People Who Are Like Us



Do you own a dog? If you do, you’ll have experienced many times what happens when you are walking your dog and you encounter another dog owner walking theirs. You say “hi” and the dogs say “hi” to each other too. If you find yourself meeting the same dogs and owners in your neighbourhood you’ll probably even get to know the other dogs’ names (but never the owners’ names!)

Are you the kind of person who goes running early in the morning? Like, really early. If you do, and you see another runner while you are out you probably say “hi” or acknowledge them in some way.

I used to be a competitive road cyclist, and when I trained on the roads near my home in Wales, if I passed another cyclist on the road I would do the same thing; I would nod, wave or say hello as they passed and they would do the same to me. Unless of course they were riding a mountain bike, in which case we’d just ignore each other, because clearly we had NOTHING in common.

Walkers do it too, so do mums with buggies. Train drivers and bus drivers flash their lights and wave as they pass each other. Vintage mini drivers will hop into a convoy on the highway for a couple of miles – just because. Think of the many wonderful and varied types of associations, owner’s clubs and fan groups who spend time together because they all like the same thing.

Humans have an extra-liking for others with whom we share a key common thing; people in a recognisable in-group with us. It’s called the ‘in-group bias’, an unconscious attraction for others in a group we also belong to. It goes something like this… they like the same thing I do… they have similar values to me… they are similar to me… I like them more.

It works for invisible things too, that you can only uncover from conversation, like having the same name (or even the same first initial), the same star sign, the same life experiences and liking the same holiday destination.

Imagine you are out walking through your neighbourhood early one morning, while it’s still quiet and there aren’t many people about, and you pass another person in the street. Chances are you’ll even say hello to them, because you somehow belong to the very exclusive “we are people who are up and out early” club. A short while later, when the rest of the world has caught up and the pavements are full of people going about their day, it magically stops. You are no longer in an exclusive club, and the in-group no longer works.

Any time HR make an announcement that badly affects the workforce, any time a company unfairly changes the T&Cs on their customers, any time a company wields its power over an individual they demonstrate the opposite of the in-group. An out-group. Any time you present a “them and us” position, service provider and customer, you create a divide, you make the connection weaker and the affection for you and your product dims.

In contrast, any way you can show customers that you are human too, that you live lives like they do, that you struggle with the same daily things they do, that you like the same things they do, the in-group strengthens and customers will like you more.

People buy from and are more persuaded by people they like. In what ways are you like your customers? Authentically. And how can you demonstrate it?