Stereotypes And Categorization Help Me Win A Raffle

October 1st, 2013 | Categories: Uncategorized

So I won a raffle today. A decent sized one. $200. I knew I had a good chance of winning. Do you want to know my secret? It’s the same reason that I tend to be memorable to people, have an edge with children, network well, and get away with saying things other people wouldn’t dare say.

I stand out in a crowd.

Ok. To be truthful that’s just a metaphor. I couldn’t stand out in a crowd if I tried. I’m just under 5’3″ (meaning I’m 5′ 2-1/2″). I’m fairly tiny at 105 pounds. And don’t wear particularly zany, luxurious, or eye catching clothes. My winter wardrobe, for example, is all solid color cotton long sleeve shirts either v-neck or crew. Barely a bright color in the bunch. I could blend right in pretty much anywhere and just fade into a crowd.

Yet, I stand out.

That’s because I’m acutely aware of how people categorize me upon seeing me. I did recently publish a book on stereotypes after all. I also realize that beyond the stereotypes, people have expectations of me even after they’ve known me for a while. Whether stereotypes or other kinds of expectations, it is helpful to stand out from these categorizations in order to get people’s attention, to persuade them to listen to you, and so forth.

Don’t give me too much credit here. This idea is not my original idea. There is a theory that explains this idea called expectancy violations theory. This theory argues that “If an act is unexpected and is assigned favorable interpretation, and it is evaluated positively, it will produce more favorable outcomes than an expected act with the same interpretation and evaluation.” In other words, you’ll get more credit for a positive and favorable behavior if it stands out than if it was expected.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not as Machiavellian as I sound. I don’t try to stand out because I read this theory and decided to give it a try. I have always been this way. It’s likely why my first boyfriend was 21 when I was 13 (no surprise it didn’t last) and my second was 18 when I was 14 (ditto). It’s likely why I am lucky enough to have multiple wonderful business partners in various ventures. It’s likely why I still surprise my husband enough to stay with me after 20 years. I’ve always stood out and I hope I always will.

So how did stereotypes and categorization help me win a raffle? Well, understanding it helps me fight against it. This all started when I took some advise a few years ago and it has worked out for me 75% of the time. I won three out of the last four raffles that required me to fold up a piece of paper and throw it into a bucket filled with other pieces of paper. My secret? I stand out…even in paper form.

I always fold my paper different than how everyone else does. I look in the bucket and if most are just folded over once, I fold mine twice. If they are mostly folded twice, as was the case at this Saturday’s raffle, I fold it over a third time. Why, because those slips of paper are just like people when it comes to categorization. A crowd.

We’re all looking for someone or something that stands out. The person who puts his or her hand in the bucket is no different. When he or she feels around through all those papers that are the same it is like a crowd of papers. That person is waiting for one paper to stand out.

I won a huge gift basket with gourmet goodies in 2005. I won a gift card to a nearby bookstore a couple of years later. And now in my biggest score yet, I won a $200 credit towards Kids Club. (Ironic given my recent Kids Club diatribe).

So now you know my secret. I wish you the best of luck in your future raffles.

No need to thank me when you win but do come back and post a comment to this post to let me know my advice worked for you.

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