Skip to content

Does reverse psychology work?

    Reverse psychology Do Not Press button

    Sometimes people think they are being clever when they use reverse psychology. Basically it is when you encourage the opposite of the behavior you really want. For example, telling your child that they probably won’t be able to eat all of their spinach.

    It reminds me of the old classic “Whatever you do,” cried Brer Rabbit, “Don’t throw me into the briar patch” when all along he wants that to happen as he knows he will be able to hide really well from the Fox in the briar patch.

    One joke version is to have something desirable like a candy bar in a glass case with a sign next to it saying “Do not break the glass”. Apparently the band Queen did this when they sent their song”Bohemian Rhapsody” to a radio station and told them not to play it. Of course, they did and the rest is history. This is said to rely on the strategic self-anticonformity of people to naturally defy any orders they receive that they think aren’t reasonable or really binding.

    It is sometimes used by sales-people and in marketing, but this only adds to its bad reputation.

    How can reverse psychology backfire?

    It is sometimes fine as a joke or as a shock tactic, but this type of dishonest and manipulative speech can and does backfire. It can destroy the trust in a relationship between parents and their children and between people in general.

    If you get into the habit of using it, you may start to no longer seem authentic to other people. This can seriously damage your reputation and like-ability.

    So stop being sneaky and just be yourself. People can always sense when they are being fooled or manipulated into something even if it isn’t on a conscious level.

    Where possible, we recommend that you avoid using reverse psychology and instead use clear, non-judgmental communication instead. If you don’t know how to do this, schedule an appointment with a counselor and learned this valuable skill.


    Image credit:

    Chris McKenna, CC BY-SA 3.0″ via Wikimedia Commons

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.