The truth is that there are a lot of people who make their livings by subtly encouraging you to think what they want you to think. People influence others’ thoughts all the time, and it isn’t always nefarious. Often, it’s entirely unintentional. Still, it’s a good idea to know how it’s done so that you can protect yourself from those who want to try to manipulate you.
Reverse psychology has been portrayed in television situation comedies so many times that everyone thinks they know how it works. Everyone also thinks he or she is immune to it. The truth is that no one is immune to it. Once the television salesperson has shown you the top-of-the-line model, the last thing he or she wants is to let you walk away and look at a lower-priced model. You, however, know that is what you should do. At this point, if the salesperson tries to talk you into buying the expensive model, you will marshal your resolve and insist on buying the black-and-white model with the rabbit ears someone drug out of the attic last week.
A slick salesperson won’t do that. He or she will allow you to linger near the better model for a while, while mentioning in a voice filled with longing how someone they know has that model and it definitely was the center of attention at last year’s Superbowl party. When you are almost ready to bite, the salesperson will offer to show you a cheaper model. “Are you sure? I don’t mind.” By now, you are slightly aggravated at the idea of looking at another model. You know what you want, and you want this television. This only works if the salesperson can sound as though they truly think you should look at the cheaper model.
Talking Around the Idea
A really good soft sell is always vague. The seller never comes right out and tells you to do what they want you to do. One of the first things a real estate agent is taught is how to counter objections. Objections are the good reasons why the buyer should not buy the house. Another important aspect of selling a house is telling buyers why the house is a good fit. However, good agents may never counter an objection or tell you that a house is right for you.
A good agent will talk in general terms about things like space for children to play, the value of having a small, low-maintenance yard, possible uses for basement spaces, the advantages of not having a basement, or whatever features are possessed by the home he or she wants you to buy. This sets the stage and helps to make you more open to considering these features.
Likewise, good agents don’t counter objections. They get you to do that for them. When you say that the bathroom is outdated, the agent grimaces and says, “Oh. Is that something you can fix?” You are proud of your handyman skills, so you say, “Well, I could put down some new tile and switch out the vanity.” If you have two children but the house only has two bedrooms, the agent points out the problem and asks you for a solution. Because you came up with the idea to buy bunk beds yourself, you are more amenable to it than you would be if the idea had been thrust upon you.
Some of the best salespeople in the world employ underselling to get you to do what they want you to do. The underseller is a master at making you think that he or she is trying to sell you the cheaper option while planting uncertainty in your mind and making you believe you really need the more expensive version.
This often happens when people buy cars. You enter the lot determined to buy the smallest, most fuel-efficient car on the lot. The salesperson is delighted to show you exactly what you requested. As you are looking, the salesperson talks up the car, assuring you that as long as you aren’t planning any more children, or planning to haul a lot of your children’s friends around, it should be the perfect car for you. Besides, if you do decide to expand your family, you can always trade it in.
Of course, you know that you and your spouse have already been talking about adding to the family. You also are suddenly very much aware that your daughter will soon be old enough to invite friends along for outings. You don’t want to have to get another car for at least a few years. You begin to wonder if you will regret choosing such a small car. You don’t want an SUV, either, but perhaps something just a bit bigger would be a better idea. By making you think he or she was looking out for your best interests, the salesperson made you feel anxious about your carefully considered choice and planted the idea in your mind that you needed a bigger car.