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Top 10 Scientific Ways To Hack Social Situations

by Himanshu Sharma
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Even if we choose to spend most of our time staring at a screen, humans are inherently social creatures. Social interaction still forms an important part of our day-to-day lives, whether it’s with colleagues at work, family at home or strangers on the Internet.

10 Surprising Ways To Hack Your Body

While some people seem to be naturally good at understanding social cues and carrying a perfect conversation, for the more introverted of us out there, it may not be as easy. Thankfully – and possibly due to scientists generally being introverts as well – science has come up with quite a few hacks you can use the next time you find yourself stuck in a social situation.

10 Feet Don’t Lie

Most people think of the eyes to be the best indicator of what someone is feeling, and they’re not entirely wrong. Eyes are capable of expressing a ridiculously wide range of emotions, though it’s also quite easy for most people to fake them. If you want to know what someone’s really feeling in a casual conversation at a party—according to science, at least—look at their feet.

While we’re perfectly capable of faking emotions with most other parts of the body, the feet aren’t easy to fool at all. You can tell if someone is stressed, humiliated, humbled, shy, lethargic, horny, angry or nervous just by looking at their legs or feet, as we have no control over it. For example, someone uncrossing his legs or turning his feet to point away from you is likely feeling a sense of discomfort, as his brain has already started making subconscious preparations to leave.[1]

9 Take A Cup Of Hot Coffee To Your Next Interview

The Internet is full of advice on what to do to prepare for an interview. Depending on the source, it may be anything from color-coordinating your clothes to trying to sleep with someone related to the interviewer. None of it works, though, as interviewers are usually looking for quick decision-making abilities and confidence, and rarely preparedness.

The best way you can ace an interview is by knowing what you’re talking about, but also warming your hands up before the handshake. If that sounds random, it isn’t. Studies have found that warmth can make someone kinder and more generous towards you. While they don’t know exactly why it happens, it may be a vestige from our early days. Shared warmth would have – at some point – helped us establish closer relationships with other people, which would have, in turn, helped keep us all alive.[2]

8 Stop Feeling Anything With Botox

While emotions are generally considered to be a good thing, they can also prove to be a detriment in many social situations. There are many times when something offensive or otherwise out-of-place ends up disproportionately affecting us. Emotions definitely work against us in those cases; if only there was a way to shut them off to avoid these situations.

As it turns out, there is; just get a Botox treatment. Botox has been long known to inhibit your ability to physically express emotions, but if some recent research is anything to go by, it may actually affect our ability to feel those emotions, too. While they don’t know how it can be possible – as emotions are entirely in the brain and shouldn’t be affected by cosmetic treatments – it’s similar to how you can fool your body into feeling happy by forcing a smile.[3]

7 In An Argument, Keep It Simple

Whenever we’re in the middle of an argument, we tend to dig up complex, elaborate facts to counter the opposing points. Unfortunately, that doesn’t quite work, as the main aim of most human arguments isn’t sharing knowledge or coming to an amiable conclusion, but winning. Keeping that in mind, the next time you’re stuck in a fairly simple argument with someone, try simplifying your language instead of making it tougher.

Studies suggest that speaking in easily-enunciable words and simple-to-understand sentences has a calming effect on the listener, and could even be used to make them more receptive to what you’re saying. It has been proven to work in areas other than social situations, too, like politics. Donald Trump’s rise, as an example, could be attributed – at least in part – to his simple, straightforward manner of speaking which innately appeals to people.[4]

6 Use Your Non-Dominant Hand To Control Anger

Contrary to what most people think, emotions like rage aren’t limited to people with a short temper. In most cases, uncontrollable anger is a symptom of other underlying issues, but also a fairly regular part of daily life if kept under normal levels. For anyone who isn’t able to do so, you may want to actively try using your non-dominant hand for daily tasks.

As a study done by a professor at the University of Wales suggests, just the simple act of switching hands while doing basic tasks like cleaning the house or using your laptop could massively reduce your anger, as well as train the mind to control itself better in the future. Obviously, don’t try this with situations like trying to play a music instrument or writing, where switching would probably make you even angrier than before.[5]

5 The Benjamin Franklin Effect

Ever been in a drawn-out, heated argument that has gone on long enough for you to desperately want to escape it to cut your losses in temper? At that point, there aren’t many things you can do. You can either completely blow up, shut them up and walk away, or be more polite and text a friend to help you out of the situation. As it turns out, there’s something else you can try, too; do them a favor to force yourself to like them.

It’s known as the Benjamin Franklin effect, as he was the first one to theorize that if someone is kind to you once, he’s much more likely to be kind to you in the future. That sounds baffling, as our actions should be caused by our feelings and not the other way around. It was only when it was scientifically proven in 1969 that we realized that it’s a real phenomenon.[6]

4 Social Proof

If you ever walk past two adjacent food stalls selling the same item, chances are that one of them would always be much more crowded than the others. We see this in action in the case of cafes or restaurants, too. People tend to go to places they see other people going to, as it indicates that it’s a better place to go to. Mind you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s better, only that people trust others when it comes to the value of things in our society.

This is known as a marketing strategy called ‘social proof’, and could be successfully used in social situations, too. You can make your arguments much more convincing if you make them sound like someone else came up with them, even if they didn’t.[7]

3 The Last Impression

As a society, we give a lot of importance to first impressions. Whether it’s a first date or an interview, we make sure to put our best foot forward when we walk into the room. It makes sense, too, as conventional wisdom suggests that first impressions can make or break a meeting.

As growing research is finding out, though, first impressions are hardly impactful enough to make a difference, or even in our control. If you really want someone to remember a first meeting with you, you need to focus on your last impression instead. More clearly, people tend to remember what you leave them with over what you did when you first came into the room, especially when it comes to permanent, long-term impressions.[8]

2 Chew Gum To Calm Your Nerves

Nerves maybe annoying at times, though they’re a pretty useful mechanism of the body to help us deal with hectic situations. Being nervous before an exam ensures that you study for it well. When it comes to social interactions, though, they can work against us, too. For many people, being nervous can be a debilitating place to be in, and could actively hamper their day-to-day productivity.

While there aren’t any medical cures for that (yet) chewing gum can help you temporarily fix it. Researchers have found that the continuous act of chewing can actually considerably lower anxiety and improve your mood, as well as help fight feelings of depression. It’s not just useful before interviews or other social meeting, either, as it could be used in many other non-social situations, too.[9]

1 Asking For Help Actually Makes You Appear Smarter

Most people agree with the ‘fake it till you make it’ approach; appear like you know what you’re talking about and people would think that you really do. It’s a central theme of many rap songs and inspirational movies, and seems to be fairly straightforward and accurate piece of advice.

As a researcher at the Harvard Business School found out, however, asking for help may actually make you appear smarter to others for multiple, unrelated reasons. For one, admitting that you don’t know something comes across as a sign of wisdom, as gathering more information to fill gaps in your knowledge is an inherently smart thing to do. More importantly, asking for help makes the other person feel important and intelligent, in turn improving his own opinion of you.[10]

fact checked by Jamie Frater
Himanshu Sharma

Himanshu has written for sites like Cracked, Screen Rant, The Gamer and Forbes. He could be found shouting obscenities at strangers on Twitter, or trying his hand at amateur art on Instagram.

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