A recent study has demonstrated that intentionally going against the grain can gain you competence, respect, and even credibility from others. The study published in the Journal of Consumer Research examined how what people wear does affects others perceptions in a positive way¹.
What did they find? When people dress in a way that goes against the convention they are seen as more competent and seen as having a hire status than those people who conformed and dressed like everyone else.
Let me give you an example: You know how you are invited to a party and they say it’s “Black Tie”…the fact is if you intentionally show up in jeans and jacket you more likely to be viewed as successful and competent. Why?
1. People who do not conform are seen as truly “FREE”…they have autonomy.
2. People have a desire to be unique and admire that in others , and therefore are perceived as someone confident and of higher social status.
*Let’s face it…it’s easy to conform…everybody else does…right?*
The natural human tendency is to conform or go along with the crowd. In psychology depending on who is using it, there are several terms, such as “group conformity”, “social proof”, and “groupthink” to name a few. The fact is as humans we easily will conform to a belief or action if a group of people we know believe or do the same thing.
Just look around you…look at the brands that you or others are wearing. Notice what people purchase…the fact is we pretty much fall in line with what our friends do or the majority of what people do.
We also see it in businesses as well(of which I too either own or co-own), one business buys something the other business buys it too, and then next one follows suit…it’s not because it necessarily works, but because so many other businesses have one…whatever it might be.
If YOU want Others to See YOU as a Thought Leader then have an Original Thought
It doesn’t just apply to what you wear, it applies to what you say and do. I find it contradictory that people who self-proclaim that they are “thought leaders”, yet when you read what they say, they typically agree with everyone else. Agreeing with the majority is not thought leadership, it is simply “groupthink”. If you want you or your business to stand out, then you have to be original, and you will have to create a unique point of view.
This is not being different for different sake. You have to truly have something to say, and you better be able to prepared to defend yourself. A great example comes from the article, someone who wears a red tie to a black tie event is going to be seen as far less credible than the person who shows up wearing a whole different wardrobe. Being different isn’t good enough, you have to demonstrate that you are truly not conforming and do it with confidence and knowledge.
*Thought Leadership Takes Uniqueness and Guts*
You can’t be a “thought leader” if you agree with everything else. As a matter of fact if you do agree with everyone else….you are in essence a…wait for it…”thought follower”.
Thought leadership means that you have done your homework, and are willing to put yourself out there on an island if necessary to create something new. It means that you may get people angry with you, challenge you, call you names, belittle you, and yes even bully you. This is why…you need to know up front, that going against the grain…takes a thick skin and guts. If you can’t deal with it…don’t become a thought leader.
*If YOU can Take the Heat…Stay in the Kitchen and Keep Cookin’*
Some people in marketing may refer to this concept as “differentiation”. Perhaps it is, but in the personal world of you being different has value. If you can take it…and it can get really rough sometimes (I know this from personal experience), you can be highly successful and even admired.
If you are ready to be admired…then don’t conform, but with style and confidence let people see you being comfortably unique.
Easy to say, harder to do.
Perhaps one of the best examples I have found is seen in this Southern Comfort commercial
The commercial my seem silly or even far fetched. However, as you are viewing and perhaps laughing, for many of us there is also a part of us that actually admires this man doing his own thing with freedom and confidence in a place where most people conform. We may admire him, it is perhaps because we too desire to be free enough with out shame or embarrassment to live our lives freely and enjoy it.
If you are ready then don’t agree to agree…get yourself free!
Successful Non-conforming My Friends!
Jay Izso, the Internet Doctor
¹The Red Sneakers Effect: Inferring Status and Competence from Signals of Nonconformity. Silvia Bellezza, Francesca Gino, and Anat Keinan. Journal of Consumer Research , p. 000 Published by: The University of Chicago Press
Article Stable URL:http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/674870