4 Signs You’re Being Manipulated With “Reverse Psychology”

Justin Zack
5 min readDec 17, 2021
Photo by Agni B on Unsplash

Look out! You might be dealing with someone who’s using reverse psychology on you right now.

There’s a powerful way that people can get you to do what they want and it’s called “reverse psychology” — essentially getting you to do something you probably don’t want to do.

People might even use reverse psychology against you without your knowledge, so knowing how and why it works can protect you from those who would use an unfair persuasion tactic on you.

Luckily, there are ways that you can prevent manipulation and stay in control of your own emotions.

Here I will cover what I’ve learned about the psychology behind reverse psychology and how to guard yourself against it.

You are not being manipulated.

Yes. Yes you are. Well, which is it?

Reverse psychology is when you try to get someone to do something by telling them not to do it or by doing the opposite of what you want them to do.

Take the last sub-headline, you probably read that thinking “I’m being manipulated”.

This is a type of influence tactic where the manipulator appeals to the other person’s sense of independence, free will or self-determination to get them to act out of their own volition.

Frankly, it’s an excellent parental hack.

You tell your kids that they can’t do something because the kids will want to do it. Telling your children that you don’t want them to watch television, for example, might actually make them more likely to do so.

Or how many times have you heard this, “don’t buy me anything”? Notice how you feel the next time someone says that to you. I’m guessing you feel like you “have to” get them something.

I’m not saying that every person who says “don’t do X” is being manipulative, but the dynamic is worth studying.

When intentionally being employed, the aim is to make you go in a direction or do something you wouldn’t normally, or would actively resist.

You will have it their way.

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Justin Zack

Project leader. Product thinker. Write about human things. Find me at justinzack.com