Costly Signaling

Costly signaling is the act of doing something that purposely hampers or hurts you just to show that you can take it. For example, a consultant sacrificing clients they don’t really like, despite losing cash, or someone quitting a job they don’t like, just because they have so many other options.

The Persuasion Psychology Behind the Technique

Costly signaling works as a kind of opposite of neediness. Instead of showing that you really need something, you’re showing that you don’t need it, to such an extent that you can actually discard it yourself.

The most effective way to use costly signaling is by actively demonstrating something that hurts you just to show that you can do it due to your abundance.

It can include sacrificing clients (or opportunities) or challenging the person (being more candid and casual instead of too respectful).


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While other animals survive due to camouflage and being subtle, the peacock survives despite gathering attention with its colors. In terms of reproduction, that is why it’s attractive - it’s almost daring predators to attack it, because it can take it

Big purchases

Rich people that buy yachts or supercars end up having a lot more costs than pleasure. They do it just to show they can

Quitting and leaving

Employees that quit a job that’s not a fit do it just because they can. They have options. Even if losing this position in specific hurts you, you have others

Use Cases For the Four Quadrants

Key Takeaways
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How to Stack This Technique