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Mind Games

Business English Magazin - epaper ⋅ Ausgabe 6/2019 vom 27.09.2019

A keen understanding of1 the human mind could give you a leg-up2 in your next boardroom3 meeting. BEM’s Jonathan Sidor cracks open4 the psychology textbooks to present the artful5 hacks worth deploying6 in any workplace.

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1 keen understanding of sth kiːn ˌʌndəˈstændɪŋ əv ˈsʌmθɪŋscharfes/ausgeprägtes Verständnis von etw.
2 leg-up leɡ ʌpVorteil
3 boardroom ˈbɔːdruːmVorstandsetage, Sitzungssaal
4 to crack sth open tə kræk ˈsʌmθɪŋ ˈəʊpənetw. knacken, aufbrechen
5 artful ˈɑːtflkunstvoll, schlau
6 to deploy sth tə dɪˈploɪ ˈsʌmθɪŋetw. nutzen, einsetzen

Regrettably7 , the potency8 of ...

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Regrettably7 , the potency8 of psychology often gets dismissed9 by business leaders. Hard skills are undeniably10 important, but the soft science behind psychology can move mountains11 in any workplace. By mastering12 a handful of psychological tricks and hacks, you’ll easily be able to persuade, motivate and manipulate those around you.

Enormous Effects

Over the years, scientists have observed more than a few “effects” that drive13 human thinking and behaviour14 . An elementary15 knowledge of these effects can give someone the ability to play a peer16 or superior17 like a fiddle18 . Take the serial-position effect19 , for instance20 . The basic concept is simple enough: when presented with a list, people tend to21 remember the items at the start and at the end. The same is true with a sequence22 of events. Things that happen first and last will stick23 strongly in our minds.

How can we make practical use of the serial-position effect? Let’s say you have a job interview, presentation or a casual24 conversation. Plan out what you want to say, so you can make a rousing25 first and last impression26 . Start off with a bang27 and stick the landing28 . Your audience will remember the high notes29 at the start and finish of anything you do. Conversely30 , people are more likely to forget whatever happened in the middle of an interaction, so there is more wiggle room for31 mistakes or faux pas.

Another psychological effect whose impact cannot be underappreciated32 is the bystander33 effect. The crux of34 this notion is that people will typically ignore pleas35 to do something if they are among a group of people. Imagine this hypothetical situation: you’re in a crowded place and see a stranger getting mugged36 . They desperately shout37 for help. What do you do? Studies show even the kindest people will be inclined to38 remain idle39 , since we don’t feel like we’re part of the action. We’re just bystanders.

To take advantage of40 this effect, you have to make sure those around you don’t feel like bystanders. If you want a team of employees to do something, you shouldn’t publicly announce your request to the whole group. Some people will ignore the message. Instead, appeal to41 each team member individually. Directly asking someone to complete a task will make them feel personally responsible for42 the outcome. You’ll get better results in the end.

This next one’s a little twisted43 . The Benjamin Franklin effect is named for an American statesman44 who was famous for his shrewdness45 . The idea here holds that46 if you want someone to like you more, ask them to do a favour for47 you. How does that work out48 ? It plays on the principle49 of cognitive dissonance50 , or the discomfort someone feels when their behaviour doesn’t match their beliefs51 . When someone dislikes52 you, and you get them to do something for you, they’ll subconsciously53 start to rationalize54 their actions. “Why did I help this person?” After a while, they’ll figure that you must not be such a bad person after all, and they’ll be more eager55 to assist you in the future.


