As humans, we are influenced towards the behaviours we elicit, mainly so when there are others around us in our presence, setting an expectation. Thus, in set scenarios we are expected to do/act/say certain things in order to be 'polite', 'acceptable', 'proper' both in our own eyes but also to portray that to those in our company.
This can of course differ setting to setting, social group dynamics and context we are in socially/professionally. When we move from one 'part' to another we begin to play a differing role, altering our behaviours to fit the role and the associated expectation from others in that group.
These behaviours and roles over time have built a 'norm'.
But what are social norms?
Social norms are more of an unwritten rule of beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that are considered acceptable in a particular social group or culture. They offer us with an expected idea of how to behave, and function to provide order and predictability in society.
When our behavior which fulfills these norms it is known as conformity, and most of the time roles and norms are powerful ways of understanding and predicting what people will do.
Our level of conformity can also be categorised, these are the main 3:
Compliance is the lowest level of conformity. Here a person changes their public behaviour, the way they act, but not their private beliefs. This is usually a short-term change and is often the result of normative social influence. E.G. Pretending you like a certain exercise class/going to the gym, in order to fit in with those in your social group.
Identification is the middle level of conformity. Here a person changes their public behaviour and their private beliefs, but only while they are in the presence of the group. This is a usually a short-term change and normally the result of normative social influence. Identification takes place we are surrounded by a particular group; we change our private beliefs while in the presence of the group and not permanently. E.G. Turning Vegan as our friends do, however we still love meat!
Internalisation is the deepest level of conformity. Here a person changes their public behaviour and their private beliefs. This is usually a long-term change and often the result of informational social influence (ISI). E.G adopting a new healthy lifestyle due to friends also making more health conscious choices that would continue regardless of if their friends carried on.
Perhaps you can begin to identify where you are conforming on some level to something against your own belief system or where you have in fact created a new set of beliefs you wish to live by, that may be differing to those around you.
Now that you have an understanding of what Conformity is, how useful now is it for us from the periods it established for necessary caveman survival to use in today's society, doe it elicit behaviours lacking in independence of one's own thoughts and beliefs?
Back in the Caveman period, a group/tribe mentality ensured ones survival via protection, mating and food. . It is seen even in today's world that we generally get along better with people similar to ourselves.
It was here we will have began to see rules and progressively, laws forming in these tribes as evolution took place.Thus, conformity may have contributed to the law and order we have in the world today.
Conformity can be useful in the right situations, or those in which we are unfamiliar in.
When we consider 'Fads', we often don't actually like or maybe agree with the thing/principle/idea, however offer the impression we do to ensure acceptance and as our perception may be that 'everyone else likes/does it, so that means I should too'. Thus a movement begins to happen.
Conformity has been documented throughout history, often demonstrating the survival of others through doing so. However, is this something we still need to do in order to ensure our survival today?
Also along our periods of documented history, there have been iconic humans who have not conformed and graced us with new freedoms, ideas, liberations and revolting against that of the norm to ensure every single voice around us can be heard and new perspectives can be welcomed and accepted into what was a rigid society. If it wasn't for these people breaking conformity, would be surrounded now by so much diversity?
For me I am grateful that I have been able to break the norms, that I do not fit the mould in many senses, however this has taken time over my adulthood to be comfortable and confident enough to express this. I believe society does need some level of order of course, but for new beliefs and perspectives to always be welcomed as we become more curious about our diversity on so many levels, especially has we learn more and more about the human brain and mind.
We live in a very privileges position today, where we can have more freedoms away from a normalised rigid view and I believe we should take hold of what we want to choose to believe, be sure about it and bang our drums to be better understood but also allow others to listen who wish to be open to your view.
As a part of my Intensive coaching programme, we explore belief systems and identity, we assess if these systems are enabling or disabling us to progress and begin to work on something that does work to elevate us into a more evolved version of ourselves.
If you would love to know more, please apply here: https://samhorne.typeform.com/to/iwdzKCoj