On an average day, most people will have to navigate a thousand different social rituals, each with their own rules and expectations. From grabbing coffee in the morning, to chatting with a co-worker on the way to a meeting, to bumping into an old acquaintance on your way home, every situation you find yourself in requires you to know a different set of norms and behaviours.
Not only that, but many of these rituals are riddled with tiny annoyances or potential pitfalls. What do you do about a chatty co-worker you just can’t get away from? Are you supposed to make small talk with the barista to be polite, or are you just slowing down their work? How do you deal with getting pulled into a meeting with the boss?
Thankfully, these Redditors have compiled all the best psychological tricks to smooth the rough edges of everyday life, helping you to do everything from navigating the office to stopping hiccups instantly. Use your newfound wisdom wisely!
1. Changing the subject
When I do something annoying or bothersome to my husband and he goes quiet, I wait a few minutes and then I ask him a seemingly innocent question, usually on the subject of how certain parts of a car works, or something mechanical.
This gets him talking about the car thing and he rambles for like 5 minutes and then bam! He’s happy again and not quietly brooding. I’ll never tell him I do that because I’m afraid it won’t work anymore if he knows about it. It’s foolproof though, it works every single time, no matter how bothered he is.
2. Think about hiccuping!
If someone says they have the hiccups, ask them to prove it. 9/10 times, their hiccups will disappear. Having to summon a hiccup in order to demonstrate will trick your diaphragm into just Not Hiccuping.
I’ve been able to twist it around on myself with some success as well, but it takes practice. You realize you have hiccups, then /try/ to hiccup. Actively try to make yourself do another one. It’ll stop.
3. Bluff or giggle?
I’m a professional poker player. When I am in a pot with one other player, I often try to make them laugh when they are thinking about what to do.
If you can get them to laugh, it sets them in a mood where they are unlikely to bluff. In fact, I talk a lot in general, it’s very common to make jokes at the table even in hands.
4. Derailing the conversation
I speak at conferences all over the world, and a lot of the speakers use this in their Q&A. If there’s a particularly hard question to answer, they always start with “what a great question! (Etc etc).”
Generally speaking, the asker is so pleased that their question got praised by the speaker in front of all those people that they are less critical of and pay less attention to the actual answer.
5. Proper apologies
Don’t say “it’s okay” when someone apologizes. Say something like, “thank you for apologizing.” If someone needs to apologize to you, then it was something that isn’t okay.
My mom teaches this to her kindergartners and it really does make a difference. It opens doors for growth and conversation too. “thank you for apologizing, I don’t like it when you hit me.” or whatever.
6. Right back at you!
My youngest, four-years-old, got into the “why” phase a little while back. Read an article that said the best way to get them to stop was to ask them “I’m not sure, what do you think?”
It is a godsend. They answer their own question, you provide some feedback “Sounds good to me.” and they immediately move on. F***ing awesome.
7. Copy the competitors
I work as a Creative Director. I have a lot of great clients, unfortunately with a few s***ty managers from their side. They usually go with the mantra of “If it’s not my idea, it’s not a good idea”.
I end up (sometimes) telling them about something Google, Tesla, Amazon, Samsung, Etc. is doing, and how we could try it. They jump at these ideas. The ideas are actually mine or my teams. Works like a charm.
8. Swapping flyers
Coming down the train station escalator on my way to work, there’s always a mob of people in lanyards and branded clothes handing out sign-up vouchers to c*** I’ll never use.
It’s become my routine to beat them at their own game by handing them something first, and seeing them take it by instinct and then do a double-take.
Bonus points if I’m crossing the station and can get an Uber Eats voucher to the Jehovahs Witnesses, and a copy of Watchtower to the Uber Eats guys.
9. An innocuous question
When I’m doing backcountry hiking patrol in a wilderness area I’m supposed to keep an eye out for people with dogs, which are not allowed. The ranger taught me to ask any dog walkers, “Are you looking for somewhere to walk your dog?”
That gives them the chance to pretend they didn’t know about the rule (signs posted of course) so they don’t lose face. Then I give them a brochure with dog-friendly trails. It’s a brilliantly nonconfrontational technique, and I use it in other parts of my life.
10. It’s all in the tone
If I’m having a conversation that’s a bit difficult, or I don’t have a lot to say, then I’ll repeat the last word or phrase that the other person said, with a slight tilt of my head, as if I’m rephrasing it as a question.
Virtually all the time, they’ll expand or elaborate on what they said previously, and then move on to something else too. I can keep a whole conversation going just by doing this, but a lot of the time it’ll also help the other person to open up and they’ll feel like they’ve been able to have their say.
