Ever notice how making summer plans with your friends almost always takes longer than actually enjoying yourself with said friends? Messages get mixed, bargains are struck, and next thing you know, you've all joined a full-contact nude Frisbee golf league.
Don't get dragged along into the seasonal chaos of trying to accommodate everyone's plans and ideas. Pair the following psychological tricks with Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey and you'll be calling the shots in no time. I mean...you'll be gently guiding your friends into having the best summer of their lives, because you're thoughtful like that.
Remember that time a one-day sale convinced you that giving your parents a "35 Screwdrivers for 35 Wonderful Years" anniversary gift was a good idea? It wasn't your fault — you were victim to the Scarcity Principle. Pioneered by psychology professor Robert Cialdini, this principle motivates people to act on one-day sales, limited-time offers, and eating seasonal foods. It's basically the grandfather of FOMO, which means your friends are probably already marks for it in the first place.
To pull it off, present all vacation options as available for a limited time only — your pick will instantly seem more desirable than the other ideas being floated. I mean, you guys can go to Kauai anytime, there are a million flights and hotels — but a hotel in Harrod, OH? Those are filling up super quick this time of year, what with the annual Pork Rind Festival around the corner. (Is it working?)
If you've ever been convinced by a free grocery store sample to pick up some brownies when all you originally needed was lighter fluid and some corn-cob holders, you know all about the power of the gift. Gifts not only make you more open to what the giver has to say, they can subtly manipulate the receiver to pay the giver back.
So be a giver. Hold your group discussion about which shore house to rent at your place. Serve snacks that you know are group favorites, mix up some Jack Honey cocktails, and then make your case. Your friends will either subconsciously agree with your pick, or consciously feel like they owe you — and honestly, does it really matter which it is?
The Sullivan Nod is an old food service technique — it's a subtle head movement that persuades the listener when the speaker is listing items. If that sounds crazy to you, think about the last time you suddenly became ravenous for dessert when a waiter mentioned it to you — maybe there was a little more going on there than the pure deliciousness of crème brûlée, huh? (Though crème brûlée is very, very delicious, I will give it that much.)
Try the Sullivan Nod when running down a list of different ways to spend a Friday night, giving your subtle nod when mentioning your pick. If everyone's suddenly clamoring to go to your bar of choice, don't consider it a trick — just a nudge in the right direction. Really, you're being selfless here, and everyone would appreciate it if they only knew (but they must never, ever know).
Most of us feel more comfortable trying new things if those new things have already been approved by others. It's called "social proof," and it's the concept behind a ton of websites — think of online hotel reviews that determine where you stay when vacationing, streaming video reviews that help you decide how you waste your Thursday night, and secret dating review apps that prevent you from going on a second date with that guy from the accounts department. You basically spend your whole life choosing things because they've already been vetted by strangers.
The next time you're trying to win the "What movie should we see?" game, send around links to positive reviews with a note saying, "People seem to love this one…should we give it a shot?" Congratulations, you've built a wall of consensus from Internet strangers — the most powerful decision-making force known to man! So powerful, in fact, that it may even win over that one friend who only watches long Swedish documentaries about the dangers of the commercial fishing industry (okay, maybe don't hold your breath on that one).
Now that you can manipulate the hell out of your friends, it's time for a good ol' fashioned gloat. Snap a pic of your hypnotized friends having the time of their lives and enter it in the Jack Honey photo challenge — and if you're looking for fun that doesn't require playing psychological tricks on your friends, RSVP for Jack Daniel's Summer Swarm in New York City. The first 20 people to email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "HEY HONEY" will be invited to join us at Gawker HQ on July 24 for a rooftop happy hour. By emailing your entry, you attest that you are at least 21 years of age. If you're one of the lucky few invited, you'll need to show proof of your age for entry.
Gabrielle Moss has written mostly funny stuff (but also some serious stuff) for GQ.com, The Hairpin, Nerve, etc. You can follow her here.