Sometimes you need an advantage at work.

Not only to get ahead and get that promotion — sometimes to just survive. Many close colleagues and new clients have been written up and fired (for nothing) instead of being laid off (the rational option). Companies are getting more cutthroat, managers are getting more paranoid, and it’s everyone for themselves people.

Here are some simple psychological tricks to stay on top of your game at work:

Sit next to your enemies.

If you’re in a group meeting and you suspect that someone in there might come after you about something or if you have a job with a huge target painted on your back, sit right next to them.

They were hoping that the group would provide some sort of herd defense, 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.

“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

Shut up after the sale.

In sales, once you make the sales pitch, don’t say anything else.

A client used to work at a gym trying to sell memberships. She told me that once she got all the small talk out of the way and presented the prices, that the first person to talk will lose. At first it didn’t seem like a big deal to her, but it actually worked. Often there were long periods of awkward silence as the customer tried to come up with some excuse, but usually they bought. It was quite impressive actually. 

Corollary: Once someone has agreed to help you, stop talking. The more you say, the more opportunities they have to change their minds.

Notice people’s eye color.

When you first meet people try to notice their eye color while also smiling at them. It might be because you look for a second or two longer, but all I can tell you is that people really respond to it.

Nervous? Chew gum.

Chew gum when you’re approaching a situation that would make you nervous like public speaking or bungee jumping. Apparently, if we are ‘eating’ something, our brains trip and reasons “I would not be eating if I were danger . . . so I’m not in danger”. Has helped many clients calm down before anxiety-ridden activities.

Instead of asking, make an offer.

If you really want something from someone, frame it as an offer rather than a request.

When Teddy Roosevelt was running for president, his campaign printed out 3 million leaflets with a picture of Teddy and a copy of a campaign speech. The campaign then realized that they didn’t have the rights to the photo of Teddy. Instead of explaining the situation to the photographer, which would have given them leverage to ask for a lot of money, the campaign made an offer — they would use the picture, giving the photographer lots of publicity if the studio paid them $250. The studio paid the money.

Avoid negative talk.

In real life terms – avoid negative words when pitching something unfavorable to an audience that you want to receive it well. If you can do it in writing, all the better, because you get to pick out your words carefully. Also focus the manner by which you intend to fix things, rather than the problems.

A client of mine worked with mentally disabled children, and he found it highly beneficial to describe their capacities in such a way that he indirectly described their limitations, as opposed to the reverse.

‘Johnny can’t even speak in phrases, and only turns his head to you when you say his name, but doesn’t make eye contact. He won’t sit in a chair for more than a minute unless you repeatedly tell him to.’

NOPE. TRY AGAIN. ‘Johnny uses words to communicate, so the next step is to strengthen his skills up to the level of 2-word phrases. He responds to his name by turning, so we’re going to work on his ability to maintain eye contact. Johnny is able to remain seated for longer than one minute if given repeated prompting.’

Which would you rather hear about your kid? This also applies to other types of work – use it to present anything negative. Works magnificently.

People will remember not what you said but how you made them feel.

So go out of your way to make them feel good about themselves, even proud. Most of the time we berate and kill our confidence internally, so the more that you make people feel better, the more they will like you. And do things for you.

Also most people like talking about themselves so ask lots of questions about them.

Get them talking on a general topic (movies, music) ask them what movies/music/whatever it was they like, engage them on that, go from there; offer bits of information about yourself then bounce it back to them. Your goal is to make them feel good, via engaging them on their most cherished subjects. i.e. themselves, and the things they like the most.

This technique is really good for various situations that might otherwise be awkward. For example when you are trying to draw out a reserved person, show an interest in them (a genuine one hopefully) and go from there.

Someone you want to know better in that special ‘relationship’ way? Asking about them is often a great approach.

Trying to get someone to like you in a situation with a power differential (i.e. in a workplace setting or a job interview) is to get ’em talking, ideally about something work-related that makes them feel competent and informed. They will remember how good they felt in your presence and that will color their perception of you.

You’re not aiming to be the audience to a monologue, you’re trying to find ways in which you can connect with that other person. The ultimate goal is to connect.

Stay calm in the face of danger.

When people are angry at me — if I stay calm — it’ll get them even angrier, and be ashamed about it after. It’s called an “adrenaline dump,” and it’s easily one of my favorite tactics. It’s basically conversational judo.

There’s an evolutionary precedent for it, too — adrenaline is manufactured in response to a threat, and two people yelling at each other both register as a ‘threat’ to their opponent, creating an adrenaline arms race.

But if that steady increase is interrupted, the whole build-up is swept out from under a person. The shame sets in almost automatically, an innate response to assessing someone else as a bigger threat than they actually are.

I practiced it about a year ago. I was having a barbecue with some friends and colleagues near one of our offices. Some drunken jerk ambles over from a nearby pub and demands a hotdog, getting more and more belligerent when he’s repeatedly denied (at first, we said we’d hook him up if we had any left over and that the ones on the grill were already spoken for, but he didn’t much care for that).