7 regrettably rɪˈɡretəblibedauerlicherweise
8 potency ˈpəʊtnsiMacht, Wirksamkeit
9 to dismiss sth tə dɪsˈmɪs ˈsʌmθɪŋetw. ablehnen, abweisen
10 undeniably ˌʌndɪˈnaɪəbliunbestreitbar, zweifellos
11 to move mountains tə muːv ˈmaʊntɪnzBerge versetzen
12 to master sth tə ˈmɑːstə(r) ˈsʌmθɪŋetw. meistern, beherrschen
13 to drive sth tə draɪv ˈsʌmθɪŋetw. steuern
14 behaviour bɪˈheɪvjə(r)Verhalten, Benehmen
15 elementary ˌelɪˈmentrielementar, grundlegend
16 peer pɪə(r)Ebenbürtiger, Arbeitskollege
17 superior suːˈpɪərɪə(r)Vorgesetzte/r
18 to play sb like a fiddle tə ˈpleɪ ˈsʌmbədi ˈlaɪk ə ˈfɪdljdn. manipulieren
19 serial-position effect ˈsɪərɪəl pəˈzɪʃn ɪˈfektserieller Positionseffekt, Primacy-Recency-Effekt
20 for instance fə(r) ˈɪnstənszum Beispiel
21 to tend to do sth tə tend tə du ˈsʌmθɪŋdazu neigen/tendieren, etw. zu tun
22 sequence ˈsiːkwənsReihe, Abfolge
23 to stick tə stɪkhängen/stecken bleiben, haften
24 casual ˈkæʒʊəlzwanglos, zufällig
25 rousing ˈraʊzɪŋstürmisch, mitreißend
26 to make a first impression tə ˈmeɪk ə ˈfɜːst ɪmˈpreʃneinen guten ersten Eindruck machen
27 to start off with a bang tə stɑːt ɒf wɪð ə bæŋmit einem Krach/Knall loslegen
28 to stick the landing tə stɪk ðə ˈlændɪŋdie Landung stehen
29 the high notes ðə haɪ nəʊtsherausragende Leistungen/Anmerkungen
30 conversely kənˈvɜːsliim umgekehrten Fall
31 wiggle room for sth ˈwɪɡl ruːm fə(r) ˈsʌmθɪŋSpielraum für etw.
32 underappreciated ʌndərəˈpriːʃɪeɪtɪdunterschätzt, nicht ausreichend gewürdigt
33 bystander ˈbaɪstændə(r)Zuschauer, Beobachter
34 the crux of sth ðə krʌks əv ˈsʌmθɪŋder Knackpunkt von etw.
35 plea pliːBitte, Appell
36 to get mugged tə ɡet mʌɡdüberfallen/ ausgeraubt werden
37 to shout tə ʃaʊtschreien, rufen
38 o be inclined to do sth tə bi ɪnˈklaɪnd tə du ˈsʌmθɪŋdazu neigen, etw. zu tun
39 idle ˈaɪdlinaktiv, faul
40 to take advantage of sth tə teɪk ədˈvɑːntɪdʒ əv ˈsʌmθɪŋsich etw. zunutze machen
41 to appeal to sb tu əˈpiːl tə ˈsʌmbədijdn. ansprechen, sich an jdn. wenden
42 responsible for sth rɪˈspɒnsəbl fə(r) ˈsʌmθɪŋverantwortlich für etw.
43 twisted ˈtwɪstɪdverdreht, verzerrt
44 statesman ˈsteɪtsmənStaatsmann, Politiker
45 shrewdness ˈʃruːdnəsGerissenheit, Cleverness
46 to hold that… tə həʊld ðætdie Ansicht vertreten, dass …
47 to do a favour for sb tə du ə ˈfeɪvə(r) fə(r) ˈsʌmbədijdm. einen Gefallen tun
48 to work out tə ˈwɜːk aʊtfunktionieren, Erfolg haben

Momentous56 Motivation

When it comes to motivating people, psychology is the name of the game57 . Unfortunately, meaningful motivation usually relies on58 an assortment59 of various factors that remain imperceptible60 to most. Every employee is different and possesses different wants and needs. That’s why psychology won’t help you take on the Herculean61 task of creating an ideal working environment for every single person. What it gives us, though, are some nifty62 nuggets63 that brighten anyone’s day64 .

For managers, evidence indicates that65 handing out66 intermittent67 rewards to subordinates68 frequently boosts performance. Most managers who try to be the “good guy” erroneously69 believe that constant positive reinforcement70 will keep their workers satisfied. Unfortunately for them, people don’t operate like this. Managers will need to continuously provide bigger and better rewards if they wish to keep motivation high, and employees will grow complacent71 assuming72 that they’ll always get a rewards. The better option is dishing out73 rewards only some of the time. To be precise, you ought to74 deliver rewards 30 to 70 percent of the time to get the best results. The exact frequency depends on each individual, so keep track of75 your schedule76 mentally77 and see what works best.

