Surely you’ve ever used reverse psychology, even if you have not noticed or been aware of the power it has. Basically it is about adopting a position for the other to adopt the opposite.

Some experts in the opposite are usually teenagers. In the process of establishing their identity, if they detest something, someone tries to direct or condition them. So, in order to avoid this sensation, they often choose not to do what they are suggested, even if deep down they know that it is the best option.

However, this is not only for teenagers. Although with less intensity and frequency, there are usually vestiges of this inclination-the opposite-in adult life.

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What is reverse psychology?

This concept is attributed to the Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl  and bases its effectiveness on reactance. What does this process consist of? It is a motivational process through which we defend our freedom and we reveal ourselves against those we believe try to repress us . In many cases just by feeling that we have control of our life we ​​cling to a decision contrary to what we are told. We are not willing to lose our power or our autonomy.

It is enough for a small child to tell him not to touch an object to arouse his curiosity. It is enough that any of us tell us not to open the door of a closet to feel the tremendous curiosity to open it . Do you feel identified with any of these situations?

Reverse psychology is that if we want someone to perform an action X, we will tell him to perform the opposite action (Y) so that he chooses what we really want, the X.

How do we start reverse psychology?

Imagine that a 5-year-old boy refuses to eat vegetables. You insist on forcing him to finish everything on the plate, but there seems to be no way: he will not eat the carrots or zucchini. If you keep telling him to eat, everything will end badly. You will lower your arms and he will go happy to play.

Mother feeding her baby

The thing is not as simple as telling the child not to eat them. He will run away and we will stay with the vegetables. Before we have to do a previous work, we have to give the vegetables an attractive way: they do not seem a dull and boring dish, but quite the opposite.

Then is when we can start the reverse psychology to further increase the attractiveness of the dish. The truth is that if something awakens our curiosity it increases even more if it is forbidden .  This in childhood is especially true because parents often forbid things to their children that at some point they have experienced as fun.

With how much fun it is to jump in a puddle and we forbid it …

When we add years, to the association we have acquired in childhood we add, as we have described before, the need for independence. Other reasons to contradict may have to do with the security we feel in a certain situation. If we feel insecure and someone incites us to take a risk, we probably choose the behavior that is more common or less divergent with that of the majority.

On the contrary, accompanied by a sense of security we will lean towards the risky option with more determination if someone tries to incite us to choose the safe one. Thus, to take the opposite in these cases does not usually determine the side towards which the balance is tilted, but it does cause it to tip definitively or to do it more strongly, to one side or the other.


Reverse psychology in adults

Perhaps the example of the child who did not want to eat vegetables is something basic and we understand it because “it is a small one that can be handled more easily”. However, you must know that reverse psychology is used a lot in companies .

For example : a company offers elective training courses for its employees. But since they are after working hours, no one signs up. Then, the managers inform that starting next month, the hours of the courses will be cut in half and that those resources will be lost.

With this strategic movement, the company does not really want to remove the courses but the worker realizes that he has something that has value and that if he does not use it he will dedicate himself to something else that has nothing to do with him … and no one likes to lose something that has objective value even if that person has not given it to them until then .

If the company gets the worker to perceive this, he will begin to attend the courses, even if it is simply so that they are not removed.

How to apply reverse psychology?

Now, it is not about walking through life ” denying things ” for the other to do as we want. There are some “conditions” (to call them in some way) so that the habit of manipulating does not become habit:

Who will you apply to and why? Answer this question before using the reverse psychology technique. If it is for your child to dress to go to school or stop watching so much television, welcome, but if you want to convince your customers to buy a new product, you may have to think better.

What are the effects you can get? If you deny your child that he does the homework and ends up doing it, perfect. However, sometimes the game will not go well and he will respond, the happiest thing in the world, “perfect, I can turn on the video games”.

How free does that person want to feel? The greater your need for self-affirmation (the need to feel that you make the decisions you make by your own will), the more likely you are to follow a different path than the one we indicate. For example, a person who does not like receiving orders at all will be a good candidate for reverse psychology to work with.


Have you ever put reverse psychology into practice? On what occasions have you been unable to avoid it? Keep in mind that you have to do it carefully, because sometimes our idea can be truncated and not work as expected. Keep in mind all of the above!