Bars, High & Low

There’s an interesting rhetorical trick that sometimes gets played on you. The trick is played whenever someone wants something from you and the exchange they’re proposing is very lopsided in their favor. Here’s how the trick works: if you refuse or even hesitate, the other person will indicate that there is some positive trait or character aspect that you must lack because, for anyone with an abundance of that trait, the proposed trade would not be lopsided.

Here’s an example: someone tries to sell you a plate full of disgusting, extremely spicy slop that does not look appealing at all, and they want you to pay them $40 for it. You make a face that clearly indicates your aversion to this deal, and the monger yells at you: “What, not tough enough to handle some real food?”

This is an old trick, but it’s lasted for so long because people fall for it. I’m tough! I don’t want anyone to think I’m not! So I’ll happily pay $40 and choke down this slurry just to show that guy!

That example might seem absurd, but you’ve encountered this more than once. It’s not always so obvious as a carnival barker insulting your manhood. Sometimes it’s much more subtle, like a tech company suggesting that you aren’t good enough to join their team if you aren’t willing to jump through a bunch of absurd hoops to get in. Surely a savvy professional would have no problem with these tasks?

Keep your eyes open – someone trying to sell you a high bar usually only has a low one, and you don’t want to get tricked into crawling under.

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