Adverse Transparency

In persuasion, adverse transparency is the act of being transparent about things that are not good for you, and that you didn’t need to share. Choosing to share them anyway communicates honesty and authority. It can be used for two different purposes:

  • To increase honesty and authority at the framing stage (to show you’re trustworthy, a trusted advisor);
  • To test the person or provoke objections (you admit the negative aspects and gauge whether they affect the person’s interest);

The Persuasion Psychology Behind the Technique

Adverse transparency works as you are actively sharing negative elements about yourself that you didn’t need to, which conveys honesty and trustworthiness.

You leverage adverse transparency by simply confessing things that are against you that you didn’t need to.

Usually, you can be honest about three key areas:

  • Being transparent about other options;
    • If there are other similar products (even better ones), making sure the person knows that before buying;
    • If there are other good candidates, making sure the person knows that before hiring you;
    • Flight search engines on an airline’s website – when they show other options (even when they’re better), they stick with the original one due to the trust;
  • Being transparent about minor flaws
    • Sharing the small things you don’t know, the small occasions where you had bad performance, and so on;
    • A key component of this is to be honest about what you don’t know;
      • When someone asks something that you don’t know, not defending or making excuses – simply saying, “I don’t know”;
  • Being transparent about the opportunity cost
    • If someone wants to buy but they will be locked into a 2-year contract, making sure they know this before the buy;
    • If by investing in your fund the person will run out of funds to invest in other ones, making sure they know this before they buy;


(5 in Total)

Examples (Positioning)

Challenging the "yes"

Even when someone wants to buy, you stop them and ask, “Are you sure you want to buy? Take your time”

"I don't do that"

When someone has an opportunity that can be profitable but that is not your specialization, simply refusing it. “I don’t have the skills to do this and I don’t want to provide a bad service, so I respectfully refuse this”

Product search engines

In travel search engines, or book search engines, in some cases they will include a small price comparison box with other alternatives. Even when other sides have better prices, most people stick with the original one out of loyalty

Examples (Provoking Objections)

“It doesn’t solve everything”

When someone is ready to buy or do something, but you want to make sure they understand it doesn’t fix everything, you can say it. “John, I know you want this, but this doesn’t fix all of your products. It fixes 90% of them. Are you still in?”

The opposite of "salesy"

High-pressure salesmen force products down people’s throats. This frame is the opposite. You’re being honest about things you didn’t, slowing down, and gauging whether the person is still in at several points

"Are we still OK?"

When something happens between friends that leaves a bad or negative aftertaste, but one of them wants to check that things are still well, they will usually say something as, “You and me are still OK, right?”

Use Cases For the Four Quadrants

Key Takeaways
(4 Total)

How to Stack This Technique