Fans of the show Seinfeld will undoubtedly remember the episode where George comes to the conclusion that every decision that he has ever made has been wrong, and that his life is the exact opposite of what it should be. George tells this to Jerry, who convinces him that “if every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right”. George then resolves to start doing the complete opposite of what he would do normally with striking results. He orders the opposite of his normal lunch, and he introduces himself to a beautiful woman who happens to order exactly the same lunch, saying, “My name is George. I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.” To his surprise, she is impressed and agrees to date him. His success continues by landing a dream job with the Yankees and moving out of his parent’s house. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3k7lykTWTk (link to clip from the Seinfeld episode)
While George’s results may be a little far-fetched, the concept of doing the opposite is actually a form of a commonly used psychology tool called Paradoxical Intention, coined by renowned psychiatrist Victor Frankl. Doing the opposite of what you naturally feel inclined to do, or what you fear doing, is often very effective because it interrupts cognitive and behavioral patterns, allowing you to experience your life or situation from a different perspective and, in turn, experience a different outcome.
How can you use this simple yet effective technique? Think of an area or person in your life where you are not getting the kind of results or reactions that you want; i.e. communication with a partner, interactions with a co-worker, struggling with a diet, etc. For one hour, or even an entire day, monitor what your natural response to the situation or person is, and consciously make an effort to do the exact opposite. The key tenet of this approach is to keep it light-hearted and fun! Think of it as a social experiment and make note of the change in reaction you are getting from yourself and/or others. This technique can work wonders in relationships and I often prescribe it to clients. It can breathe new life into a relationship where communication has become stagnate or partners are frequently reacting out of anger. A certain level of unpredictability can keep a relationship exciting and prevent boredom. A shy person may strike up the courage to meet someone or speak up for herself, while someone who may be a little too aggressive can learn to reel it in a little.
Pick one day a month and make it Opposite George day! Perhaps you will meet the man of your dreams, get a new job and become wildly successful; but at a minimum you will break out of your old routine, be amused by the confused reaction of others, and will become more consciously aware of the effects of your own pattern of behavior.