Motivating yourself can be just as critical as stimulating those around you. Getting through a full week can be exasperating78 . A number of polls79 indicate that Monday and Tuesday are typically the most productive days of the week, while Thursday and Friday are the least productive. How can we fix80 this? Some recommend treating yourself to81 something special every Wednesday. Since Wednesday is smack-dab in the middle of82 the week, use this “hump day83 ” as a chance to recharge your batteries. Indulge in84 that favourite snack that you’ve been craving85 , or go out on a date each week. This Wednesday incentive86 will propel87 you through the first half of the week, and a revamped88 spirit will give you the energy to efficiently finish off89 each week.

Bold Body Language

We’ve been hearing about the importance of body language in business for decades. There’s much more to non-verbal communication than90 just eye contact and hand gestures91 , though. The positioning of a person’s feet, for example, can reveal a world of92 information. When standing, remember that having your feet point towards someone signals93 that you’re interested in what they’re saying. On the other hand, pointing feet away from another person shows that you want to end a conversation. Feet pointed in the direction of a door suggest someone wants to leave a room. When seated, keep your feet squarely94 planted95 on the floor. Doing so shows off96 that the creative and rational sides of your brain can cooperate to get complex97 tasks done.


49 principle ˈprɪnsəplPrinzip, Regel
50 cognitive dissonance ˈkɒɡnətɪv ˈdɪsənənskognitive Dissonanz
51 belief bɪˈliːfGlaube, Überzeugung
52 to dislike sb tə dɪsˈlaɪk ˈsʌmbədijdn. nicht mögen
53 subconsciously ˌsʌbˈkɒnʃəsliunterbewusst
54 to rationalize sth tə ˈræʃnəlaɪz ˈsʌmθɪŋversuchen, etw. rational/ verstandesmäßig zu erklären
55 eager ˈiːɡə(r)begierig, willig
56 momentous məˈmentəsbedeutsam, wichtig, folgenschwer
57 X is the name of the game ɪz ðə ˈneɪm əv ðə ɡeɪmX heißt die Devise
58 to rely on sth tə rɪˈlaɪ ɒn ˈsʌmθɪŋauf etw. angewiesen sein, sich auf etw. verlassen
59 assortment əˈsɔːtməntSortiment
60 imperceptible ˌɪmpəˈseptəblunmerklich, nicht wahrnehmbar
61 Herculean ˌhɜːkjʊˈliːənHerkules-, herkulisch
62 nifty ˈnɪftihübsch, schick
63 nugget ˈnʌɡɪtBrocken, Klumpen, Goldklumpen
64 to brighten sb’s day tə ˈbraɪtn ˈsʌmbədɪz deɪjds. Tag/Laune aufheitern
65 to indicate that tu ˈɪndɪkeɪt ðætzeigen, dass …, darauf hindeuten, dass …
66 to hand sth out tə hænd ˈsʌmθɪŋ aʊtetw. verteilen
67 intermittent ˌɪntəˈmɪtəntperiodisch, unregelmäßig
68 subordinate səˈbɔːdɪnətUntergebener
69 erroneously ɪˈrəʊniəsliirrtümlich (erweise)
70 positive reinforcement ˈpɒzətɪv ˌriːɪnˈfɔːsməntpositive Bestärkung
71 to grow complacent tə ɡrəʊ kəmˈpleɪsəntselbstzufrieden werden
72 to assume sth tu əˈsjuːm ˈsʌmθɪŋetw. annehmen
73 to dish sth out tə dɪʃ ˈsʌmθɪŋ aʊtetw. austeilen
74 sb ought to do sth ˈsʌmbədi ˈɔːt tə du ˈsʌmθɪŋjd. sollte etw. tun
75 to keep track of sth tə kiːp træk əv ˈsʌmθɪŋetw. nachverfolgen
76 schedule ˈʃedjuːlTerminplan
77 mentally ˈmentəligeistig, innerlich
78 exasperating ɪɡˈzæspəreɪtɪŋzum Verzweifeln, ärgerlich
79 poll pəʊlUmfrage
80 to fix sth tə fɪks ˈsʌmθɪŋetw. reparieren
81 to treat oneself to sth tə triːt wʌnˈself tə ˈsʌmθɪŋsich etw. gönnen
82 smack-dab in the middle of sth smæk dæb ɪn ðə ˈmɪdl əv ˈsʌmθɪŋgenau/direkt in der Mitte von etw.
83 hump day hʌmp deɪWochenmitte, Mittwoch
84 to indulge in sth tu ɪnˈdʌldʒ ɪn ˈsʌmθɪŋetw. genießen
85 to crave sth tə kreɪv ˈsʌmθɪŋnach etw. lechzen
86 incentive ɪnˈsentɪvAnreiz, Bonus
87 to propel sb tə prəˈpel ˈsʌmbədijdn. antreiben
88 revamped ˌriːˈvæmptrundumerneuert, aufpoliert
89 to finish sth off tə ˈfɪnɪʃ ˈsʌmθɪŋ ɒfetw. erledigen, beenden

