How can you use psychology to manipulate people

I remember the story of the father who manipulated his son.
“Ryan, do your chores now!” his mom pleaded.
“Ryan, do your homework,” she begged.
“Ryan, can you please set the table,” she asked.

His mom gave up and did the work herself. But his dad was just getting started.

“How are my two favourite boys?” His mother said as she beamed through the door after a day at work.

As she paced through the house, something felt different. What was it? Out of habit, she went to the sink to wash up the dishes Ryan had left. It was empty.

She checked the table. It was already set. Starting to panic, she rushed to Ryan’s room. His homework was done. Before dialling emergency services about her son’s abduction, she spotted him outside throwing the ball with his dad.

Walking outside, she crossed her arms, raised her eyebrows and shot a look at his dad, saying, “Ok, confess, what did you do?”

Here’s how Ryan’s dad did it.

He didn’t ask Ryan to do his chores. He asked if he wanted to complete them now or after they finished playing outside. He didn’t ask Ryan to finish his homework. He asked if he preferred to do it now and return to his game or do it whenever he likes – so long as he isn’t playing his game in the meantime.
Finally, he didn’t ask Ryan to set the table. He asked if he would like to do the dishes or set the table. Ryan chose the table, and his dad did the dishes.


The secret ingredient is choice.

When you tell someone to do something, they hear two options: do it or don’t do it – obey or disobey. There’s something human about craving freedom. We want to be in control, and we do this by making our own choices.

When his dad gave him a choice, Ryan became invested in it. He chose what he would do, and because he chose it, he owned it.

People don’t disobey out of malice. They do it to maintain their freedom.

Published in Relationships, Learning, Life, life lessons, Psychology


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