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  • Writer's pictureBrian Reaves

Can You Stand the Pressure?

Man in elevator

Several years ago, a hidden camera TV show decided to try a little prank/experiment. The object was to see how people would conform to peer pressure, even when the crowd they were with was obviously wrong.

They had a group of actors enter an elevator with a regular person who had no idea what was going on, and they had the actors face the back wall of the elevator instead of facing the door. There was no door in the back of the elevator, just a blank wall.

man in elevator

The regular person entered with the group and for a few seconds, stood facing the door as you normally do. Then after a few seconds, he noticed everyone else facing toward the back wall.

He turned to look behind for a second and see if he'd missed anything. He hadn't. It was a blank wall. It made no sense why anyone would be staring at it, and yet everyone else in the elevator was indeed facing that way.

Would he stand his ground? Would he do the obviously right thing in the middle of a group of people who were obviously not?

man facing the wrong way in elevator

Unfortunately, after a few seconds, the man gave in to the crowd and turned to face the blank wall behind him. There was no reason to, and it was obviously the wrong thing to do, yet so many other people were doing it that he lost confidence in his decision and gave in. The doors closed and the audience at home laughed at the good-natured fun.

So what would you have done? It seems an easy answer, and there are definitely those people who can stand their ground. As a matter of fact, in the next clip, they had the crowd change positions several times, going to the side, the front, the back, and so on. The man who had no idea what was happening simply conformed to their every position change, and even took off his hat when they did, and put it back on again when they put theirs on. No reason for any of it, but he did it all without question.

In our lives, there are times when we may have to make a decision that isn't the popular one. Maybe you're the one person in your organization who has the idea and maybe it will cause everyone else to have to stretch, so it keeps getting shot down. The pressure to conform to the norm will be hard.

And there are often times when we have to believe in our decisions even when no one else will. People admire someone who can be bold. I'm not talking about being obnoxious and a know-it-all, but someone who is a leader. Someone who believes in their convictions and will try new things.

Remember these four things:

1. It is okay to be the only person who believes in you sometimes. It’s not a good feeling when that happens, but at the same time it becomes necessary at times in our life. People make daring choices that can forever change the industry they are working in. At the time, those choices seem strange and even reckless, but when they succeed, they are suddenly seen as “visionaries”. Don’t be afraid to become that visionary.

2. But don’t be so stubborn as to ignore the warning signs. Point number one is valid, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t receive wise counsel from knowledgeable people. If you share your idea with several different people in your industry and no one gets excited for you and the possibilities you are bringing to the table, it may be time to rethink it. But if you can get one or two people on board to be excited and to help your ideas get better, that may be all you need.

3. It’s not easy to go against popular opinion, but some of the greatest accomplishments were considered “out there”. Why would anyone need a computer at home? What could be the advantage of a cellular telephone with a big screen that could break? Why would anybody want to buy a product online that they wouldn’t see in person? Who in the world would want to drive up to a restaurant window and have their food handed to them? All of these things were questions people asked when someone decided to try something new, and yet now our lives are all changed because of this “radical thinking”. It’s impossible now to imagine life without computers, the internet, cell phones, and even drive-thru windows. People who believed in themselves and their ideas created improvements for all of us.

4. Not every “first version” is the best version so be open to suggestions. While point #3 is valid, very few of those products or ideas worked flawlessly the first time out. Someone had a general idea, but it was the brainstorming sessions from others that tweaked it to success. Believe in yourself and your ideas, but realize that it may be someone else who helps you take it to the next level.

Be bold. Be visionary. Be yourself and believe in yourself, even when the crowd is facing the wrong direction!

P.S. If you'd like to watch the elevator video I mentioned, here it is:


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