The art of Reverse Psychology

Psychology fascinates a lot of us. However, are you familiar with the concept of reverse psychology? If not, here’s an example!


I bet you have seen this joke somewhere before but what actually is reverse psychology? How does it really work? And more importantly, how often should you use it?

Reverse psychology is the technique of making someone do something you want them to do by saying the opposite. The technique depends on the psychological phenomena of reactance- a person has a negative reaction to what is being persuaded and thus, does the opposite. Reverse psychology is often used on children due to their high tendency to respond with reactance. When you want them to go out and play, ask them to stay in the house and vice versa.

A common form of reverse psychology is saying “DO NOT DO IT” when you are actually suggesting them to “DO IT”. The one being manipulated is usually unaware of what is going on.

Working with Reverse psychology

  • Figure out the personality types that best work with reverse psychology. Some people respond better to direct requests while resistant people work better with reverse psychology. Reverse psychology also works well with stubborn children as compared to agreeable ones.
  • The first step in reverse psychology is presenting them with an option they would normally refuse. For example, you want to watch a superhero movie while your girlfriend really wants to watch a rom-com. Casually drop it in the conversation like “Did you know *insert superhero movie name* is playing in the hall now?”
  • Gradually develop their interest in it using subtle ways. You can mention that two of her favorite actors are starring in that movie.             031918-chris-hemsworth-leadrs_634x951-180119063216-634.chris-evans.11918


You can also give examples that how fun it was when you watched the movie last time.

  • Non-verbal cues go a long way in creating interest. You can play the trailer for the movie in front of her and comment on how amazing the effects are.
  • Once she is hooked to it, give her an extra push to defend it. Argue against the option you want by saying things like “You know superhero movies are a bit unrealistic” or “This movie seems boring for this Saturday.. What do you think we should watch?”
  • Finally, push the person to make a decision this time. The idea is to make them think that they are making their own decisions. Since you have expressed disinterest in the superhero movie, the girlfriend might think that she is asserting her autonomy and with your luck, this Saturday you could be watching the superhero movie!

Avoid using reverse psychology in serious situations. Reverse psychology works better when the person is making emotional decisions rather than logical decisions and also when the person is mentally exhausted. However, reverse psychology may backfire when the person realizes that you are manipulating them and deliberately follows your advice to take revenge. Also, refrain from using it when someone’s wellbeing is at stake. For example, telling someone “Do not go to the dentist” may actually harm them by reinforcing their fear of dentists.

Do not overuse reverse psychology. The truth remains that it is a subtle form of manipulation. You cannot build a trusting relationship on the basis of mind games. The key to getting your wishes fulfilled is by stating them in an assertive manner in a proper face to face conversation.  So, even if reverse psychology is helping you now, do not make it a habit. But in the end, it is up to you how you use it or don’t use it at all!


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