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Bolstering

 

Techniques > Conversation techniques > Excuses > Bolstering

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

When you have been accused of something, 'bolstering' is seeking to strengthen your reputation in some way, such that any indiscretions are forgiven or lies are believed.

Methods for bolstering can include:

  • Acting to increase rapport with others, both the critic and bystanders.
  • Demonstrating how you are expert in key areas, for example by citing work done and qualifications gained.
  • Calling on witnesses who will testify to your reputation (or referencing those who could be called).

Example

Ladies and gentlemen, like you, I am but a curious explorer. How could one think of me otherwise?

I have a doctorate in the subject. I think I know more than you in this area.

Speak to John or Pete. They'll tell you I'd never do such a thing.

Discussion

The word 'bolstering' means propping something up. When defending an attack, particularly when it appears to be personal, then many feel the need to bolster their character and reputation.

A problem with bolstering is that, if done too anxiously, it can be taken as a sign of desperation and hence guilt. For best effect, it should be done with dignified restraint, acting throughout in a way that is consistent with the character that is being doubted.

By showing yourself as being in harmony with the audience, then you create a bond with them, thereby gaining their sympathy and confidence.

An authority-based approach is riskier in that they may not like you talking down to them, which indicates this method should be used with care.

Ware and Linkugel describe this as the person trying to 'identify himself with something viewed favorably by the audience'.

See also

Authority principle, Appeal principle

 

Ware, B.L. and Linkugel, W.A. (1973). They spoke in defense of themselves: On the generic criticism of apologia. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 59, 273-283

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