Justifiers and Deniers

By Legal Eagle

A long while ago, a friend of mine raised her theory that people fell into two categories, justifiers and deniers. I think it was an excellent theory, so I’m going to explain it here. It all hinges around how you respond when you do something wrong and you’re caught out. What is your response?

I’m a justifier. I admit that I’ve done something wrong, but try to justify and explain why I’ve done it. So: “Yeah, I know I stole the cookies from the cookie jar, but I was really hungry, and they were just sitting there, and I thought it was at least two hours before dinner so it wouldn’t affect my appetite and…and…and…”

My adored sibling is a denier. A case in point: she booked a taxi the other day. A taxi arrived, but it wasn’t the one she specifically ordered. She thought “Stuff it, I need to go home” and got in the taxi. About 1/2 an hour later, the taxi company called and asked if she’d booked a taxi. “No!” she blurted (and then her brain wondered why on earth she said that – too late, too late!). “But you must have done,” said the woman, “I’ve got your number because you booked one.” “No,” my sister said. “Must be a mistake!” She tells me her conscious mind is saying one thing (“admit it’s your taxi”), but her unconscious has already responded and denied. She hung up the phone, felt guilty, and wondered what was going on in her mind. I think I may have an idea…

The problem with being a justifier is that you end up in conflict. If someone tells me to do something I don’t want to do, my instinctive response is to explain why I don’t want to do it. My sister was far more adept at getting around parental precepts; she’d just smile sweetly, nod and then go off and do whatever she wanted to do (clever, clever girl). Whereas I had a need to justify my actions, and as a result, I’d get into big arguments with parents, school and authority figures. My theory is that deniers don’t like conflict, and their instinctive reaction occurs as a result of their desire to prevent conflict. I don’t like conflict either, but I also hate the thought that someone might not understand my actions. Although, as the taxi example shows, sometimes you get into worse trouble by being a denier.

There may be a third category: the fantasiser. At a few points in my lovely legal career, I have acted for banks who are repossessing people’s houses. It’s a hard job, but someone’s gotta do it. As I’d tell mortgagors when they called up, the Bank don’t give you nothin’ for free (particularly not a house). Some of the responses were amazing. Like the woman who pretended she was three different people (none of them herself). She also pretended she was dying of brain cancer, that she had won the lottery and that her husband had run off and left her. It was quite extraordinary. None of the stories or identities were true (I had to get them all checked out).

So gentle reader, which category do you fit into? Justifier or denier?


  1. Apologiser
    Posted November 1, 2006 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    I love this post – it is interesting to see my theory in print!

    You have forgotten the third type in my theory – the counter-attacker. This is the person whose instinct, when confronted with the thing they have done wrong, is to counter-attack!

    Ie You: “Why are you so late to meet me, we agreed to meet 1/2 hour ago and it was you who asked me?!”

    The counter-attacker: “I was held up at work sorry, but you’re usually late so don’t complain, and besides, you didn’t call me last week like you promised, so there!”

    Then there is the fourth and final type – the Apologiser. The Apologiser does not try to deny or justify what they have done, nor deflect attention back onto your own bad deeds. No, the Apologiser just admits and says sorry (often profusely) in order to get past the unpleasantness as quickly as possible. Apologisers are people who very much do not like conflict. Better to say sorry, even if you are not entirely in the wrong, than prolong an argument.

    There are various other variations of the four types, eg I think your fantasiser is a form of justifier, albeit I slightly mad one!, and the counter-attacker is in some ways also a form of being a justifier, but I am so fond of them I like to think of them as their own type – sui generis if you like, Legal Eagle!

    Take care,
    from a proud Apologiser.

  2. Legal Eagle
    Posted November 1, 2006 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    Hello Apologiser,

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

    I see the Counter-Attacker and Apologiser as extreme sub-species of Justifier. So the Counter-Attacker attempts to justify his or her conduct by attacking the other person, and the Apologiser attempts to justify his or her conduct by proferring an apology.

    I have a touch of the apologiser about me too. I remember my mother saying once “Will you just stop bl**dy saying sorry, it’s nothing to do with you!”

    Legal Eagle

  3. Posted May 1, 2007 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Interesting read.

    I fear I am mostly a denier. And the guilt is in the lying, in deed. Yes, with denying, I try to avoid trouble, even though in the end, it comes out. Yet, I have been in a few situations why trying to justify things were working against me rather. Where the price I paid for justifying as bigger then the price paid for denying.

    For example: A bad grade, on average gave me 10 minutes of scolding , and about one hour of time out in my room. However if I ‘denied/lied’ about things, until my report card, I would have peace for the time being. The ‘discipline’ for that bad a report card might have been an hour of scolding, and maybe a half day in my room. A quick calculation learned that was easier to deny then to justify. (besides, I also felt that not all bad grades were ‘justifiable’ myself).

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