Would you ever wear red sneakers to the office? A recent study found that dressing down can sometimes help people get ahead. It also raises larger questions about how conformity affects our wellbeing.

Harvard researchers conducted a number of experiments to see if violating the dress code could make people seem more prestigious. It worked. Students assumed that a consultant who wore red shoes while teaching a business seminar probably charged higher fees and had more upscale clients.

Keep in mind that this is only effective if people think you’re acting deliberately, and you’re in a setting like an Ivy League school that suggests you have significant clout.

On the other hand, conformity is an issue that comes up everywhere you go. Consider how being a little unconventional could bring you more happiness and success.


Being Unconventional in General

  1. Think for yourself. To keep things running smoothly in the workplace or anywhere you interact with others, you may want to adapt your conduct but hold onto your beliefs. You can fill out lengthy forms for office supplies until others are ready to simplify the process.

  2. Celebrate diversity. The disadvantages of conformity can be minimized by being inclusive and respectful of others. Wish the best for people even if they make different choices than you.

  3. Take risks. Dare to innovate. Mistakes provide valuable learning opportunities. Be the first to try a new time management app or propose an unusual marketing approach.

  4. Practice active listening. You can have more confidence in your decisions when you take the time to understand the people around you. Pay attention to their needs and expectations.

  5. Try new things. Take a break from ordering the usual lunch special to try a new item on the menu. Ask the summer interns to make at least 3 recommendations on making the training process more effective.

  6. Question assumptions. Studies show that most people tend to think they conform less than they really do. Evaluate your true motives.

  7. Build support. As you advocate for changes, team up with like-minded people. Persuade others by showing them what they have to gain.

Being Unconventional in Specific Situations

  1. Bend the dress code. Office wear evolves. Even if red sneakers are out of the question, you may find that black leather sports shoes are acceptable and comfortable.

  2. Check facts. It’s common for people to doubt their own conclusions when others think differently. Research your position before you let yourself be swayed. You may confirm that you were correct. In any case, you’ll be better prepared for the next project.

  3. Encourage children’s questions. Conformity is part of how we learn to speak and feed ourselves. On the other hand, give your children the opportunity to strengthen their own reasoning. They’ll be better equipped to deal with social pressures when they join the workforce.

  4. Accept accountability. It’s easy to doubt how much impact individual actions will have on big issues. Take satisfaction in knowing that you’re doing your part to fulfill your company’s mission and make life better for your customers. It may inspire you to go beyond your job description.

  5. Stand up for principles. Above all, be yourself at work as much as possible. You’ll enjoy greater peace of mind and find it easier to connect with your colleagues.

It may be okay to go along with the crowd as long as you’re true to your values. Listen to your authentic self and find the balance that works for you. You’ll increase your chances of developing a rewarding career and leading a more meaningful life.

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