Being different is something that doesn’t come easy to many. Stepping outside of social norms and doing things unexpected creates a very uncomfortable feeling for most people. Ironically, when you step outside of what people consider “normal” you start to get noticed.
Last night I shared a post on a social network about why I thought people were leaving. I didn’t specify that people were leaving faster than they were arriving, because that’s simply not true. What I was suggesting, however, is that certain improvements need to be made in order to regain the attention of the people that have turned their backs.
Immediately, after posting my thoughts, I was criticized for suggesting things that I wasn’t suggesting at all. The post ballooned into a thread of over 150 comments within two hours. People were clearly upset with the message I was conveying and wanted me to know why.
On the contrary, had I written a post about why so many people are coming, and why the network is the bees knees, I don’t feel that the level of interaction would have been nearly as high. In fact, I don’t think posting something that everyone agreed with would garner much interaction at all.
Within the thread of comments, someone suggested something that has had me thinking all day, the Abilene Paradox.
The Abilene Paradox basically suggests that people will always agree with the feelings of a group, regardless if they agree or disagree with the feelings themselves. People want to be accepted, they want to be cool like everyone else. Well, the problem with the Abilene Paradox happens when you’re trying to get noticed.
The Abilene paradox is a paradox in which a group of people collectively decide on a course of action that is counter to the preferences of any of the individuals in the group. It involves a common breakdown of group communication in which each member mistakenly believes that their own preferences are counter to the group’s and, therefore, does not raise objections. A common phrase relating to the Abilene paradox is a desire to not “rock the boat”.
If you want to stand out in a crowd, you simply can’t do what everyone else is doing. Sometimes you need to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. Try something different.
When you first do this, you are going to notice resistance. People are going to wonder why you are diverging from your normal course. You will likely get some negative feedback and an occasional splash of “Hatorade.” Don’t worry. This is normal.
The fact is, when you step outside of your norm and do something contrary to what people expect, it catches there attention. As long as you are doing this with good intentions, and occasionally, if warranted, an explanation, you’re doing alright.
Don’t let any group of people tell you you’re doing it wrong, because what proof do they have that they’re doing it right? If you’re trying to blend in and stand out at the same time, you might need to address your priorities. Becoming relevant, authoritative or considered an expert in any field means that you need to explore all angles. Never leave a rock unturned.
In the end, when you challenge your own thoughts, your own ideas, your own course of action, you can learn a lot. If not from yourself, then definitely from the feedback you receive in doing so. Remember though, be receptive. You should listen to what people are saying and invest in a fresh perspective.
“If people aren’t making fun of you, you’re doing something wrong.” – My High School Band Director
Then again, you can always do what everyone else is doing in fear of hearing “You’re doing it wrong.” Let me know how that works out for you…
Image Credit Mike Pennington used under Creative Commons Licence.