People are weird, complicated creatures. That fact can make managing social life tricky if you haven't studied up on the quirks of human psychology. But the reverse is also true.
By learning a few simply psychological truths about how our minds work, you can give yourself a huge leg up when it comes to succeeding at work, finding love, and getting what you want in life. And mastering basic psychological hacks will also give you a big advantage over most people, who navigate the world on instinct and emotion alone.
1. Check eye color for instant charisma.
Science shows maintaining eye contact just a little longer than most people do naturally instantly increases your charm. To trick yourself into putting this research to use, simply check a person's eye color when you first meet him or her. The extra beat or two it takes to determine the color of someone's eyes will make you instantly more likable.
2. Chew gum to calm your nerves.
Going to do something that makes you tense or nervous? Try popping in a piece of gum first. "By chewing gum, you are basically tricking your brain into thinking you are comfortable. Rather than getting flustered and panicky (which takes a lot of energy), your brain reasons that because you are doing something else (chewing gum), you mustn't be worried or nervous--if you were, you wouldn't be doing something like chewing gum," explains psychologist Ryan Anderson on Psychology Today.
3. Do something exciting with a date.
Here's another trick from Anderson (and a host of other experts): If you're looking to impress in a new relationship, forget dinner and a romcom and opt for an exciting activity that will get your pulses pounding instead. Your date will subconsciously associate you with the excitement of the date and feel like it was you, not that roller coaster or horror movie, that made his or her adrenaline spike.
4. Avoid someone's wrath by sitting next to him.
It turns out that, psychologically, it's a lot easier to unload your anger on someone physically distant from you. It's just awkward to turn to someone immediately next to you and bawl that person out. So if you sense steam coming from your boss's (or partner's) ears before a meeting, take control of the situation and sit right next to him. Your proximity will help keep the anger at bay.
5. Look at people's feet to assess their interest.
Is someone genuinely enjoying talking to you, or is she searching for an excuse to leave? To find out, just look at her feet. It they're pointed toward you, the person is probably genuinely engaged. If they're pointed away, her mind is probably elsewhere. This trick can also help you tell if you're welcome to join a conversation. If those you're looking to chat with turn their feet toward you, go ahead. If they don't, move along.
6. Rewards kill enjoyment.
Want your kid to actually like practicing the piano, or your employee to really enjoy that hard task you've just assigned him? Then don't bribe either of them with some sort of reward for their effort. When we pay people to do things, their sense of intrinsic motivation -- enjoying the activity for its own sake -- is diminished. (Which isn't to say rewards never work, just that they also suck the joy from a task.)
7. Make a great last impression.
People don't remember the entire duration of experience equally. When recalling something later, they're much more likely to recall their first and last memories of a person or event. We all know that first impressions are important, but it's essential to nail your last impression, too. So when you're looking to impress and be remembered, think carefully about how to leave on a high note.
8. Foil angry customers with a mirror.
Here's one for all of you who work in customer service, courtesy of a fun, in-depth Reddit thread on psychological hacks: "Put a mirror behind you at the counter. This way angry customers who approach you will have to see themselves in the mirror behind you, and the chances of them behaving irrationally lowers significantly. No one wants to see themselves act like a d*ckhead."
9. Use "See one, do one, teach one" to master new skills.
On Reddit, this one comes courtesy a "Navy lifer," but the idea is also endorsed by Nobel laureates. "If you are taught a new task at work, most people learn to do the task and then perform the task. If you find another employee to teach what you just learned, you will comprehend the concept better, and retain the info for much longer. Whenever I train a new associate at work, I ask them to go show another co-worker how to do the task they just learned. Magic," writes user Bubba_Gump_Shrimp.
10. Nudge people to like you with "the Ben Franklin effect."
This "psychological effect is attributed to an observation of Benjamin Franklin's, who noticed that when you do someone a favor, you will eventually like them more than you did before," explains Planet of Success.
Why? Your brain dislikes cognitive dissonance and fights tooth and nail against situations where our beliefs and our actions don't match up. So when you do something nice for someone you don't have particularly warm feelings for, your brain will decide that the recipient of your help must be a cooler person than you first thought.
11. Get that song out of your head by finally finishing it.
Of course, some songs are just ear worms, but oftentimes when a tune plays on a loop in our head it's because of a psychological phenomenon known as the Zeigarnik effect, which says that your brain will keep reminding you of unfinished tasks (that's why to-do lists are so mind clearing even if you just lose them). To get that song out of your head, just listen to it all the way to the finish, singing along as you do.
12. Warm your hands for a better first impression.
That we judge people by their handshakes is a cliché, but it's a cliche for a reason -- it's true. Ensure you make the best possible first impression by simply rubbing your hands together before you meet someone important. Your palm will be warm and dry, and you'll be on your way to impressing right out of the gate.
13. More questions make you more likable.
Charisma isn't a mysterious gift. All you need to do to be more charming is ask more questions. That's according to a psychological researcher on Reddit who advises job candidates to "get [the interviewer] to talk about themselves.... Ask your interviewer as many questions about what they do for work and really listen. They will walk away from the interview in a good mood because they got to talk about themselves, and they will then think that the interview went well." Recent research backs him up.
14. Make Wednesday more than just hump day.
I'm not sure if this suggestion from another Reddit user is research backed, but it certainly seems like a great idea: "Plan something every Wednesday that you can look forward to. Everyone looks forward to the weekend, but that always seems a long way away when you are getting up Monday. If you plan something small to do, like treating yourself to some frozen yogurt or setting up a movie date, you will look forward to that in the beginning of the week. Then by the time it's over, half the week has gone by and you are that much closer to the weekend."
15. Utilize the door-in-the-face effect.
This is the opposite of the idea of getting your foot in the door by warming up the other party with a small request before making your real, larger ask. In some situations, it's better to make an unrealistically large request first. The other party will say no (and feel a bad about it). That way, when you make your real request, he or she will feel obliged to say yes.