Would you give an answer you knew to be false if it meant you’d fit in?
Chances are, you would.
In the 1950s social psychologist Solomon Asch conducted a classic experiment that showed just how a person in society is. This experiment has been repeated in various forms many times since.
I’d wager it’s even more relevant today in our age of instant global social media.
His experiment showed that, when confronted with the contrary opinion of a majority, most people will conform with them — even if it goes against our basic perceptions.
So, what Asch do?
It was an incredibly simple and elegant experiment. He put college students in a group of fake “participants” for a “psychological experiment” in visual judgement.
They’ll be comparing the lengths of lines. Simple, no?
Students see two large white cards. On the first is a single vertical black line — the standard line they need to find the match for.
On the other card are three vertical black lines of different lengths. The subjects have to choose which line matches.
One line is the same length; the other two are obviously different.
The fake “participants” had been instructed to unanimously agree on an incorrect answer to see what the real subject of the experiment would do.
On average, under group pressure, the minority subject accepted the majority’s wrong judgements in 36.9% of cases.
Of course, some individuals stuck to their guns. (Good for them; it’s not easy.)
Others agreed with the majority every single time.
Peer pressure is a very, very real thing and it doesn’t stop when you leave school for the last time.
We are social animals and it’s very difficult — almost painful — for us to stand out from the crowd. Particularly if that crowd is shouting us down.
At worst, this is chilling: think of what happens during genocides and civil unrest. Keep this in mind whenever you think you’re swayed by the masses against your deepest feelings and convictions.
At best, it’ll prevent you from ever being noticed and standing out in the sea of sameness out there.
Because there are so many people out there with opinions about how you should run your business and what you should do and it’s really tough to stand against them and go your own way.
Make no mistake about it: listening to them all and bowing to peer pressure will damage you and your business. Because they’re not in the arena getting their asses kicked, as Brené Brown would say, their opinions are not worth anything at all.
It’s all very subjective.
But one thing I can guarantee you: if you want to be noticed and you want your business to be a success and you want to sell more and help more people, you have to stand out.
Which means finding out what makes you different. What makes you unique. And let me tell you something else: it’s not your “great customer service” or your “attention to detail” or the fact you’re fun to work with, or “always meet expectations” (how disappointing!).
All of those things are minimum requirements for doing business.
None of them mark you out as special.
Let me tell you something, though: you are special. Nobody else can do exactly what you do, exactly the way you do it.
You just need to find a way to let the world know. Find that quality that makes you truly unique, and build your brand around it.
It is not easy. I know, because I struggled with it for years. Sometimes you need a little extra help, which is why I wrote my book, Business For Superheroes. You’ll get the unvarnished, dirty truth about what it takes to go from struggling to comfortable – and beyond – without any of the bollocks you so often get from business books. Get your copy here; start taking control of your business, and begin to see the profits you deserve.
Vicky Fraser is a copywriter, author, and entrepreneur. She really did run away with the circus… but when she’s not swinging from a trapeze, she’s showing other copywriters and small business owners how to work with better clients, make more money, and stop missing bathtimes, first words, and dinners with angry partners. In fact, she wrote the book on it. Get your copy here.