How to Become a Master at Reverse Psychology

what is reverse psychology

Most people have heard about reverse psychology. That’s not surprising because the phenomenon is very common in our daily lives. Interestingly, some people use reverse psychology so much that they may not even realize they are using it. But what exactly is reverse psychology and what is it good for? 

What is Reverse Psychology

Reverse psychology involves getting someone to say or do what you want by asking for what you don’t want. The concept may go by a couple of other names depending on the field or context you are in. Some social scientists refer to reverse psychology as strategic self-anticonformity. In the psychotherapeutic field, the concept is termed a paradoxical intervention and describes a situation where the therapist instructs a client to do the very things he wants to stop doing.

Reverse psychology is a strategic form of communication that involves hiding your wishes while getting the very things you desire. When performed properly under the right conditions, it can be incredibly effective.

Who Does Reverse Psychology Work On?

Although reverse psychology can be a very powerful tool, it does not work on everyone. To maximize your chances of success, you need to target the right type of person. In general, people may be either compliant or resistant. Compliant people are laid back, relaxed, agreeable, and tend to just follow instructions. Resistant people like to be in control and they tend to be more narcissistic and rebellious.  

Reverse psychology is rarely necessary when you are interacting with compliant people. However, it can be very effective when dealing with people who have a resistant personality. Reverse psychology works because resistant people have a greater urge to display their independence. Rather than do what you ask, they feel empowered when they do the opposite. 

Reverse psychology also works well if you are speaking with someone who tends to make decisions based on his or her emotions. It is much less effective if you are dealing with someone who is calm and takes the time he or she needs to think things through.

Why Do People Use Reverse Psychology?

Most people use reverse psychology when interacting with kids. As many parents know, children seem programmed to do the exact opposite of what they are asked to do. In one psychology experiment, 2 year old kids were told not to play with a specific toy. Of course, they all wanted to play with the prohibited toy almost immediately after they were instructed not to.

Reverse psychology also works with older children. In another study, children were given access to five posters and told to pick one. A short time after, they were told one of the posters was no longer available. Once the children heard that, they all showed more interest in the restricted poster. 

Adults also use reverse psychology on each other. One area where this may be observed is in sales. Consider a shoe salesman who wants to sell a pair of expensive shoes. He may show an interested woman all the shoes in a shoe store except for that one expensive pair. If the woman asks why she was not shown that pair, the salesman may explain that those particular shoes are “top of the line, genuine, and very expensive.” The salesman may also claim that his job is to direct customers to shoes that they can actually afford. After hearing all of this, the woman may buy the pair of expensive shows just to show the salesman that she can.   

How to Become More Effective At Using Reverse Psychology

There are a few strategies you can employ to become more effective at using reverse psychology. Check out the steps you need to follow below:

  • Ensure your target has a resistant, over-confident, or highly emotional personality. 
  • Offer your target a few options for the future. These options should include what your target wants to do (option A) and what you would prefer to do (option B).
  • Ask frequent questions about all the options you presented so that your target keeps them in mind. Calmly comment on how other people have enjoyed option B in the past.
  • Tell your target that you prefer option A. Share reasons why your target should definitely avoid option B. 
  • Without being too pushy, tell your target that he needs to make the decision himself
  • Hide your smile as you get what you really want, with your target being none the wiser. 

Dangers of Using Reverse Psychology

It is best not to use reverse psychology when dealing with serious situations. It can be especially harmful when it is used frequently in an intimate relationship. Most people who enter an intimate relationship prefer to be with a partner who is sincere, honest, and open with his or her communication. Your partner may accuse you of being a manipulator and your relationship may be brought to a premature end if you are careless in your use of reverse psychology.

Parents should also be careful about how they use reverse psychology with their kids. Some children are incredibly perceptive and may be able to see through the ruse. Some children may do exactly what is asked of them because they know it is not what their parents really want. Several psychologists also believe that overuse of reverse psychology trains children to do the opposite of what their parents say.

With knowledge and practice, you can improve your skills in reverse psychology. If you want to learn more about this fascinating concept, check out this article at

Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay