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Preferences > Imperative

Conformance | Independent | Contrariness | So what?


An imperative, or command, evokes very different responses in people, depending on their preference in this area. A person may conform to the command, act independently of it, or may even respond in a contrary way.


When someone with a conformance preference is given a command, they will tend to obey with little or no question. 

Why do they do this?

Most people are strongly socially conditioned to obey authority, and a command given by a person with perceived authority will be obeyed.

These people are rule-followers, who may well fear rejection and punishment. They may have had controlling parents who taught them that is not a good idea to disobey.


The independent person may or may not obey the command, depending on whether it makes sense to them.  

Why do they do this?

Whilst the imperative independent person will have a reasonable respect for authority, they will not accept commands blindly. They will listen and think about how sensible the command is and whether it is acceptable, given their values. They may also weigh up the pros and cons of disobeying the command.  


A person with a contrariness preference will tend to not only not obey an imperative, they are likely to do the opposite.

Why do they do this?

These people may have limited self-esteem or a weak sense of identity, which they cover up with a contrary front. They may have strong control needs, whereby another person who is seen to be trying to control them leads them to grab back the baton. They may be going through a rebellious period during which they are struggling to establish their own independent identity (a typical teenage situation).

The contrariness acts as an indicator of their willingness to fight (as in the Fight-or-Flight reaction). They are, in effect, saying 'I am independent. I control my own life, thank you. Do not try that again!'

So what?

Discover their preferences first with an unimportant command, then utilize their preference:

  • Conformance: establish your credibility and authority and then tell them what to do.
  • Independent: use a rational argument or seek other ways of influencing them.
  • Contrariness: Wind them up and tell them not to do what you want them to do, or hint that they may not be able to do it. Say 'I don't know if you can run a full marathon' and they will be lacing up their running shoes in very short order. 


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