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.

Underlying Psychology/Biases

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;


  • Variation of TORC (Threat of Reference Check)
    • The original interviewing technique is about using other people. Instead of, “How do you rate your organization 1-10?”, asking, “How does your boss rate your organization 1-10?”;
    • Here, you can use other people in the same way
      • Instead of “This seems like a contradiction, and it’s not you”;
        • You can say
      • “Wouldn’t your wife say that this seems like a contradiction?”
        • Or
      • “Wouldn’t your kids say that this seems like a contradiction?”;


  • “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 [ABC]”
    • 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;
  • “This doesn’t add up”
    • The example most used by salesmen and consultants is simply saying, “This doesn’t add up. Can you tell me about this contradiction?”;

Commercial/Known Uses

Key Takeaways

  • This type of technique is just like judo in martial arts. What you’re effectively doing is using the person’s action against themselves;
  • This is an example of reversing a consistency trap. In this case, you don’t want the person to be stuck in a consistency trap – you want the opposite. You want to break their consistency and present an alternative;
  • You can be gentle or brutal with this. You can politely point out the contradiction or give them a serious reality check;
  • You can use an adapted version of TORC. The threat of other people. You can ask, “What would your wife think of this?”, or “What would your childhood friends think of this?” for added effect;