I walked over to him — I was easily half his size — looked the red-face, raging jerk square in the eyes and calmly said, “Hey man, I just wanna know something. What’s your name?”

The stranger gave his name, visibly taken aback but still extremely pissed. “Where’re you from? What’s your deal?”

The stranger, now equal parts angry and confused, says he’s a local contractor and he lives a few blocks away.

I nodded, and with a confident, measured glare that could chill fresh coffee said, “One last question: Why are you being such a jerk to all my friends at our barbecue?”

You could pinpoint the exact nanosecond the guy’s rage simmered out and the embarrassment barreled in. He looked around sheepishly, and without a word, turns around and ambles back into the alleyway, disappearing into the pub’s back door without a second glance.

Self Image Is Everything. 

People have a certain image of themselves and will fight tooth and nail to cling to it. Use this information wisely.

I do this all the time. You can avoid insulting someone by not saying anything that shows you perceive them differently than what they’re trying to present. Or you can be a little more manipulative and make people like you by casually stroking their ego.

This could go wrong, especially if you have bad intentions. Not all manipulation is bad if done on a small scale with innocent intentions.

Never Ever Gossip. 

Promise yourself you’ll never gossip about other people. I mean it. Even when the people around you are gossiping, even when you agree with the stuff they’re saying. You don’t have to make a big deal of it, just don’t partake in it.

Once people get the idea you’re not into gossiping about other people behind their backs, the amount of gossip they talk around you will decrease. It isn’t fun to gossip unless everybody’s gossiping. Your decision to stop the gossip and their eventual reaction to you not reciprocating will positively affect both of you, as well as your relationship.

I made this change in how I interact with people and the amount and quality of my friendships have grown exponentially. People will trust you more if they haven’t listened to you gossip about other people. You will be seen as more a more positive person than other friends who do talk shit. The gap gossiping used to fill will be replaced with way more interesting and/or intimate conversation too.

Are You The Center Of Your Group?

When a group of people laugh, people will instinctively look at the person they feel closest to in that group.

Want More Romance?

Look up the false attribution of arousal. Basically, if you want to make someone like you, get their heart rate going.

Take them on a date to see a scary movie and then go out for coffee. This puts their body in an aroused (increased blood flow, not sexual) state. Their mind then falsely attributes that physiological effect to being with you making them think they like you! (hopefully they actually do, but this gets the ball rolling)

Ladies — Want To Be More Attractive?

Wear red. For women, the color red makes them exponentially more attractive. Research has shown that men will go to great lengths to do things for a woman in red that they would not do otherwise like give her money or even carry her across the street.

Let’s Throw In Some Interview Skills Too.

Body mirroring. So something that we do that we don’t realize is mirror the body language of people that we like, like our friends. If they sit crossed legged, we will. If they touch their face, we will. This goes back to the subconscious will to be more like the people that we respect.

You can kind of “force” this. Put a conscious effort into mirroring the body posture of your interviewer, bun don’t be obvious about it. Be nice and subtle. This will kin of trick their mind into thinking that they like you. After all, you are doing similar things with your body, why not!

Get them to talk about themselves. People are selfish and they love talking about what they do. Ask your interviewer as many questions about what they do for work and really listen. They will walk away from the interview in a good mood because they got to talk about themselves and they will then think that the interview went well.

If you are able, schedule the interview as early as possible. There’s a ton of cognitive psychology research about the primacy effect which essentially states that items are more memorable if they are presented earlier. So if you’re going into a grad school interview where the person will literally be interviewing all day, you will be more memorable if you go first. If you are unable to be first go last. Similarly, there is research about the recency effect, which states that items are also memorable if they are presented last, though the primacy effect is more reliable. Just try not to be stuck in the middle.

Find Yourself In A Debate?

Don’t give your stance first. Give your argument. In some self interest research that I did myself in my undergrad, I found that your persuasiveness is fragile and dependent on your social identity. For example, if you came out and say “I’m an atheist and this is what I believe,” you are already seen as less persuasive and more biased because people already know why you are arguing what you’re arguing; you have something to gain by convincing people. You’re an atheist.

What you should do is not say you’re an atheist at all. Say “this is what I believe…” Because people don’t have an assumption already in their mind, they will be more likely to view you as less biased. Bonus points if you’re on the opposite side. For example, a conservative arguing for gay rights is going to be viewed as very persuasive and not biased at all because they literally have nothing to gain from holding that viewpoint while a homosexual arguing for gay rights does have something to gain and thus is seen as more biased.

Finally, Some Cool Final ‘Tricks’.

Reminding people of their death will make them more likely to follow a charismatic leader.

You have a much higher chance of success in a relationship if your parents and your friends like your romantic partner.

The placebo effect is actually more powerful than some medications. One study found that cancer patients given a placebo to treat their cancer had a 12% increase in remission rates.