Reverse Psychology: Can It Be Harmful?

Last Update on May 18, 2022 : Published on May 18, 2022

Reverse psychology is a widely used strategy, specifically used to make people do things by telling them to do the exact opposite of it. This only works because we humans have a strong urge to do things we were asked not to do.

You too must have experienced this weird motivation that you get when either someone challenges/doubts your capabilities or stops you from doing something. You can use reverse psychology in various aspects of your life.

Let’s understand reverse psychology better…

What Does Reverse Psychology Mean?


Reverse Psychology basically means to influence an act by asking someone to perform the exact opposite of what you intend them to do.  It is a tactic many of us use in order to achieve our desired goal.

Simply put, you apply reverse psychology when you ask someone to do a certain thing and expect them to do the opposite (which is what you actually want them to do).

Reverse psychology is termed as ‘strategic self-anticonformity’ which basically means a self-initiated non-conformity which is ironically influenced by someone else. You do not conform to what the other person is saying by doing just the opposite.

How Does Reverse Psychology Affect Our Mind?

The statements passed keeping reverse psychology in mind can affect the feeling and thoughts of the person who is on the receiving end, the one being influenced. When someone uses reverse psychology on you, you have a psychological experience known as reactance.

Reactance is a strong emotional (negative) response which is generated in opposition to what you think you are being influenced for. It’s just a trap, you think you’ve escaped being influenced by the other person but you end up doing exactly what they desire.

Reverse psychology is a form of nothing but plain manipulation. When someone uses reverse psychology on you, you’re being played, manipulated for influence. It is often used on children so as to influence them to do the things their parents’ desire.

Signs Of Reverse Psychology


Why is knowing the signs of reverse psychology important? Sometimes people use reverse psychology to fulfill their own wasted interest and if you are unaware of the signs of reverse psychology, you’ll be easily influenced and will have to bear the brunt of it all while others will have achieved their goal.

Therefore, to avoid that from happening, keep these signs of reverse psychology in mind and beware of manipulators in life;

  • The manipulator will seem very relaxed and more open than usual. It’s their trick to seem trustworthy
  • In order to get a reaction from you, they might behave in an overly negative manner
  • They will encourage you to do something they usually would avoid
  • They persistently ask you to do or not do something so that you are focused to do the opposite to retaliate
  • The opposite of the thing you’re being asked to do will benefit them more than you

Keep these things in mind because any one or more of these signs can be elicited by your manipulator who is using reverse psychology in order to get their work done.

Can Reverse Psychology Harm You?


Reverse psychology somewhere has similar negative effects as passive-aggressive behavior has on you. The most harm is caused to children since reverse psychology is mostly used on children.

They can use the manipulation strategies from reverse psychology in their adult life to influence others for their own benefit. They can use reverse psychology to exploit other children and even take advantage of them. Many bullies in school use reverse psychology to make other children make mistakes and get in trouble.

Also read: How to Deal With Adult Bullying

We all have different emotional thresholds, some people are more sensitive than others. Reverse psychology affects people with low self-esteem very deeply. In fact using reverse psychology in relationships can build trust issues between the two partners and can also break the relationship.

Reverse psychology can backfire every easily especially when you are dealing with teenagers. It can hit their self-confidence, self-worth and self-esteem. You can use reverse psychology for the benefit of the other but you should know when to draw the line because sometimes it just doesn’t work. You can try other ways to motivate people like motivational interviewing.

That’s All Folks

Reverse psychology when used in a good proportion can of course be beneficial. Sadly, it is being viewed as a manipulative strategy to influence people to do things for their wasted interests.

Keep tabs on the signs of reverse psychology being used on you. So that you can identify a manipulator easily and not fall into their trap. When in case you plan to use reverse psychology, make sure you do it in the interest of the other person and try not to cause any emotional harm.

That’s all for today! I hope you found this blog about reverse psychology interesting and thought provoking.

That’s for reading.

Take care and stay safe.

About The Author

Kirti Bhati
Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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