Social situations are among the most important in our lives. Yet, there is a huge chance that you are oblivious to the plethora of unwritten social rules that structure everybody’s behaviour. Failing to comply to these cultural imprints can cause irreversible damage. Just following them blindly will not get you ahead. Hacking them, however, will give you the best results possible. Therefore we bring to you these – 25 psychological life hacks that will help you gain the advantage in social situations
1) Assume comfort in any interaction.
Our brain is an incredibly complicated instrument. Our relationship with it, is a love-hate one. We think we have control over it but usually something unconscious dictates our actions.
In most of our social interactions, we find it difficult to feel comfortable among strangers because our brain tries to protect us from exposure.
This however isn’t helping us when trying to be social and meet new people, is it?
This is why assuming comfort is so powerful. Commanding your brain to feel that you already know the person you are about to meet puts you in a position of advantage. It increases the chances of people showing interest in you and consequently even liking you.
2) Pay attention to people’s feet when you are approaching them.
Interrupting people when they are in the middle of an important conversation is one of the most annoying things to do. It shows that you have zero knowledge of social dynamics which will lead to unpleasant social situations.
When you approach a group of people while in a conversation, pay attention to their bodies. If they turn only their torsos and not their feet, it means they are in the middle of an important conversation and they don’t want you to interrupt them.
If they turn both torso and feet, it means you are welcome. This is extremely important, because the right timing in such situations may put you in a position of advantage, especially if the conversation was boring for both sides.
3) Whenever you have an argument with someone, stand next to them and not in front of them.
We’ve all been in situations where out of nowhere the conversation started escalating.
Unless you love drama, I would suggest you to avoid these situations. You might have the best argument in the world, but usually people get irritated when they feel they are wrong.
So, whenever you feel that the argument you have with another person (especially friends – it’s not cool to fight with friends) creates tension, move next to them. You won’t appear much of a threat, and they will eventually calm down.
4) Whenever you need a favor, open with “I need your help.”
Admit it. We all love to get others to do stuff for us. Either because we are lazy, or because we really need some help to complete a task.
Social dynamics show that when it comes to platonic relationships, nobody really likes an asshole. So whenever you need a favor, start your sentence with “I need your help.”
In most cases, people will accept your request and help you out. This occurs because we don’t really like the guilt of not helping someone out and we do like to be the one who is capable of helping.
5) If you want people to feel good, give them validation. Rephrase what they just told you.
We love validation. Most of our actions are the outcome of our need for validation. So what is the best way to get people to like you? Give them what they need of course. A simple example, is when you are in a conversation with another person and he says something really important for him. After he finishes, rephrase what he just said in your own words. This will make him think that you are a good listener and that you are really interested in him. It makes him feel he is the center of attention. That’s validation right there.
6) If you want to get a positive response from someone, nod while you talk.
This one is extremely powerful and also a bit manipulative especially if the person is suggestive. So use it with your own responsibility and in an ethical way. Getting a positive response from someone is usually what we want. Whether it is making a sale, or promoting a viewpoint, we always want people to get on board. Nodding while you try to deliver your message is a powerful way to get the person to agree with you. People usually like mimicking, so they will most probably nod back while you talk. This will subsequently communicate to their brains that they have to agree with you.
7) Want to see if someone is paying attention to what you are saying? Fold your arms.
Usually when we are in the middle of a conversation and especially if we talk about something very important to us, we get lost in our talking and rarely pay attention to whether the other person is following or not. So instead of losing time talking to a person who is distracted and might not even be interested in what you are saying, do this. Fold your arms while talking and see if the other person follows your move. If the other person is observing you and pays attention, they will most likely mimic you.
8) Having trouble remembering names? Repeat the other person’s name during the conversation.
I suck at remembering names. I usually don’t even listen to the other person when he says his name the moment we get introduced to each other. So usually, I ask a friend to introduce himself to the person so I can listen to his name. But then I forget it again. Awkward. Remembering names is very important because we feel important when someone mentions us. So the moment you meet someone repeat his name. Example: “Hi my name is Alex” “Nice to meet you Alex. So, Alex how do you know John?” And continue to repeat his name throughout the conversation.
9) If you ask someone a question and they only partially answer, just wait. They will keep talking.