When you find yourself in a stressful situation, a few body language tweaks98 can really help smooth things over99 with other people around you. Many moons ago100 , men showed their palms101 and shook hands as a sign that they weren’t carrying a weapon. Today, brandishing102 your palms can still transmit103 subconscious104 feelings of honesty105 and engagement. When a listener sees your palms, they’ll feel more comfortable. In a similar vein106 , warm your hands up before shaking hands with someone to exude107 more confidence. Quickly rubbing them together108 ought to do it. A handshake109 is key to making a great first impression, and warm, dry hands are more pleasant to the touch.

Another tactic to defuse110 a tense111 situation is sitting right next to someone who you see as an aggressor112 . Many office workers can probably recall113 a meeting during which a superior took someone to task114 . Chances are that115 the person seated right next to the boss got off scot-free116 . People are less likely to take out their frustrations on117 someone sitting right next to them, so cosy up with118 whoever might have an axe to grind with119 you. If you do, however, become the target of someone’s ire120 , never fear121 . Remain calm. Just because someone else is upset122 d oesn’t m ean you need to be. Once someone realizes they failed to get a rise out of123 you, they’ll see the error of their ways124 . They’ll feel embarrassed125 , since they acted impulsively and rashly126 , and eventually cooler heads will prevail127 .

Psychology 101

In many cases, getting ahead in128 business is all about reading129 the people you’re interacting with. Psychology is key to having better vibes130 with bosses, co-workers, interviewers131 and anyone else you rub shoulders with132 in the office. It’s useful in managing yourself and others better. Don’t treat psychology like some throwaway133 mumbo jumbo134 . Brush up on135 the latest literature to see how else you can influence people and give your career a boost.

