The Law of Social Proofing—Break Free from Herd Mentality

Introvert’s Suffer from Serious Self-Doubt

Introverts often give in to Herd Mentality and sacrifice their voices. Be bold, show courage, and be rewarded

One of the most powerful attributes introverts like us have is that we’re extremely introspective. We like to take our time with decisions, digest data, plot potential outcomes, forecast future roadblocks—in short, we live in our heads. However, that introspection—if left unchecked—can be detrimental to our confidence. Even if we’re 100% behind our decisions, that little moment in which we analyzed everything is often perceived by others as doubt, hesitation, or just plain incomprehension.

Unfortunately, we’re repeatedly exposed to that perception over the years starting in childhood. That constant push back from others can undermine our own confidence and leave us second-guessing ourselves, unwilling to freely express our opinions, or unable to take bold actions. This, in turn, can increase that erroneous perception that we’re wishy-washy, which cycles back onto us.

It’s not hard to see then why a lot of introverts give up their free will and simply agree with the herd when it comes to making even important decisions about our lives. The Law of Social Proofing, as the phenomenon of herd mentality is called by researchers, is a term coined by author Robert Cialdini way back in 1984 (ironic, right?) Cialdini figured out we as individuals give up our opinions and decisions when in social situations and blindly accept the prevailing thoughts and actions.

Why do we do this? We’re either attempting to blend in with the crowd so we’re not singled out—which can be embarrassing, stressful, and in some extreme cases even life-threatening—or we’re subsiding our own thoughts, opinions, and attitude in hopes that the group will like and accept us.

One of the most common ways we all engage in this social proofing in the modern world is by reading reviews of products and services online. In fact, 91% of us read reviews before purchasing anything online. When we’re searching for something particular, we want to know that it works, that it’s cool, that it’s fashionable—and the easiest way to do that is to read what other people who have purchased it have to say. These reviews are so powerful that they can often sway a potential buyer after reading only a few words!

Social Proofing Isn’t About Finding the Best Bidet!

The LUXE Bidet on Amazon has some of the best (and most entertaining) reviews you’ll ever read. In fact, one afternoon I fell down the rabbit hole and read dozens of these—some of which made me laugh so hard tears came to my eyes.

Unfortunately, social proofing isn’t all about finding products that we assume will work for us. In fact, our tendency to rely on social proofing can often lead us into situations that are uncomfortable, harmful, or just plain wrong for us.

Science Daily asked the question “are we programmed to make bad decisions?” In the article, the author examined research from The University of Exeter concerning social proofing and how it changes how people live their lives! The study found that being repeatedly exposed to beliefs that don’t reflect our own actually changes the way we think about real life situations.

“. . . the challenge is in evaluating personal beliefs when they contradict what others are doing. We showed that evolution will lead individuals to over use social information, and copy others too much than they should.”

What’s the danger in accepting herd mentality too often?

“The result is that groups evolve to be unresponsive to changes in their environment and spend too much time copying one another, and not making their own decisions.”

In short, when you try to blend in too often, you forget how to think for yourself and other people become the masters of your destiny.

That simply won’t do. You’re here because you thirst for change. You need what’s rightfully yours. You know the status quo just isn’t good enough anymore. So be bold!  

Break Out of the Herd and Make Bold Moves

You want to change your life. You want to be more successful at work. You want to be a more assertive individual. You want people to recognize the power within you and acknowledge the value you bring to their lives. But if you stick with the same old thought patterns, you’ll never get any of that.

To change your life:

  • You have to change the way you think.
  • You have to start valuing your own opinion more than those held by others.
  • You have to realize that the decisions you’re making need to be the best ones for your life—not necessarily the ones that will make you most popular.
  • You have to act differently—be bold, take chances, and live the life you’ve been given.

Jen Sincero talks about “The Fallacy of Security” in her book You’re a Badass at Making Money. She mostly applies this notion to financial security but I would challenge you to think of it in terms of your personal and professional relationships as well.

  • How often have you remained silent or “bit your tongue” when your significant other has said something that deeply hurt you?
  • How often have you failed to raise your hand in a meeting and speak your mind?
  • How often have you resorted to silence or a mumbled non-response when your boss asks your opinion?
  • How many times have you “gone with the flow” at work even when you’ve spotted ways to improve the way things are done?

After reading her book, I didn’t feel like money was just going to fall out of the sky, into my lap, but I did rethink many of my long-held beliefs about income, success, and relationships. I came to the realization that I held onto many of these beliefs so strongly because I was an introvert and living life along the path of least resistance.

All of these are perfect examples of how succumbing to herd mentality (or social proofing) has subjugated your own thoughts and potentially harmed your personal or professional life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done just those things out of fear, out of embarrassment, out of the desire just to get through the day without any drama.

But let me tell you a secret: when you start speaking your mind—especially at work—your life will change. In fact, one of the easiest ways to climb the professional ladder and be noticed by your bosses is to develop managerial courage (even if you’re not a manager).

Unless your boss is a moron, they want people to make their own decisions. They don’t want to have to micromanage every task, every day. They really want to feel that the people they’ve hired—the employees they’ve put their trust in—really take ownership of their roles in the company.

I know when I became a manager, having people that engaging with their jobs, looking for solutions, and presenting ideas was not only exciting and refreshing but productive, innovative, and inspiring as well. Plus, it’s a wonderful way to showcase the value you bring to work every day.

Make a Decision and Stick With It

We’ll go into developing managerial courage a bit more in another post but essentially the trick is to make a decision based on the best information you have available and stick with it—even if it ends up being the wrong decision in the end. If you have a reason for making that decision and can defend your choice, you’re not only acting courageously, you’re thinking critically, and trying to solve problems—all of which are positive traits that your boss will appreciate.

An Introvert’s Guide to a Wealthy Life is now available in Kindle, Paperback, and Hardcover editions!