11. Describing the monster
If a child tells you they’re afraid of a monster in a closet, instead of telling them there is no monster, ask them to describe the monster and what they think the monster is doing there in the first place.
Then ask how to get the monster to leave. It will help them alleviate their fear far more effectively than instinctively trying to tell them there is no monster.
12. An indirect call-out
Have a toxic person you need to try and get through to without calling them out directly and risk bearing the brunt of their meltdown? Tell a story about how some “annoying idiot” behaves in a certain manner (citing the toxic person’s behaviour here) and how frustrating / pathetic / lame etc. it is.
The toxic person’s ego will take over and they will tone down that behaviour. Works like a charm. Also, it’s safe, because they’re narcissists and couldn’t fathom that their behaviour is frustrating, so they won’t make the link and figure out what you’re doing.
13. Walking and talking
I work in an office. When people stop by my desk and refuse to leave me alone I will get up and refill my water bottle while they are talking to me.
Instead of walking back to my desk, I walk them to theirs. They instinctively will sit down. Then I just sever the convo and get back to work.
14. Less sweet than it seems
This could be considered me helping other people out, but I’ve found this trick when making the tea and coffee round in my work. Lots of people in my office have disgusting amounts of sugar in their hot drinks (like 4 to 6 teaspoons) so I’ve started to make these peoples’ drinks in red cups.
People associate the colour red with sweetness and so I can reduce the amount of sugar in their drinks to like 1 or 2. They haven’t noticed yet and I usually make the rounds because apparently, I make a ‘good cup of tea or coffee.’
15. Please and thank you
Saying ‘thanks’ instead of ‘please’. We got taught this in teacher’s college. For example “Put your phone away please” makes it sound like they have a choice or you are waiting for a reply.
“Put your phone away, thanks” makes it sound like they don’t have a choice and you have already finished the conversation so they are less likely to answer back.
16. Negatives over positives
Use this one at work: loss aversion. People are programmed to obsess over the negatives. Let’s say you are pitching an idea and it has 5 benefits and 2 drawbacks. People will obsess over the 2 drawbacks no matter how much the 5 benefits blow it out of the water. They can’t help it. They’re not being stupid, they’re just being human.
So flip it. Write it about the 5 drawbacks of NOT doing it compared to the 2 advantages of not doing it. People will now focus on the 5 ‘original benefits’ because they are now what will be lost by not doing it. The 2 advantages of not doing it will hardly get a mention.
17. Ballpark figures
We sell a million little bottles of things in a bunch of different sizes and brands and the company expects us to have all the prices memorized, which is dumb and impossible.
Instead of that, when a customer asks me how much it costs, I give a higher ballpark – “I’m pretty sure that one is 14.99, let me just double check,” and then when I scan it, if it’s lower in price, I can say, “oh cool, looks like they just dropped the price on this one, it’s actually 12.99.”
If it’s more expensive than I thought, I can say, “Ah, I was thinking of the smaller size, this one is actually $16.99 because you get 3.5 more ounces of product per bottle,” or whatever.
18. Maintaining eye contact
Shy? Have a hard time maintaining eye contact but you’re afraid of coming off as disinterested? Eye color. Focus on the colour of someone’s eyes as you’re talking. Take in variations, hues, flecks, etc, etc.
To the speaker you’re paying rapt attention, but as a person who has a hard time keeping eye contact, you’re no longer looking into the eyes, but at them. I read it here years ago and it helped me a lot.
19. What’s my age again?
I work as a lifeguard and patrons aged 16 and under aren’t allowed in the hot tub. Often times they go in anyway and lie about their age.
So my go-to is always to ask “are you 15 years old?” That often anchors them into the idea of them only needing to be 15, and they answer me with yes they are 15. Gets ’em every time.
20. Leaving politely
If someone is taking up too much of your time talking and you’re trying to break away, do this:
While they are talking at you, glance over their shoulder, and quickly shoot up ‘just give me a minute’ hand gesture like ☝️ and silently mouth ‘one moment’, and then immediately return to the conversation before the person talking at you has time to really look back and see who you were gesturing to.
They usually get suddenly sheepish and try to finish up very quickly, but it actually makes you look generous for allowing them to finish their conversation when you clearly are needed elsewhere. People might not mind holding you up, but they get worried about who else they are holding up, and that usually cuts conversation very very quickly without to having to say anything.
21. More expensive isn’t always better
I work in wine retail. Tell rich d-bags that I have something more expensive but I don’t think it’s what they are looking for. Works every time. Added bonus, if they don’t like it, I told them I didn’t think they would.