This is a very common situation when you don’t know the other person that well or your question wasn’t clear enough. If they finish the answer without providing a full answer, just wait. Stay silent and keep eye contact. If the tension becomes unbearable, raise your eyebrows. It puts a bit of pressure on them but it communicates that you show interest. It also sub-communicates that you are a person that usually gets what he wants.
10) People usually focus on the emotion and not on the subject.
This is very useful in public speaking but also in building rapport with an acquaintance. Whenever you introduce yourself to new people, most probably they have already heard what you are about to say. Well that’s not a problem. Even if you want to talk about the most boring topic in the world, make sure of one thing: Always try to evoke emotions. From my experience the 3 emotions that you want to evoke are: • Excitement • Laughter: Everyone likes to laugh • Intrigue: Leave a little mystery so the other person has to invest energy to hear more. Don’t be purposely distant, but avoid verbal diarrhea.
There are many techniques to turn a boring conversation into an exciting and intriguing one, but here are a couple of my favorites:
- Pause: A lot of the time when we want to keep someone’s attention, we tend to talk really fast, but this subcommunicates neediness and nervousness. A well-placed pause can create tension that makes your words have more gravitas.
- Tone and Inflection: No one finds monotone exciting. Switch up your tone of voice from deep for declarative statements, to high inflection when you want to leave them guessing.
- Paint pictures and compose symphonies in their mind with sensory details: When telling a story, take the person you’re talking to on an emotional journey by describing the colors, sounds, textures, tastes, smells, and how they made you feel. This will cause their mirror-neurons to fire off, making it easier for them to imagine actually being there with you.
So if you want to be memorable, focus on the emotion behind the words. People may forget what you say, but they will never forget how you make them feel.
11) Confidence is more important than knowledge.
Two young candidates walked into the interview office to apply for the same job. The first one had a Phd, two Masters and a Bachelor’s degree. The second one had just a Bachelor. The first one was kind of shy, didn’t talk much, his body language was turned inward. The second one had an upright posture, was looking the interviewers directly in the eyes, showed a lot of interest in the job and his answers where emitting confidence. We don’t have to tell you who got the job.
12) Fake it until you make it.
No one became an expert on anything over night. However, the learning process in everything you do is accelerated by commanding your brain to think what you want it to think. In simple words. You are what you believe you are. • You are confident if you believe you are confident • You are attractive if you believe you are attractive • You are extrovert if you believe you are extrovert If you want to look deeper into this idea look up two words. Neuroplasticity and brain rewiring.
13) Pose in a Power Stance.
This is similar to the previous point, but more concrete than a mantra or belief. Go stand in the mirror, put your hands on your hips, thrust your pelvic forward, pull your shoulders up, back and down, open your chest, tilt your head up, and force the biggest smile you can possibly manage to fit across your face. Even if you consciously know you’re just faking it, your brain can’t tell the difference, and will release endorphins to match your body position. This can feel silly, but it really works.
14) If you want to be persuasive, try and reduce the use of the words “I think” and “I believe.”
I don’t really feel the need to elaborate on this one. Obviously these words do not evoke confidence and the other person will most probably not take you seriously. Change them to ‘I know’ and ‘I will’ instead.
15) A clean and organised environment affects your mood, productivity, and others perception of who you are.
How many times have you waken up without any motivation at all? How many times have you started working on something without being able to get focused and inspired? Next time this happens, take a look around you. Is your environment clean and well-organized? If not, take some minutes to clean it up and put everything into place. You will feel refreshed and reborn and productivity will spark immediately. But not only that, you will come across as caring and punctual, two highly esteemed traits. Why do think most of the big companies pay so much attention to creating the best working environment for their employees? They know what makes them happy and how it affects their productivity. For a complete strategy, check out the key insights of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up on Blinkist for free here.
16) Want to find out which people are close to each other within a group and who is perceived as the leader?
Pay attention to who is looking at each other when everyone in the group laughs at a joke. People instinctively look at and agree with the person they feel closest to within the group.
17) Whenever you call a person you want to meet, show excitement!
Always have this in mind. Excitement is contagious. Why do you think the music video from Pharrell Williams – “Happy” got so many views and so many people were talking about it?
People love excitement! It is like an escape from their boring lives. Never forget that.
