Have you ever got the sense that you’re being manipulated? Whether it’s by a loved one, a salesman, or a coworker, you may not notice when someone is or has been trying to manipulate you.
While it may not always be for evil reasons, it’s important to know when it’s happening. In fact, it may even be useful to learn these signs for your own benefit — to use for good of course (like asking for a raise, getting promoted at work or getting a friend to vote).
Psych2go put together a list of common psychological tricks to help you identify when you’re being manipulated:
1. Nod your head
If you want people to agree with you, then all you have to do is nod. In a 1980 study published in the Basic and Applied Psychology journal, scientists found that when people nod while listening to something, they are more likely to agree with it. So if you nod while speaking, the other person may begin to nod as well and start to agree with you, without even knowing it. Nodding your head when asking someone a question will also make them more likely to agree with you or comply with your request.
2. Mimic people’s body language
Mimicry, or mirroring, is when you essentially copy someone’s body language or speech patterns. There is plenty of research that suggests that if you copy someone’s body language, they are more likely to identify with you subconsciously, which makes them more likely to do what you want.
Marco Iacoboni, author of Mirroring People: The Science of Empathy and How We Connect with Others, claims that mirroring can help establish rapport, which is an important step to becoming friends or acquaintances with another person. He explains that exhibiting similar actions, attitudes, and speech patterns as another person may lead them to believe that you are more similar to them and thus more likely to be a friend.
3. Ask people for favors when they’re tired
When someone is tired, they are more likely to agree because they are so worn down. This is because both their physical and mental energy levels are depleted.
This kind of manipulation can be found in car dealerships, where car dealers try to wear you down into buying a car. Furthermore, based on a study published in the Journal of Marketing Research, CBS News reports that advertisers are more likely to “win over” consumers when those consumers are tired.
4. Use people’s names while talking
Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, said: “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
Your name is the most important word in the universe for you. It is the core part of our identity, so hearing it validates our existence, making us feel more positive about the person who said our name.
Have you ever met someone for the second or third time and, while you don’t remember their name, they always remember yours? It makes you feel respected and important. It leaves an impression on you.
5. Repeat things back to people
One of the best ways to show someone that you really understand how they feel is to paraphrase what they’ve said and repeat it back to them.
This is a communication strategy called reflective listening, and it is often used by counselors and therapists to “reconstruct what the client is thinking and feeling and to relay this understanding back to the client.” Research has shown that when therapists use reflective listening, their clients are more likely to open up and display more emotion.
6. Observe the unique words people use and then use them yourself
Similar to mimicking, listening to the unique words that a person uses will really help you gain a better understanding of that person.
John Schafer, Ph.D., a behavioral analyst for the FBI, he calls these words, “Word Clues.” He writes in an article on PsychologyToday: “If the eyes are the window to the soul, then words are the gateway to the mind. Words represent thoughts. The closest one person can get to understanding another person’s thoughts is to listen to the words that he or she speaks or writes. Certain words reflect the behavioral characteristics of the person who spoke or wrote them.”
So by listening carefully to the words that someone is using and then using those same words when you speak, you will likely establish more trust and rapport with that person.
7. Make a large request and then scale it down
This is a well-known technique called the “door-in-the-face” (DITF) technique. In the field of social psychology, the door-in-the-face technique is a compliance method where you first make a large request that the other person will most likely turn down, after which you make a more reasonable request that the person will probably accept.
Researchers found that this technique works due to the principle of reciprocity – saying “no” to the initial large request may make the person feel like they owe the person who made the request.
8. Speak quickly
Speaking quickly can overwhelm the person you’re talking to and wear them down, so they will sometimes agree with you because they cannot process what you are saying (and they don’t want to admit it).
Lifehacker reports: “Speaking faster gives dissidents lesser time to form counterpoints and more easily persuades them. Speaking slower lets those likely to believe you stack your rationale on top of their own bias to form a stronger opinion in your favor.”
In short, speak slower if people agree with you, speak faster if they don’t.
9. Use nouns instead of verbs
Business Insider states that using a noun “reinforces your identity as a member of a specific group, and plays to people’s need to belong.”
Because people think about their self-identities when they hear nouns, they think of their own behavior. So using nouns instead of verbs may get people to change their behavior.
For example, ask “How important is it to you to be a voter?” instead of “How important is it for you to vote?”
10. Smile before talking
Charles Darwin explored the “science of smiling,” discovering that smiling serves as a manifestation of happiness and can be used to connect to other people.
When you smile before talking, it instantly makes the other person feel comfortable and at ease. However, be careful not to smile when inappropriate. If you are talking about a serious or sensitive topic, for instance, smiling might not be the best way to connect to the other person.