90 there is much more to sth than X ðeə(r) ɪz ˈmʌtʃ mɔː(r) tə ˈsʌmθɪŋ ðənetw. ist viel mehr als nur X
91 gesture ˈdʒestʃə(r)Geste
92 a world of sth ə wɜːld əv ˈsʌmθɪŋeine riesige Menge von etw.
93 to signal sth tə ˈsɪɡnəl ˈsʌmθɪŋetw. signalisieren, erkennen lassen
94 squarely ˈskweəlidirekt
95 to plant sth tə plɑːnt ˈsʌmθɪŋetw. setzen/ platzieren
96 to show sth off tə ʃəʊ ˈsʌmθɪŋ ɒfetw. zur Geltung bringen
97 complex ˈkɒmplekskomplex, kompliziert
98 tweak twiːkJustierung, Optimierung
99 to smooth things over tə smuːð ˈθɪŋz ˈəʊvə(r)alles klären, die Dinge wieder ins Lot bringen
100 many moons ago… ˈmeni muːnz əˈɡəʊvor vielen Monden, vor langer Zeit
101 palm pɑːmHandfläche
102 to brandish sth tə ˈbrændɪʃ ˈsʌmθɪŋmit etw. (herum)fuchteln
103 to transmit sth tə trænzˈmɪt ˈsʌmθɪŋetw. übermitteln
104 subconscious ˌsʌbˈkɒnʃəsunterbewusst
105 honesty ˈɒnɪstiEhrlichkeit, Aufrichtigkeit
106 in a similar vein ɪn ə ˈsɪmələ(r) veɪnauf ähnliche Weise
107 to exude sth tu ɪɡˈzjuːd ˈsʌmθɪŋetw. ausstrahlen, verströmen
108 to rub sth together tə rʌb ˈsʌmθɪŋ təˈɡeðə(r)etw. aneinanderreiben
109 handshake ˈhændʃeɪkHändedruck, Händeschütteln
110 to defuse sth tə ˌdiːˈfjuːz ˈsʌmθɪŋetw. entschärfen
111 tense tensangespannt, nervös
112 aggressor əˈɡresə(r)Aggressor, Angreifer
113 to recall sth tə rɪˈkɔːl ˈsʌmθɪŋsich an etw. erinnern
114 to take sb to task tə teɪk ˈsʌmbədi tə tɑːsksich jdn. zur Brust nehmen
115 chances are that… ˈtʃɑːnsɪz ɑː(r) ðætaller Wahrscheinlichkeit nach
116 to get off scot-free tə ɡet ɒf skɒt friːungeschoren davonkommen
117 to take sth out on sb tə teɪk ˈsʌmθɪŋ ˈaʊt ɒn ˈsʌmbədisich an jdm. auslassen
118 to cosy up with sb tə ˈkəʊzi ʌp wɪð ˈsʌmbədisich bei jdm. einschmeicheln
119 to have an axe to grind with sb tə həv ən æks tə ɡraɪnd wɪð ˈsʌmbədimit jdm. ein Hühnchen zu rupfen haben
120 ire ˈaɪə(r)Wut, Ärger
121 never fear! ˈnevə(r) fɪə(r)Keine Angst!
122 upset ʌpˈsetverärgert
123 to get a rise out of sb tə ɡet ə raɪz ˈaʊt əv ˈsʌmbədijdn. zu einer Reaktion bringen/ provozieren
124 to see the error of one’s ways tə ˈsiː ði ˈerə(r) əv wʌnz ˈweɪzseine Fehler einsehen
125 embarrassed ɪmˈbærəstverlegen, peinlich berührt
126 rashly ˈræʃlivoreilig, hastig
127 cooler heads will prevail ˈkuːlə hedz wɪl prɪˈveɪlkühlere Köpfe werden siegen
128 to get ahead in sth tə ɡet əˈhed ɪn ˈsʌmθɪŋin etw. vorankommen/weiterkommen
129 to read sb tə riːd ˈsʌmbədijdn. durchschauen, lesen
130 vibes vaɪbzSchwingungen
131 interviewer ˈɪntəvjuːə(r)Gesprächspartner während eines Einstellungsgesprächs
132 to rub shoulders with sb tə rʌb ˈʃəʊldəz wɪð ˈsʌmbədimit jdm. zusammenkommen
133 throwaway ˈθrəʊəˌweɪzum Wegwerfen
134 mumbo jumbo ˈməmbəʊ ˈdʒʌmbəʊHokuspokus
135 to brush up on sth tə brʌʃ ʌp ɒn ˈsʌmθɪŋetw. wieder auffrischen/aufpolieren

BEM TEST Incredible Idioms

Match the idioms from the text with the correct meanings.

1 fiddle ˈfɪdlGeige
2 dispute dɪˈspjuːtStreit, Disput
3 to take sth up with sb tə teɪk ˈsʌmθɪŋ ʌp wɪð ˈsʌmbədietw. mit jdm. erörtern
4 to come into contact with sb tə kʌm ˈɪntə ˈkɒntækt wɪð ˈsʌmbədimit jdm. in Kontakt kommen
5 wiggle ˈwɪɡlSpielraum
6 impressively ɪmˈpresɪvlieindrucksvoll
7 to provoke sth tə prəˈvəʊk ˈsʌmθɪŋetw. provozieren, auslösen
8 to have an advantage over sb tə həv ən ədˈvɑːntɪdʒ ˈəʊvə(r) ˈsʌmbədiggü. jdm. im Vorteil sein
9 skillfully ˈskɪlfəligeschickt
10 conclusively kənˈkluːsɪvliendgültig, überzeugend, unwiderleglich


1. I, 2. M, 3. K, 4. G, 5. O, 6. C, 7. L, 8. E, 9. J, 10. B, 11. N, 12. A, 13. D, 14. H, 15. F