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Techniques > Conversation techniques > Excuses > Differentiation

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Show that you are not really connected with what went on. Distance yourself from the event. Indicate that it had nothing to do with you and that you had no knowledge of it.

Ways to do this include:

  • Blaming others, saying they acted without your approval and against rules.
  • Show how you have been in a way that is opposite to the suggested transgression.
  • Place yourself physically a long way from the offending act.

Separation can be created in other ways also, depending on the context, for example:

  • Saying that information did not come from an approved source.
  • Indicating that a method is out-dated.
  • Declaring that an offending item is not yours.


I'm sorry to say it was one of our employees who did this. But I can assure you that she was acting contrary to our very strict policy, on which all employees are trained.

You know we have done a great deal for the environment and I, personally, am on the President's Commission for Cleaner Air.

I was out of the country at the time. All I can say is that if I was there, it most certainly would not have been done in that way.

That's not mine. I have no control over it.


By showing you are not the sort of person who would act in the accused way, that you had no knowledge of it, and that whoever did it was breaking the rules, you are sending a message that you agree with the rules and that there was no possible way for you to stop what happened. In consequence, you can only be considered to be entirely innocent.

This is a common tactic for companies who are accused of breaking laws or regulations. They typically blame an individual 'rogue' employee, saying they were acting without approval and in a way that is quite unusual to 'normal' employees. There may even some reason given for this, such as them being stressed by their home life, outside of the workplace.

The broader and more general principle is of separation, simply creating distance between what should be approved and that which is not approved.

Ware and Linkugel describe differentiation as 'separating some fact, sentiment, object, or relationship from some larger context in which the audience presently views that attribute'. This is opposite to transcendence, which joins rather than separates.

See also

Open body language


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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