Value Identity Contradictions

Value identity contradictions are all about taking an action or option the person has that you don’t want them to choose, and them making it seem like that action goes against their identity. The canonical example is someone telling a friend, “What are you doing? This isn’t like you”.

  • For example, if someone doesn’t want to buy, buy you know they invest in things of value, you can say something as, “John, let me pause you for a moment. You’ve mentioned you invest in things of value, but it seems you’re not eager to invest in this. That seems like a contradiction. What do you think?”;

This can be based on traits that they have stated they have, or even traits that you have planted yourself.

The Persuasion Psychology Behind the Technique

This works as a reverse consistency trap:

  • Techniques such as escalation of commitment are consistency traps. The person is acting a certain way in accordance to their identity to keep consistent with it, and you want them to keep going;
  • Here, it’s the opposite. They are being consistent with an identity you don’t want, so you want to break their consistency, which is what you do by pointing out the contradiction;

Simply suggest that the action the person wants to take (that is bad to you) actually goes against their identity.


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"This isn't you"

When you change something in life and one of your friends doesn’t recognize you (and usually, when they’re bitter), they may tell you, “What are you doing? This isn’t you"

"What are you doing?"

When someone openly challenges you based on what you’re doing, it’s this at work. “You’re not the type of person to lead like this. Who do you think you are?”. Same principle, but more aggressive

"I thought you were X"

When someone says (frequently in movies and TV shows), “I thought you were a loyal person, but you did this”, or similar, it’s this principle at work as well

Use Cases For the Four Quadrants

Key Takeaways
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How to Stack This Technique