20 Psychological Communication Hacks That You’ll Wish You’d Known Sooner

Communication with other people seems like it should be easy (it’s just talking, right?) but can actually be so difficult and complex. When and how things are said can have a great deal of impact on how a message is received by another person, especially if you don’t know each other well.

Over on Reddit, a user going by PM_ME_UR_PUPPYDOGS asked, “What’s the most effective psychological ‘trick’ you use?” The answers were super interesting and helpful, so pay attention and you just might learn something that changes the way you communicate.

1. Like this tip about people wanting to feel needed.

“It is often hard to get my employees to do what is needed. I have found saying ‘I need your help’ is sufficient to get them on board. People want to feel needed and like they are making a difference. Expressing to them as much makes all the difference in the world.”


2. Or this question-asking tip.

“Instead of asking ‘Do you have any questions?’ I ask ‘What questions do you have?’

The first almost always results in silence, and the second lets people feel comfortable to ask questions.”


3. This argument strategy.

“In an argument, find something to agree on then push your main point.”


4. This tip about not sounding like a know-it-all.

“I recently read that saying ‘You’re right!’ instead of ‘I know!’ makes you look less like an asshole and doesn’t diminish something someone else may have just found out.”


5. This tip for how to cut off workplace drama before it even starts.

“One way to avoid workplace drama and be well-liked is to compliment people behind their back.”


6. This tip about being personal and direct.

“Be direct and personal when you need things. Instead of asking if anyone has an EpiPen ask who has an EpiPen. Instead of asking someone to call 911, point to a specific person and say, ‘You, in the blue jacket, what’s your name? Tom? OK, Tom, go call 911 and come tell me when they are on the way.'”


7. This tip about not having to repeat yourself.

“When I ask someone a question and their first response is ‘What?’ I just stare at them for a few seconds, and 99% of the time they answer my question without me having to repeat myself. I think it’s just a reflex people have to ask ‘What?’ instead of answering what you’ve asked even when they’ve heard you clearly.”


8. This tip about thanking people.

“Thanking someone for a trait you want from them. Instead of telling a customer ‘Sorry for the wait,’ tell them, ‘Thank you for your patience or understanding.’ Works wonders.”


9. This tactic to diffuse an argument.

“In an argument, instead of arguing right off the bad, I start off by agreeing with them and then stating my point of view after addressing the other person’s point. Always ends in a positive interaction. The idea is to show respect for what the other person thinks. Rather than shutting the person down and telling them they’re wrong, you listen to them.”


10. This advice to be understanding, or at least say you are.

“If someone is upset or angry, try saying ‘that’s completely understandable.’ It gives them a sense of victory, and shifts their emotions away from being directed at you because you understand and might be on their side.”


11. This hack about praising the asker’s question.

“I speak at conferences all over the world, and a lot of the speakers use this in their Q&A. If there’s a particularly hard question to answer, they always start with ‘What a great question! (Etc etc).’ Generally speaking, the asker is so pleased that their question got praised by the speaker in front of all those people that they are less critical of and pay less attention to the actual answer.”


12. This tip for de-escalation.

“If you need to deescalate someone and get them to communicate, try asking questions about numbers/personal information (I work in emergency services). If someone is totally distraught and shut down, asking their phone number/address/ssn/birthdate can pull them out of the emotional place and bring them back to a headspace where they can talk about what happened more easily. I often ask these questions even after I have the information, just to deescalate.”


13. This tip on how to deal with someone throwing a lot of excuses at you.

“When someone is giving you a lot of excuses, or generally if they’re getting a bit arsey about something, often the best way to handle it is to stare back with mild interest and contribute nothing to their monologue. If you don’t give them anything to work with, they’ll talk themselves into a corner and lose confidence in what they’re saying.”


14. This tip to get someone to start talking.

“When I do something annoying or bothersome to my husband and he goes quiet, I wait a few minutes and then I ask him a seemingly innocent question, usually on the subject of how certain parts of a car works, or something mechanical. This gets him talking about the car thing and he rambles for like 5 minutes and then bam! He’s happy again and not quietly brooding.”


15. This tip to just listen.

“Listening to someone without giving advice or pushing for more information typically gets me more information than being pushy for it.”


16. This tip about dealing with co-workers.

“My co-workers can get a little catty sometimes. When they’re griping to me about something someone else did, I just shut it down with “X is just so great with customer service though,” or some compliment about the person they’re complaining about. Works like a charm, and sends the message ‘I’m not going to feed into this crap, so go away.'”


17. This tip about not telling kids not to do something.

“I have to work with kids a lot: I volunteer at a camp helping camp counselors and I have five younger siblings. Whatever you do, don’t tell kids not to do something. If I told you, ‘DONT THINK ABOUT UNICORNS!’ you’ll immediately think about unicorns. Don’t tell a kid not to something, rather tell them to do something else. That way, you don’t put the idea of what you don’t want them to do into their minds, but rather, what you do what them to do, which, in their childish manner, fuels the fire to do it more.”


18. This tip about dealing with little kids’ questions.

“My youngest child got into the ‘why’ phase a little while back. I read an article that said the best way to get them to stop was to ask them, ‘I’m not sure, what do you think?’ It’s a godsend. They answer their own question, you provide some feedback, ‘Sounds good to me,’ and they immediately move on. Fucking awesome.”


19. This hack for dealing with apologies.

“Don’t say ‘It’s okay,’ when someone apologizes. Say something like, ‘Thank you for apologizing.’

If someone needs to apologize to you, then it was for something that wasn’t okay. My mom teaches this to her kindergartners, and it really does make a difference. It opens the door for growth and conversation, too. ‘Thank you for apologizing, I don’t like it when you hit me.'”


20. And finally, this tip to avoid getting picked on when you don’t want to answer.

“So, if you find yourself in a group situation where someone, like a teacher or manager, is asking questions that must be answered and you want to avoid being picked, then here is my tip: If the person locks eyes on you as they ask the question, break eye contact with them and look towards another person just as their wrapping up asking their question. Their attention is diverted to that other person just as the question ends and the person they are now looking at feels compelled to answer.”


h/t: BuzzFeed

Jessie Dean Altman

Dean Altman is a writer living in NYC.