6 Psychological Tricks to Get What You Want at Work

In general, the secret to getting ahead at work is boring and isn’t that much of a secret: Work hard, be a team player, and offer great ideas. Still, one can employ a few psychological tricks to gain an office advantage. Here are six mind games to try.



1. Focus on roles, not on hierarchy or the personalities in those roles

“It’s just business.” That can be one of the hardest lessons to learn in the workplace, as is the closely related “Don’t take it personally.” One of the best ways to focus on the matter at hand and not your place in the pecking order is to concentrate not on your boss’ irritating personality or status but rather on the role they are asked to play in the company. You, too, are asked to play a role in the company. If you can create some mental and emotional space between what you are being asked to do and who is asking you to do it, you may find yourself in a calmer place.

2. Use body language to your advantage

The experts interviewed on TV may take it to the extreme, but body language is powerful. If you need proof, consider how much easier it is to communicate with someone in person than it is on Zoom—and that it’s even easier to communicate on a video call than on the phone. The body language researcher Albert Mehrabian estimated that 55 percent of communication is nonverbal. Keep this in mind during meetings. Make eye contact with other meeting attendees to form connections. Keep your hands in an open, relaxed position. And use nodding to display comprehension and intent listening.

3. Split your work into mini-tasks to power through

A huge part of getting ahead at the office is finishing your work in a timely manner without your supervisor’s prodding. When you’re faced with a monumental task, split it into mini-tasks that aren’t as overwhelming. The writing classic Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott uses the example of a child assigned to write a report about several species of birds. Knowing you must write about 20 types of birds is nerve-wracking, but if you take it “bird by bird,” you’ll knock out those bird reports in no time.

4. Reward yourself along the way

Even if you generally like your job, some days and some tasks are more arduous than others. Find ways to reward yourself at key milestones as you finish up those mini-tasks. These rewards don’t need to be lavish, expensive, or calorie-laden. A reward could be as simple as planning your next 15-minute break complete with a scroll through Instagram after completing five mini-tasks.

5. Get comfortable with silence

If you went to journalism school, you probably learned that a time-tested interview trick is to leave some room for silence in between questions. People are generally uncomfortable with silence and will rush to fill it. That’s true whether you’re interviewing someone as a reporter or negotiating with someone. Be OK with the pause. The other person may rush to fill it with just the information you want to hear.

6. Use word associations to remember names

Remembering someone’s name is a huge relationship-builder. And, for some of us, it can be hard to do. One tip is to use someone’s name in conversation soon after you learn it. For instance, if you meet someone at a party, exchange pleasantries, and then go your separate ways, don’t simply say, “Nice to meet you.” Say, “Nice to meet you, Jane.” Repetition helps the mind. Word association is also a good trick. Find something to associate the person’s name with the circumstances in which you met them. Say you meet Warren in the buffet line. It should be easy to remember Warren’s name, right?

You can find yourself sucked into all sorts of politics and intrigue at the office, but the most important person to play mind games with is yourself. Master your mind and watch yourself get ahead.

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