(You can mirror this and show disappointment if somebody let’s you down, making them painfully aware of their hurtful actions.)
18) Want to build rapport and gain respect? Match body language.
This is quite a common topic among body language experts and works well if you want to gain respect from a person that has high value.
You are in a social situation where a person has higher value among others within the group. He is the center of attention and he totally enjoys it. How do you match his value? By befriending him!
If you want his respect and attention the best thing to do when you approach him is to match his body language and speaking patterns. If he has open body language and he talks with excitement and joy, don’t go there with crossed arms and with an attitude of negating his words.
Approach him with the same amount of excitement and show openness and interest.
Want more insights on body language? Check out the key insights from What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People on Blinkist here!
19) When someone insults you, either ignore him or mock him. Never lose temper. Always control the frame.
Haters are everywhere. The more you feed them with hate, the stronger they become. Never lose your temper. This is a great example of how to deal with a hater. Enjoy!
20) Stand up straight, have warm hands and always keep eye contact.
• Keep a straight posture and walk like a born leader. This sub-communicates confidence and others will respect you automatically.
• Keep your hands out of your pockets. If you don’t know what to do with them, it is better to fold your arms rather than keep them inside your pockets.
• Keep your hands warm. If you have a warm hand when you shake somebody’s hand, you immediately become a more desirable person to get along with. Secret Tip – wash your hands with warm water often to keep them warm or take cold showers.
• You have heard this a thousand times. Here is the 1001st. – never lose eye contact! Losing eye contact is like losing your confidence. One cool trick when first meeting someone is to focus on their eye color and smile at the same time. The eyes are the gateway to the soul, and taking the extra second to gaze shows you are confident and present. (Be sure to move your eyes away periodically, a constant stare will creep people out.)
21) The Benjamin Franklin Effect.
The Ben Franklin effect is a psychological finding:
A person who has done someone a favor is more likely to do that person another favor than they would be if they had received a favor from that person. Similarly, one who harms another is more willing to harm them again than the victim is to retaliate.
This is an unbelievable finding. In social situations, you can hack this by making someone do something small for you, then asking for your true favor. It’s such a small favor that they will say yes, and due to cognitive dissonance their brain will rationalize that they must like you enough to do you a favor in the first place. This is also called the foot-in-the-door effect.
22) Don’t be afraid to touch another person.
Touching someone on the shoulder or their knees creates an emotional and physical bond. Especially during moments of joy, laughter and excitement touching positively reinforces these traits. If you’re uncomfortable with touching, remember 12, fake it until you make it.
23) Use the door-in-the-face hack.
The opposite of foot-in-the-door. Make an unreasonably large request that will most likely be turned down (but if it isn’t then that’s even better!), and follow up with your true intended, more reasonable request. The other person will be more likely to agree to the second request.
24) Always frame a request as a choice.
No one likes to feel pressured into doing something they don’t want to do. By subtlety rephrasing a request, you can make the person feel like they came to the decision on their own terms.
Homeless people who say things like, “it’s up to you if you want to donate or not” end up making more money than those who simply ask for money. The same is generally true for bands that offer “pay what you want” payment structures for their music. They know you can easily download their music for free off the internet, so they encourage you to pay what you feel is right.
A slightly more aggressive technique is the assumptive close:
This is a classic sales technique that can be used in any social situation. Instead of asking for permission, “do you want to donate/go on a date/get something to eat” assume that the person already does. Of course, you can’t just force someone to do something, but a leading question can nudge them in the right direction: “Would you like to donate 5 dollars or 10 dollars?”
Now instead of simply saying yes or no, they have to actively deny your request and feel like a naysayer.
Learn more about the “paradox of choice” on Blinkist, here.
25) If you work in a bar or in customer service of any kind…
Put a mirror behind you at the counter. When an angry customer approaches you, he will have to see himself in the mirror and will most probably calm down. Nobody likes ruining his image.
26) BONUS: Chew gum if you are nervous.
Evolutionarily speaking, our brains assume that if we are eating then we aren’t in any immediate danger, so the fight or flight response is weakened.
There you have it. The 25 most useful psychological life hacks that can help you gain advantage in social situations. Use them wisely.
This article was originally published in The Quintessential Man, and edited for HighExistence.