Do You Have “Me Too” Syndrome? Raising the Barr Weekly Memo: Issue 194

It’s one of the most disturbing trends among so-called innovative thinkers: “me too” syndrome. No matter how intelligent, capable, or opinionated people are, they seem to fall into this trap as soon as someone makes a point or brings up an issue. “Me too! I agree with you!” is the first thing out of their mouth. But why? We seem to be living in an age of agreement, where no one wants to ruffle feathers or rock the boat by expressing a dissenting opinion.

This is a huge obstacle for anyone’s growth as a thought leader.

I see “me too” syndrome on the news, at business conference panels, in online groups and communities—and even in the conversations people have with their clients. The instinct to immediately agree with what someone says isn’t difficult to understand. We all want to fit in, sound smart, and get along with our colleagues and clients. But the reality is, this creates mediocrity. For your business, “me too” syndrome can quickly translate into a brand that’s forgettable at best—and nonexistent at worst.

Think about it: Why would your clients want to work with someone who simply agrees with everything they say? The last thing an executive wants is to hire a trusted advisor who says, “I agree!” and “Me too!” at every single meeting. While I’m not suggesting that you start playing devil’s advocate every time you hear an opinion, I encourage you to stop yourself the next time you feel “me too” syndrome coming your way.

It’s time to push the envelope—or, as I like to say, Raise the Bar(r)—when it comes to challenging others in a productive, useful, and courteous way. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  1. Challenge conventional thinking. When you come across conventional wisdom, don’t take it at face value. Instead, flip it on its head. Challenge it. Examine all the reasons why that piece of wisdom might actually be wrong—and then express your new opinion to someone who might benefit from having that conversation with you.
  2. Challenge your clients’ thinking. Instead of tip-toeing around your clients so you don’t upset their feelings, start to challenge their way of thinking. Provoke them to think in new ways. Get them to say, “Wow, that’s profound! I never thought about it that way before.” Once you start challenging their thinking, clients will get much more out of their relationship with you.
  3. Grab attention. While you don’t want to say shocking things just for the sake of it, it’s important to express ideas that will grab attention and get people thinking in new ways. If someone quotes a piece of conventional wisdom that doesn’t quite make sense, shake things up by saying, “May I suggest a different way of looking at this?” or “What the heck does that mean?” instead of simply going along with it. By good-naturedly grabbing attention, you’ll start more valuable conversations.
  4. Question the ideas you hear. When you hear other people’s ideas, question them. Think about how you can use the ideas to create new, better concepts. Consider whether there’s a visual that might help clarify someone’s point. If there’s a way to articulate the idea in a clearer, pithier way, then do it. By questioning the ideas you hear, you’ll help to improve upon them—and the world will be better because of it.

So what do you say? Do you agree? Go ahead—challenge my thinking! I welcome your opinion with an open mind.

It’s time to stop agreeing with everything you hear. The next time you’re about to agree with others, respond instead with, “May I suggest a different way of looking at this?” and see what happens.

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