Change Yourself? Change Your People.

Whether it be for the environment, one’s health, or other important causes, convincing people to adopt new or uncommon behaviors can be difficult. One reason is that societal norms powerfully reinforce the status quo….What leads people to overturn a status quo?”*

Other people are, of course, a big part of what leads us to overturn a status quo. But the researchers found an interesting twist. So, for example, it was not only being told that some other people are trying to eat less meat these days that influenced participants to eat less meat themselves. Participants ate even less meat themselves if they were told that it’s because other people are changing that they are eating less meat.

That people are changing makes it sound like eating less meat could morph naturally into a norm and, if you don’t fit in with that, then where will you be. Left out, left behind or “counternormative”* as the reference suggests.

Okay, so we like to think we are special. Introverts** I know are great examples of people who may be more comfortable on the edges but don’t exactly want to feel left out. None of us wants to feel so far out that we don’t matter to anyone anymore. Back in the day, many thousands of years ago when our social brains were formed, in what we call the environment of evolutionary adaptation, too far out socially meant no food, no care…we died.

This is why we may feel bad when we don’t get invited to that party or meeting that we didn’t even want to go to. Hardwiring. Alarm goes off when we begin to feel socially left out. Wait. We can use this!

All we have to do is surround ourselves with enough people who live and breathe the ‘me’ we want to be that it feels normal enough to be whatever that is. Affinity grouping. Back to the meat, why not surround oneself with people who for environmental, health, or other reasons also want to eat less meat. Unless you happen to want to eat meat. Then that sense of normalcy and belonging would be provided by eating with some people who also eat meat.

Or the gym. Or spending habits. Or environmental foot-printing. Want to – on purpose – overturn your own status quo. Embed with others who already have. People are everywhere. Meetups. Community or professional organizations… Go where the norm is, or is becoming, the norm you want to be. Opportunities abound. Practice, Practice, Practice…and See What Happens.

For help with this or something else, or to let me know what you think, Contact Me at:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:   202-617-0821

* “Change behaviors by changing perception of normal” October 6, 2017 Citing Gregg Sparkman et al. “Dynamic Norms Promote Sustainable Behavior, Even if It Is Counternormative,” Psychological Science (2017). DOI: 10.1177/0956797617719950  Provided by Stanford University.

** Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.




Speak Your Mind