Psychological tips to give you the advantage in business

Diagram of human head

You don’t have to have a degree in psychology to be a good leader, but understanding how people tick can give you the edge in business

Recognising the nuances of human behaviour is one of the best ways to create a more productive workplace, earn trust and win tough negotiations.

Here are some pearls of wisdom from members of the Reddit community that you might like to try.

Use the art of silence to get results

People hate awkward silences, but they can be an effective conversational tool. If you ask someone a question but they try to evade answering, stay quiet and maintain eye contact. They will then usually continue talking to make themselves feel less uncomfortable and give you a fuller, more honest, explanation.

The silent treatment can work particularly well in negotiations. The person you’re dealing with might be so thrown off guard that they reveal vital information that can help you gain the upper hand.

Make people feel good about themselves

It’s not what you say that someone remembers, but how you make them feel. When you’re meeting someone for the first time, get them talking on a general topic such as films or music and take it from there. Gauge the situation carefully, though, because although most people like talking about themselves, some absolutely don’t. Your goal is to make them feel good, not rub them up the wrong way.

Refer to people by name, but don’t make it sound too forced. This establishes a sense of trust and friendship from the outset.

Keep your enemies close

If you’re in a group meeting and you suspect someone is going to give you a hard time, sit right next to them.

According to Reddit’s logic: “They were hoping that the group would provide some sort of herd defence, but if you’re right next to them it can’t be anything other than personal. This tends to make them back off, or at least substantially temper what they say.”

Puzzle head brain concept. Human head profile made from brown paper with a jigsaw piece cut out. Choose your personality that suit you

Um, you know – avoid meaningless words

We all use them, but Reddit users recommend trying to get out of the habit of using filler words and phrases such as “um”, “uh”, “like”, “you know” etc.

If you’re struggling to find the right word, use short pauses to gather your thoughts before finishing your sentence, although not to such an extent that you cause everyone to nod off!

People tend to talk louder and faster when they’re upset or uncomfortable. If you slow your voice and tone down, you give the appearance of being calm and confident.

Use the foot-in-the-door technique

Start by asking someone for something small and they’ll be more likely to respond to a bigger request next time. This could be something as simple as requesting their email address, which doesn’t cost anything and is easy to provide. Once you’ve established contact, it opens up the door to ask them for something bigger, be it a sale or just reading a blog post.

Psychologists think this technique works due to our tendency to feel indebted to someone after we’ve had some level of interaction with them.

Beat anxiety with gum

Chewing gum when you’re confronted by a situation that makes you nervous, such as public speaking, can reduce the tension.

Apparently, if we’re ‘eating’, it triggers something in our brains that reasons “I would not be eating if I were in danger, so I’m not in danger”. This may not be scientifically proven, but it seemed to work well for Alex Ferguson so who are we to argue?