Working within the system

In social psychology, within the context of conformity, private acceptance is when people conform to the behavior of others because they genuinely believe that the others are right. This is contrasted by public compliance, when one conforms publicly without necessarily believing in what the group is saying or doing.

The idea of private alliance before private acceptance is when a person begins to believe something that goes against the conformed-to “norm”, but only privately; they will not change their behavior. Eventually, though, if enough people privately ally, eventually they will publicly ally, and therefore, conformed-to norms can change.

The act of conforming most of the time earns you the right to deviate occasionally without serious consequences; these earnings are called idiosyncrasy credits. Therefore, you can use idiosyncrasy credits to attempt to change conformed-to norms because people in your group will allow you to deviate and actually listen to you—instead of disregard you before you even speak—and even if they publicly dismiss your attempts, you can subversively ingrain new ideas and new ways of thinking.

These concepts go along with an idea I’ve been considering lately: We can work within the system to change it. In fact, working within the system is not always simply a compromise, the way the more “revolutionary” among us tend to think. It can be a powerful and effective tool to—to reiterate a nice phrase—subversively ingrain. If you catch people off-guard—either through using idiosyncrasy credits or comedy or their language—they are more likely to be open to new ideas. If you approach them offensively, such as by coming at them forcefully with ideas or speaking in terms they can’t understand, they are likely to immediately become defensive. That seems natural.

There is, of course, just as much of a need for more extreme measures. I argue that there is a need for all measures, and that not any one trumps another in every circumstance; different measures for different circumstances. If we’re going to change people, a gradual methodology, utilizing various measures at various times, can be effective, graceful, and sustainable.

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