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Persuade by Pride, Not Shame


Techniques General persuasion > More methods > Persuade by Pride, Not Shame

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



When you want to persuade someone to do something (or resist doing something), then it is better focus on the pride they will feel when they comply with your request rather than the shame they may feel if they do not comply.

Talk up how good they will feel. Show them that they can be rightfully proud of doing the best thing. Let them know that others will agree and that this is also something to be proud of.


A mother encourages her son to do his homework by saying how proud he will be to have done it early.

In an experiment by Dan Ariely, subjects who anticipated pride in resisting cake ate far less than those who thought about the shame of succumbing. The pride group also ate less than the control group who received no admonitions.


Positive persuasion generally works better than negative methods. Negative methods can have unpredictable results, for example causing a fight-or-flight reaction, or otherwise resulting in some form of coping, such as reactance.

Positive methods, on the other hand, create trust and bonding. Suggesting that a person be proud also may work simply because you are showing you respect them, resulting in them wanting to reciprocate in some way. Perhaps more so, the thought of feeling proud just seems better and more attractive than feeling bad and ashamed.

This does not mean that pride works better than shame in all situations. There are always exceptions and each case should be understood on its merits. However, the point remains that, whilst we mostly use shame, pride is notably more effective in most situations.

Something else to consider when balancing shame and pride is that shame is based on avoidance and pride is based on attraction. We each have a preference for attraction or avoidance, so shame may be more effective for a person with a stronger avoidance driver. Also remember that this is only one factor and even a strong avoider may still be more persuaded by an appeal to pride than to shame.

See also

Positivity principle, Attraction vs. Avoidance Preference, Pride, Shame


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