I have plenty of wealthy clients who are awesome and I would never do this to them but man does it feel good to stick a rich jerk with that $500+ bottle you have been trying to dump for a year and a half…
22. Group consensus
To encourage someone to be more agreeable or to display a certain personality trait, tell them what everybody thinks of them even if it’s a lie. For instance say you need a day off from work. Instead of straight-up asking your boss, say something to the likes of “people tell me how understanding you are, I was hoping you’d understand why I need…”
This technique encourages people to reinforce the idea that they are what “everybody” thinks of them. Someone talking too much? “everybody’s told me how great of a listener you are…”
23. Cheating the system
My siblings and I would often rock-paper-scissors to decide small arguments such as who gets the front seat. In the immediate lead up to playing the game (discussing rules etc), I held my hand in the form of rock, paper or scissors and kind of wave it around in front of them as we talked.
I found that they would most likely choose that when we played and I would win. Scissors worked the best and it was like a 90% strike rate on my sister.
24. Thank your servers
Anytime someone is serving you food “cafeteria style”, so playing your food right in front of you, get them excited for you. I walk up, plate in hand, and immediately start pleasantries and praising their work on the amazing looking food.
“Did you cook that? It looks so awesome! Wow, I can’t wait to eat that!”. They then get excited about your meal and hook it up big time on the serving portions. I’m a big guy and get real jolly with them. Works 9/10 times.
25. Desirable snacks
We often cut raw fruits and veggies and offer them to our kids as snacks in between meals. More often than not the plate doesn’t get touched and they want to eat junk instead. I have started telling them that the veggies are “all mine!” and that they aren’t allowed to have any.
It continues to amaze me how greedy for veggies they suddenly become. They find it hilarious to steal from daddy and think they are being naughty. Joke’s on them!
26. Leave the negatives for last
Never start a reply to any kind of an argument with a denial. It immediately puts people’s back up against the wall, increases the likelihood they will entrench themselves in their position regardless of whatever your argument was.
Instead, try to start off with a positive, then spin your point in. Or otherwise, start off neutral. That way they might just give your thoughts the time of day.
27. Remind them of the time
I tell people “take your time” because it makes them aware of how much time they are taking and actually makes them act faster.
I work in a restaurant and say this when I drop the check to get customers to pay faster (so I can turn the table and get more people), but it applies elsewhere too.
28. Staring contest
When somebody is gawking at you and they’re making you feel super uncomfortable, look at them straight in the eyes with a blank face until they drop their stare.
Usually if you continue staring it’ll make them super uncomfortable back and they’ll realize what they’ve been doing wrong.
29. Foot in the door
To remember something just set up something really unusual in a place you will see. For example, if I have to do something early in the morning I would sometimes put a boot right in front of my door.
This would trigger my memory into searching for a reason as to why the boot is there.
30. We have ice-cream at home
I keep a container of store-brand ice cream in the freezer, which I use to tell myself “I’ve got ice cream at home, I don’t need to buy a $6 pint of Ben/Jerry’s” when I am standing at the grocery store.
I never eat the cheap ice cream, so it lasts forever and I don’t spend money on calories I don’t need.
31. Hydration dares
Well, this one is kind of mean. When the mood strikes me and someone asks me for a glass of water I fetch it for them and tell them I dare you to drink it.
Now all I did was fill water and nothing else. The person will not touch the glass of water 9/10 times.
32. Whose idea was it anyway?
If I need something put into action, I’ll bring it up casually, and get their thoughts on how to improve the idea.
Then a few weeks later, I’ll remind them of “their” idea we were discussing and ask when we could implement it. Once it’s THEIR idea, they will plant Satan in Heaven to see it done.
33. Speak up
When I ask a question to my class (intern professor) and someone starts answering, I walk away from that person towards the opposite side of the class so they naturally speak up so I can hear.
It’s a great tool that way I don’t have to embarrass them and ask: “sorry, could you say that louder for the other students?”
34. Keep to the left
When you are driving behind a slow driver in the left lane, stick to the very left side of your lane. This puts your vehicle/headlight directly in the driver-side mirror, making you seem more imposing and less ignorable to the driver.
They taught us to do this in paramedic school when dealing with drivers reluctant to yield to the right.
35. Guess what’s for dinner?
When going out to dinner without a destination tell your SO that where you are going is a surprise, and ask them to guess.
Then just make their first guess be the answer! They feel special for guessing correctly and you avoid the “where do you want to eat” hassle.
