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Being Valued versus Being Feared

by Ron Kurtus (16 February 2002)

A person who is feared can often get what he or she wants from others through threats. This method of getting things is opposite the accepted means of exchange by providing value. A robber is a typical example of a person who uses fear.

The problem with this method is that people seek revenge on those who use threats to take away value.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

A different type of exchange

In a typical exchange, you may offer something of value to the other person. That person will then provide you with what you want, in exchange for what you offer. If it is a fair deal, both sides go away happy.

This type of exchange is the basis of business, as well as interpersonal relationships. You give each other something of value.

Not to be harmed

Another type of exchange occurs when what is offered is not to be harmed. A person's well-being is valuable, so he may begrudgingly make the exchange out of fear.

A person who evokes fear in others does so by threatening to harm the other person. He is able to get what he wants or make the person do what he wants by threatening, "...or else I will harm you."

It is important to people that they are not harmed or that they don't lose something of value. What is given in exchange is the well-being of the person, which is of course valuable to him or her.


The person making the threat must be able to back it up with the type of violence people fear.

A robber threatens you with a gun and demand you give him money. You do so out of fear for your life.

The boss demands you work overtime without pay, or else you will be reprimanded or even lose your job.

The father tells his son to be home by midnight, or he will be grounded for a week.

The bully takes your bicycle with the threat of giving you a beating. You give it out of fear.

The dictator controls the country under the threat of force.

There are numerous other examples where people use threats to get what they want.

The problem with this tactic

Although a person may be able to get what he or she wants through the use of threats, that strategy for success is seldom effective because the victims don't like it. They will try every effort to get revenge when the opportunity presents itself.

What can happen

Many a tyrant or dictator has been finally overthrown, although more have had enough power to elicit sufficient fear to avoid rebellion.

A robber may be able to get money through threatening violence, but they also get caught and prosecuted. Still, there are those using extortion that get away with the crimes.

The supervisor who uses fear tactics to control his workers may have short-term success, but often the workers will not put out 100% and there may be a high rate of turnover. Still, many such tyrannical bosses move up the ranks in the company.

Military and police training is based on fear. The soldier must obey the order, or else he will be severely punished. In warfare, that tactic may be necessary to get someone to risk his life. For police departments, it is not the best way to train their personnel.

Not worthwhile

Although in some cases the person using threats gets away with it, there are also many cases where the person is brought to justice.

A feared person may feel important, but he or she is also disliked and even hated.


Using threats and creating fear may give a person short-term results, but in general, it is not a good way to gain value, because it is really taking value from others.

Make it a fair exchange

Resources and references

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