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Pleading principle


Principles > Pleading principle

Principle | How it works | So what?


.Pleading is low-status asking, often with emphasis on the need of the pleader and the obligation of the other person to comply.

How it works

Pleading places yourself in an inferior social position, showing first that you are not a threat, and then that you deserve their help.

Vulnerability is often indicated in order to trigger social rules that demand vulnerable people should be helped.

This position offers the other person status and consequent power. In exchange, they are supposed to concede to the request.


In Transactional Analysis, pleading is to take the child position and to appeal to the parent in the other person. The pleader may use a child-like voice and may even produce tears. This is intended to invoke the sense of parental duty, where they are obliged to help the child. This parent-child positioning also exaggerates the actual social distance and obligations involved.


Pleading can also be done between friends and may well include deliberate invocation of obligation, including invoking rules of friendship ('If you're my friend then you will help me') and reciprocity ('I have done a lot for you, now you should give me help when I need it.').

Friend pleading may also be more relaxed and with a certain levity ('Go on, you know you want to.'). It is more important to keep friends, so more care is taken here to sustain the peer relationship.


Begging in the street is, at root simply asking passers-by for money. In practice it takes many forms and many methods may be used to encourage donations, for example:

  • Holding out a receptacle such as a cup or hat, so givers do not have to touch the beggar.
  • Adopting a low position that emphasizes their low social status and hence triggering sympathy.
  • Having a child or dog to evoke further sympathy.
  • Wearing ragged clothes and even no shoes that emphasize poverty and hardship.
  • Holding a sign that describes their desperate plight.


Pray is a form of pleading, where the person praying asks a deity for help of some kind. It is commonly believed that the harder and longer the person prays, with a greater display of sincerity, the more likely it is that the deity will hear them and answer their prayers.


Appealing is simply making a request, often based on a key factor, such as the relationship ('Please help, friend') or an assumed obviousness ('It stands to reason').

Within classical argumentation, there are many non-logical methods used. These are known as fallacies, and many of them use appeal as the basis for persuasion.


Simple asking is a form of pleading, with a simple question. For example when we ask someone to hold a door open, we are effectively pleading, even if we are not taking a lower social position. In effect we are still putting ourselves at social risk as the other person could still refuse and let us appear unimportant compared to them.

So what?

If all else fails, you can try pleading. It may well depend on the other person and your relationship with them as to how likely this method is to work.

See also

 Obligation principle


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