36. The power of silence
If I have to get someone to help me over the phone (i.e. support for a company or whatever) or in person at a helpdesk, and they’re not giving me what I want, instead of fighting with them I stay on the line, or remain at their desk, and create these awkward silences.
They will inevitably try to fill the silence by talking. Usually, if I make it awkward enough, they end up giving in and just giving me what I asked for in order to get rid of me.
37. Lying laughter
Whenever I lie about something I always come up with an invented detail that makes me look stupid so people laugh. They then take the whole thing as a truth.
It’s a nasty trick but if you master it you can almost always make people believe whatever you say.
38. The power of naps
I use afternoon naps to power through all-nighters. Around the 11th grade I found out that if I sleep for exactly 1.30 hrs in the afternoon, I will not be able to sleep before 3 am.
Since this discovery, I’ve used this hack to party all night, work on projects that were due for submission the next day, cram for exams, marathon an entire season of Game of Thrones.
39. Captivating quiet
A teacher at my school uses a whispering trick to get us all to shut up.
The whole class would sometimes be talking or even yelling, paying no attention to what she’s saying, so she just continues saying what she meant to but she whispers it. 9/10 everyone will shut up. Fascinating.
40. Pauses are good
If you are put on the spot or surprized by a question – instead of fumbling about and giving a bad response, simply say that you’ll come back to them with your response later.
That gives you time to consider how to respond. It also conveys that you’re taking their question seriously enough to consider or investigate further.
41. Doing the maths
Negotiations almost always start with the company up for the job stating what their “quote” is. I quickly give them a pen and tablet and tell them what my costs are, what my margins are, and 5 different sales projections we have planned. Then ask them to finish a few equations for me.
I do this because I want them to realize that the deal is about numbers and by letting them do the math they understand that this is coming from a thought out plan and not about a person’s ability to negotiate for more or less where one party will feel like a loser and the other a winner.
42. Pushing the envelope
In my line of work, I use the Overton window to help move more reasonable ideas along. When presented a problem, I assert a very controversial idea and see if the recipient accepts it or not.
If they don’t, then asserting a more reasonable, middle of the path idea becomes more palatable and doable.
43. Trust the process
I used to have to train a lot of people at my old job. When teaching a new technique instead of saying “This is really easy” I learned it was much more practical to say something like “You’ll get the hang of this in no time”.
Telling someone something is “easy” is easy for you to say because you’ve been doing it for 2 years. They might find it really hard to begin with because, well, lots of things are difficult at first, and become immediately disheartened….but if you tell them “You’re going to get really good at this over time” then it tells them that they might find it hard at first but if they stick with it it’ll become easier.
44. No more looking
When you lose something: stop looking for it. Simply tell yourself it’ll turn up and resist any further urge to search.
This works. Whatever it is, just shift to picking up/cleaning up. It’ll appear Like magic 9/10 times.
45. Unusual associations
If you can’t remember if you locked the door and go back a few times, say something unrelated and unique, like onomatopeia, while doing the thing.
Then, when you think back to check if you’ve done it, you’ll remember the word and that you did lock the door.
46. Getting the full story
While managing a team for the first time, I stumbled onto this. When someone is requesting a personal day or asking to leave early/come in late without any follow up context, immediately saying, “Sure, no problem. Is everything okay?” usually makes them spill their guts and tell you why they need the time off.
It’s far less confrontational/prying than asking why they need the time off, and you come off as a caring manager.
47. Looking the part
I naturally have a “concentrated” look when I’m doing whatever at the PC so my co-workers were totally convinced I was the hardest working person in the company because I get there early and go home late and always have that super concentrated in a difficult algorithm kinda look.
I do this because I’m aware of how I look so in reality I just laze around most of the day reading articles that interest me or programming stuff I want to and not actual work and have been steadily getting promotions for the past 2 years.
48. Something to think about
I got a piece of advice from a co-worker about one of our managers, whenever you saw her walking towards you looking like she was going to have “a word”, always get in a work-related question before she started speaking.
It always threw her off her train of thought as she now had another problem to think about. This got you out of trouble.
49. How to give good corrections
As a manager – don’t tell someone off after they have made a mistake, tell them before they next get the opportunity to do the thing they f***ed up that you would like them to try XYZ instead this time.
This means they don’t have to dwell on their error and they get an immediate chance to do better and demonstrate that to you. They come away improved and happy and having learned something.
50. So wrong it’s right
If someone is dead wrong, odds are they are completely unaware they are wrong. So telling them “you’re wrong” is a direct attack on their convictions.
Always say something along the lines of, “Well, your intuition is correct, but this situation is extremely unintuitive. Under normal circumstances, you’d be correct, but consider this idea…”