What are your ulterior motives?


In my post on affiliate links, I talked about how it has always felt important to me to keep this site non-commercial, and have all commercial intentions on other sites. (This is an evolving viewpoint, and part of me is wondering if this distinction is even meaningful if I’m going to link between sites.)

But anyway, one of the reasons why I have eschewed affiliate links is because of the trust factor: I want you to trust me that when I talk about something that I’m promoting, I have no financial ulterior motives.

I originally had written just “ulterior motives“, but then I realized I was lying.

We have ulterior motives

The phrase “ulterior motive” has a sinister aspect. Wiktionary defines the phrase as:

“An alternative or extrinsic reason for doing something, especially when concealed or when differing from the stated or apparent reason.”

So it’s a motive that differs from what’s stated? Well, I don’t mean to alarm you, but with everything we say, we have ulterior motives.

  • When you are talking to someone you are attracted to, you will speak in a way that makes you more likely to be received in a positive and alluring way. This happens whether or not you are actively interested in pursuing anything with this person.
  • When you speak to someone you look up to, you will either try to be deferential to this person as a sign of respect, or attempt to act in such a way as to align yourself with this person to remove the differentiation between the two of you.
  • When you interact with someone you care about, you will want to express this in whatever way you can. Similarly, when you are hurt by someone (especially when it’s someone you care about), you will want to express that too, even if it’s non-verbal.

Ulterior motives are not only ubiquitous, but that they are okay and not something to be ashamed of. You just want to be aware of what your motivations are.

Woody Allen subtitled it best

The best cinematic example of ulterior motives that i can think of is a scene from Annie Hall, the Woody Allen film.

Details aside, does this sound familiar to you?

My turn

I’ll go first. In the above situation with my choice of wording, here’s what I was thinking of when I changed the phrase from “no ulterior motives” to “no financial ulterior motives“:

“Okay, so by taking the financial compensation out of the picture, I hope it’ll come across that I am trustworthy, because I want my readers to trust me. Also, because I’m outwardly expressing my interest in my readers’ trust, I hope it’ll come across that I am a decent, likable, empathic person, which is really important to me. I hope also that my attempts to untangle this relatively complicated internal debate doesn’t come across as too irrelevant or navel-gazing, because I want people to be engaged with these topics that I talk about. I want people to care about these ideas in the same way that I do.

Okay, now it’s your turn.

Do you ever think about your own ulterior motives?

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