I couldn't resist switching, when I knew she was using reverse psychology on me.
More Great Links
- Foreman, DM. "The ethical use of paradoxical interventions in psychotherapy." Journal of Medical Ethics. December 1990. (Oct. 23, 2015) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1375912/?page=1
- Howes, Ryan. "Cool Intervention #8: Paradoxical Interventions." Psychology Today. Jan. 23, 2010. (Oct. 23, 2015) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-therapy/201001/cool-intervention-8-paradoxical-interventions
- Kelly, Anita. "Using Reverse Psychology on Your Spouse." Psychology Today. Aug. 21, 2010. (Oct. 20, 2015) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/insight/201008/using-reverse-psychology-your-spouse
- Loewen, Stanley. "Using Reverse Psychology Effectively." HealthGuidance. (Oct. 20, 2015) http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/15949/1/Using-Reverse-Psychology-Effectively.html
- Michalowicz, Michael. "6 Ways Reverse Psychology Can Help You Close Sales." American Express. March 17, 2014. (Oct. 20, 2015) https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/6-ways-reverse-psychology-can-help-you-close-sales/
- Online Parenting Coach. "Using Reverse Psychology as a Parenting Strategy." (Oct. 22, 2015) http://www.onlineparentingcoach.com/2013/10/using-reverse-psychology-as-parenting.html
- Panaccione, Vicki. "Ways to Change Your Children's Behavior." Better Parenting Institute. Jan. 8, 2011. (Oct. 22, 2015) http://www.betterparentinginstitute.com/Better-Parenting/parenting-child-raising-skills/ways-to-change-your-childrens-behavior/
- Pantalon, Michael. "Do You Use 'Reverse Psychology'? Stop Right Now!" Psychology Today. April 8, 2011. (Oct. 20, 2015) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-science-influence/201104/do-you-use-reverse-psychology-stop-right-now
- PsyBlog. "When Does Reverse Psychology Work?" (Oct. 20, 2015) http://www.spring.org.uk/2012/06/when-does-reverse-psychology-work.php
- Raymond, Dr. Jeanette, psychologist, Email interview. (Oct. 23, 2015)
- Straker, David. "Reverse Psychology." Changing Minds. (Oct. 22, 2015) http://changingminds.org/techniques/general/more_methods/reverse_psychology.htm
- WebMD. "Study: Teen Antismoking Ads Backfiring." Oct. 31, 2006. (Oct. 20, 2015) http://www.webmd.com/smoking-cessation/news/20061031/study-teen-antismoking-ads-backfiring