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Denial

 

Techniques > Conversation techniques > Excuses > Denial

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

When yo are accused of something that could cause you problems, just deny it. Do not make excuses, because to do so is to accept guilt.

Things you can deny include:

  • Having done something.
  • Knowing about something.
  • Being at some place, at a particular time.
  • Having something.
  • Knowing somebody.
  • Believing something.
  • Wanting something.
  • That anything happened at all.
  • That what happened was important.

You can add evidence to support your claim, for example by saying where you were and what you were doing at the time.

Denial can be direct, clearly saying it was not you, or indirect, for example by implying that it was not you.

Example

It wasn't me.

Sorry. I know nothing about that.

I'm not the one you want.

How could it be me? I was outside.

Discussion

Denial is the simplest of methods of excusing oneself and avoiding punishment. It does, however, require plausibility. You cannot deny something where there were multiple witnesses (although some do try).

Conversational denial often starts with internal denial as a method of coping with the cognitive dissonance felt when our actions are in contradiction with our values.

Untrue denial requires a certain boldness and an ability to lie without giving the game away with deceptive body language. The best liars actually believe what they are saying.

Of course denial may be valid, when you are accused of something you did not do.

What is the best attitude for denial? Do you protest your innocence vigorously? Do you stay calm? This depends on your character and the relationship with the other person. Acting out of character will often arouse suspicions, so being natural is key.

A common successful approach is to look a bit surprised (not exaggerating), give a short denial and then ask why they think you might have done whatever it is you are being accused of doing. Generally, the more 'bad' the accusation and the more vigorous the prosecution, the more animated you might be expected to be in response.

See also

Denial (coping)

 

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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