7 Psychological Hacks to Make Your Social Life Much Easier

Humans can be complicated, but your social life doesn’t have to be.

Margaret Pan
Aug 1 · 5 min read
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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

I’ve always loved psychology. I’ve spent endless hours reading psychology books and I must say the things I’ve learned are invaluable. This is a subject that has the power to help you understand not only your own but other people’s behavior better.

The way our mind works is extraordinary. We think we have control over it but usually, something unconscious dictates our actions — especially when it comes to our interaction with others. Communicating and dealing with people can be hard for anyone at one point or another.

Learning a few simple psychological truths about how our minds work can make your social life a lot easier.

1. Find out if a person’s interested in you by looking at their feet.

Have you ever wondered whether someone was genuinely interested in talking with you or they found you boring? Or maybe you wanted to join a conversation and weren’t sure you were welcome?

I’ve always caught myself feeling awkward and uncomfortable in these sorts of situations. Turns out, there’s a simple hack that makes things much easier.

Next time you’re in a conversation with someone, take a look at their feet. If they’re pointed at you, congrats! The other person is most likely truly engaged in your conversation. If they’re pointed away, however, chances are their mind is elsewhere.

That’s also true when it comes to approaching a group of people while in a conversation. If they turn only their torsos and not their feet towards you, it probably means they are in the middle of an important conversation — or they simply don’t want you interrupting them.

People unconsciously stand with their feet pointing away from someone who they are disinterested in, whereas they usually point their feet towards a person they genuinely want to talk to.

2. Make someone like you or do you a favor with the “Benjamin Franklin Effect.”

A person who has done someone a favor is more likely to do that person another favor than they would be if they had received a favor from that person. Or, in Benjamin Franklin’s own words:

“He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.”

Confused much? Well, that’s the Benjamin Franklin Effect and is based on our brain’s dislike of cognitive dissonance.

Let’s suppose you perform a favor for someone you dislike. You now experience cognitive dissonance, an inconsistency between your belief (this person sucks), and your action(but I did them a huge favor). Your brain dislikes cognitive dissonance and fights against situations where your beliefs and your actions don’t exactly match up.

As a consequence, when you do something nice for someone you have negative feelings for, your brain will decide that the recipient of your help must be a nicer person than you first thought. It will also likely agree to do this person a second favor in the future.

Weird, right? However, it can be extremely helpful in social situations. Make someone do you a tiny favor and then ask for your true, bigger favor. Their brain will rationalize that they must like you enough to have done you a favor in the first place — and they will likely follow with more favors.

3. Avoid someone’s anger by sitting next to them.

We have all been in uncomfortable situations when the other person got super angry out of nowhere. Things can escalate quickly when you’re having an argument with a friend, a colleague, or even one of your parents. When that happens, make sure you stand next to them instead of in front of them.

Why? Because standing close to someone can help keep their anger at bay. After all, it’s a lot easier to unload your anger on someone physically distant from you. It’s just somewhat awkward to turn to a person immediately next to you and start yelling at them uncontrollably.

4. Ask more questions to be more likable.

Do you have an upcoming job interview? Or a long-awaited date? Make sure you ask your conversation partner some questions, especially ones that will make them talk about themselves.

While many people probably think that asking a lot of questions can make them come out as annoying, it can actually increase their likability. According to research, people who ask more questions, particularly follow-up questions, are better liked by their conversation partners.

And let’s not forget about another crucial benefit of asking questions too: the more you ask, the more you learn about someone, and the better you'll understand their character.

After all, understanding someone’s character is the first step for efficient communication. As C.G. Jung once said about human relationships:

“If one does not understand a person, one tends to regard him as a fool.”

5. Frame a request as a choice to get what you want.

We all want to feel we have a saying in every choice we make with others. And we definitely don’t want to feel persuaded into doing something we didn’t feel like doing.

Now, by subtlety rephrasing a request, you can make the person feel like they came to the decision on their own terms. It’s one thing to say “do you want to donate $50 to this organization” and another to ask someone, “would you like to donate $50 dollars to this organization”?

That is because in the latter example, instead of simply answering with a yes or no, they are forced to deny your request in a more active way and come out as a bit aggressive.

While this technique doesn’t guarantee that the other person will do what you want, it can definitely nudge them in that direction.

6. Use the power of silence to get the information you need.

You know, some people find it difficult to open up and tell you everything you want to know about them. On the other hand, sometimes we don’t like or we don’t understand the answer we receive from someone.

In these cases, instead of re-asking, just keep quiet after the other person has stopped talking and look right into their eyes. And wait. If the tension becomes unbearable, raise your eyebrows.

These things will put a bit of pressure on them and make them feel awkward or uncomfortable. If it goes well, they will have no choice but to elaborate on their thoughts.

Of course, this trick is only to be used when you’re engaging in a conversation about ordinary, non-sensitive things. Pressuring anyone to reveal details about their private life is wrong and unethical.

7. Build up trust by mirroring other people’s body language.

Building up trust with someone can be hard and time-consuming— especially when you don’t know each other so well. Now, what if you could speed up this process with a small, simple action?

If you subtly mimic the body language of the person you’re talking to, you can effectively build up trust with them. This is called called the “chameleon effect”. Research has shown that by mirroring the way a person speaks and moves can make them like you more — because it makes them think you’re compatible.

To put it simply, we enjoy more speaking to people who mimic our postures, facial expressions, and any kind of other behavior.

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Margaret Pan

Written by

Thoughtful writer. Words&cats&books. Trying to make a difference in the world through personal development, psychology, and entrepreneurship.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 119,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

Margaret Pan

Written by

Thoughtful writer. Words&cats&books. Trying to make a difference in the world through personal development, psychology, and entrepreneurship.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 119,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

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