Sunday, March 15, 2015

Be Different from the Crowd

Last time we puttered for some time and I found it really interesting to see one thing in a very deep and different perspective. Puttering is time-consuming and it needs a lot of practice. Human being naturally use shortcuts or rule of thumb to make assumptions to spare the brain. That's why it takes a lot of efforts to putter deeper. But it is definitely beneficial, at least for me, looking at something in a new perspective helps me to have more ideas and understanding.

So this time we might talk about the uniqueness and culture. As everyone's been told, people in individualism culture tend to be more self-awareness and want to be different from the crowd because they highly value the uniqueness of every individual. While people in collectivism are more tend to care relationships with other person and don't have high self-awareness. From my experience as an international students, I do feel domestic students, on average, being more outspoken and active in showing their difference in dressing, ideas, etc. 

One thing that makes me feel confused is, when people talking about uniqueness or difference, what exactly they're referring to? It seems that some differences are encouraged while some other differences are being pushed back. What makes the two different reactions? 

For example, people like unique ideas. They call it creativity. When someone has ideas different from others, it is being appreciated because that opens up people's perspectives. One idea that is unique could create extremely powerful results. The success of Apple is that they make their products unique. Even in the advertising, they tell the "why" first. The "why" is the ultimate reason or mission that Apple has. It is not just producing high quality laptops or computers; instead, it is "Making a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind." By doing this, Apple distinguishes itself from other companies in 1980s because they're not limited to bragging their products and tell people to buy. People are persuaded by why they're doing this. 

However, I realized some uniqueness makes people feel pressure and tend to hide their uniqueness. This is a video of TED talk called "The danger of hiding who you are" by Morgana Bailey. As a lesbian, she was afraid to share this to others and hided the secret for 16 years, mostly because of the social judgment. The sexual difference seems scary for people to talk openly. If people value diversity and individual's uniqueness, why this is so sensitive? One sentence she said was enlightening to me. "I don't want others refer me as the 'gay co-worker', 'gay Morgana', I just want others call me Morgana." When the uniqueness becomes a label of someone, it seems that people are dehumanizing individuals by using these labels. She is still Morgana. She has so many other characteristics that could be unique. While people's behavior of categorizing individuals is the beginning of stopping diversity. 

The best way to encourage individual's uniqueness is not just saying that we love diversity. It is respecting other's differences by being aware of it and putting that characteristic at the position equals to other characteristics, rather than categorizing individual into certain group just by one characteristic. 


  1. Nicole - let me take on creativity first, then address the rest after that. I encourage you to read this piece called Inside the Box - People Don't Like Creativity. It challenges some of what you said in your essay. I believe that I am a creative person and do like creativity and much of what you've gotten on this has been from me. So you may have inferred that everyone else is similarly situated. But that is not true. Also you should know that my ideas get rejected quite regularly. One reason why I blog is that I can at least get my ideas out. But that anyone else follows them is an entirely different matter. It happens very rarely and usually only with the simplest suggestion. When we meet next I might tell one story about how I got an idea of mine implemented when it seemed it wasn't going to happen.

    For the rest, I need to say up front that I'm speaking my opinions but am no expert. That said, you use the word unique where I believe the word different would be better. Differences among people include race, religion, gender, cultural background/where they grew up, sexual orientation, family wealth, and perhaps quite a few other factors. Some people embrace diversity, meaning they value difference. Other people tolerate difference, a more neutral term. I was taught in school starting early on that in America people believe in religious tolerance, which is why there is no state religion.

    On the flip side of this is dislike of difference or lack of awareness that people are different. A mild form of this is called provincialism. Then getting a bit more severe is bias and prejudice, and still more severe is racism, hatred, and intolerance.

    I try to embrace diversity, but I confess not to succeed with it all the time. My son, for example, used to play rap music when at home, but I could never tolerate that and would ask him to turn it off (or wear headphones). That people are people and each should be treated as an individual does make sense to me, but that is much easier to do with friends when in a small group setting. It is much harder to do in other settings. The story you gave about Morgana I understand. In the context of our discussion group, for example, why should your sexual orientation matter at all? If it is not relevant for the interactions we do have, why make a thing of it? But once it has come up, what then? I'm not sure how to put the genie back in the bottle.

    I also have a general belief that the rule is to get along and it is only the exception to protest or make waves. I therefore get uncomfortable with somebody else who is pushy in a way that I don't feel is appropriate. Pushing back can then be an emotional response, not a reasoned one. I have learned the hard way, however, that when this happens at work it is more likely to escalate than to calm down on its own. In the classroom, I've only had a couple of experiences over the years of this sort of tension. But that was enough to convince me to avoid talking about politics in class, except in the broadest possible way, because that can be a source of heated conflict.

  2. I may generalize too much that everyone likes creativity. But at least from my observation, people like the word creative or innovative. Many people seem them as very positive characteristics. Actually today I attended a seminar is given by CEO of Lextech, a company in Chicago. He talked a lot about technology, innovation and leadership. I found it really interesting because he mentioned a lot of tech creativity that can dramatically improves efficiency and safety, which would change our life all over. In job market, it seems that many companies are looking for people who are creative. So I set up this "everyone likes creativity" idea. While after reading this article, I was kind of surprised. Many people may just like the outcome that creativity brings not the creativity itself. Like gambling, people don't like the feeling of uncertainty. While when someone made a bunch of money from gambling, people love that outcome. In the same way, it is too risky for people to be creative because of low success rate. Once you fail because you don't follow the old rule, people won't appreciate the willingness to be creative. So this is really a good point for me to think about.

    And I realized that the example is not really good for uniqueness. It's more like difference. Differences always exist across people. But uniqueness should be something that makes you more than different from others. It's something that makes someone be oneself.

  3. I agree to professor Arvan's comment about the difference of uniqueness and diversity. Although diversity can be addressed as uniqueness, I believe that mentioning diversity as uniqueness is a bit too generalizing the topic itself.

    However, I also agree to Nicole's comment on the post "I realized some uniqueness makes people feel pressure and tend to hide their uniqueness." Even if the uniqueness is not 'negative', which can be in this case the 'uniqueness of affection towards the same sex', some people tend to have hardness expressing the uniqueness in certain cases.

    People usually do not like others who are boasting around. That is perfectly understandable, since I am one of the people who doesn't think boasting is pleasant to tolerate when it is happening right in front of you. However, from my experience, as the people consisting the environment gets more highly educated and have the spirit of achievement inside them, competition among the members of the group gets more intense, which results in more sensitive environment. As an example, my high school didn't give out alphabet grades, but instead ranked the students from 1st to the last student. Rank was basically everything to the students, since the students were eager to go to prestigious universities. In that certain environment, everyone was sensitive to everything 24/7. Of course, there were students who were 'unique' and 'creative' in our school, which I mean that they were on a different level of thinking about the ideas. However, those students were accepted by only a few friends when they had the opportunity to benefit the majority by sharing the creativity. The reason was quite obvious: people didn't like them. The few creative students were viewed as 'enemies' who threatened others' opportunity to go to university.

    I think this is a little bit extreme example, but nevertheless, I think the readers would get the point that I am trying to say. I am mentioning this particular example because I believe that the unique, creative people would have more chance to exist in such competitive environments. I have to acknowledge that the uniqueness and creativity is not, and should not be bound to environments, but it is also hard to ignore that the higher education provides more knowledge and room for the creative thoughts.

    I believe trying to define the limitations of creativity getting limited by such environmental problems would actually be beneficial to our group's discussion. :)

  4. It may be useful to consider the issues from a developmental perspective. When you have a chance, take a look at this. It is very brief.