Types of Discounting

Competitive Frames of Reference

If I have a competitive frame of reference, I think that I’m only OK, as long as I can be seen to be better than those around me.  This might mean that I finish up surrounding myself with people who are obviously not as well off as I.  Or, I might feel Not OK and keep looking for people who will reaffirm this for me.  Another way would be to be scared to be different from other people – I’m only OK, if I’m the same.


This shows itself in the use of superlatives, when the reality is quite ordinary.   For example, saying that the dinner was ‘absolutely superb’, when it had been an ordinary, if delicious evening meal.  ‘You’ve wrecked the whole day’, with a couple of minutes of grizzling.


You see a behaviour once and assume that it is always so.  You will hear this in expressions like: ‘Everyone thinks you…’  ‘Nobody ever …’  ‘You always …’, which are blatantly untrue.


Picking up an insignificant detail in a situation and treating it as if it were the most important.    For example, if I have to tell you about a series of events, I might talk about what the people were wearing, when it has no particular bearing on the outcome, and glossing over the important facts.

Blocking and Redefining

These are two different, yet related processes.  They both work the same way.  The outcome is different.  Both are used to turn the course of a conversation.  Blocking causes a complete change of topic, whilst redefining alters the focus of the same conversation.

Blocking comes in the form of answering a question with another question, for example, or talking about something else.   Politicians are good at this.

Redefining comes with an unexpected answer to a question.  For example, ‘Do you take sugar?’ asks for ‘yes’ or ‘no’.   ‘Three spoons please’ redefines the subject, whilst not changing it.  I didn’t ask how many.

Discounting words

The obvious ones, which you have probably recognised, without really noticing, are ‘just’ and ‘but’, ‘quite’ and ‘can’t’.  There are more such words and phrases on the blog.

Gallows Laughter

This is usually easy to identify.   It is laughing to release a discomfort and is usually associated with something that is really not funny.  On the rare occasions when I have to watch the television and see a comedian, I think that most of the jokes are seriously unfunny and the laughter gallows type.

Passive Aggression

This is a behaviour pattern that ranges from sitting sulking to kicking the dog because you are cross with the cat; running out of petrol and ‘accidents’.