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Playing Inferior


Explanations > RelationshipsStatus Games > Playing Inferior

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?



Act as if the other person is superior to you in some way. Give them status. Be impressed by their ideas. Agree with their suggestions. Take them seriously, even if you do not have to.

Give way in all kinds of ways, from opening doors for them to asking their opinion on matters where they have no real authority. Do this in particular for those things which are of lesser importance to you.

You can do this when alone or in the presence of other people, though beware of your own status being irretrievably depressed. Also be careful about how the target person perceives your actions.


A manager stands up and opens the door when he sees a subordinate coming towards his office. He greets the person, asking them if they'd like to have a coffee, then listens intently as the person airs a grievance. Only then does the manager use their position to make a fair decision.

A woman in a traditional society is interested in a man as a romantic partner. She is cleverer than he is, but carefully pretends that he is superior, giving way to him gracefully. He considers her a suitable candidate for a wife. After due ritual, they become successfully married.


This is a tricky game that can significantly benefit the person playing it, though it can also quite easily backfire.

When you give status to other people they may take one of two different positions. First, they may realize that you are being kind to them, and consequently like you more and will be happy to collaborate with you in future. The trickier alternative occurs where they believe that they really are superior and start lording over you on an ongoing basis.

Playing inferior can be a good move when the other person really is more powerful and they have the capacity (and perhaps the willingness) to hurt you. Showing you are harmless can result in their ire being redirected elsewhere. To influence such people needs great care.

When other people are there, your status actions are noticed by them. If you play inferior, they may assume you are inferior to them too, unless they respect your real status and understand your actions as not really being inferior. When reality is understood (and often it is) your playing inferior may be seen by all as an act of kindness and respect, although none may mention this.

So what?

Understand the real power that you and the target person has, and their willingness to use this, even if it damages a harmonious relationship.

Gently play inferior if you are more powerful, but only in relatively harmless areas. This will result in them trusting you more. If they are more powerful, give them due respect but be careful about this -- you can lose respect by acting too inferior when they prefer people who are more assertive.

See also


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