Want to find a way to psychologically crush your enemies? There's an easy way to do it. All it takes is a quick question to make them think of the worst aspect of their life, and then asking them, directly, what they think of their life.
Considering all the aspects of one's life is a tough job. There are so many variables, and so many ways to weigh each of them. When people need to take stock of things quickly, they rely on a quick assessment of their mood and the most prominent factors that come to mind. This trick involves bringing the wrong things to mind. It's been shown to work pretty well.
The experiment that inspired this trick was a quick psychological study involved a asking college students to rate how their life was going, and then how many dates they had had in the last month. Analysis showed that there was no correlation between the two responses. But that wasn't the only way to ask the questions. Another version of the study switched the order of the questions. People were asked how many dates they had been on in the last month, and then how they felt about their life. Suddenly, the people with more dates felt great, and the ones with fewer dates thought their life wasn't going too well.
The same thing works with almost any aspect of life, from money to number of Facebook friends. Remind someone of their failings, and then ask them about their life, and they suddenly feel like their entire life is equivalent to what they're thinking about at the moment. It's one of the quickest ways out there to make people think they're miserable failures.
It also, by the way, works the other way around. Ask people about their accomplishments, and then ask them how their life is going, and suddenly they think their entire life is wine and roses. This is something you can do for your friends. I would, but I already tried the feel-bad version of the strategy on people, and so I don't have any friends.
What am I doing with my life?
[Via Thinking, Fast and Slow]