Thomas Gilovitch, Victoria Medvec and Kenneth Savitsky carried out research to show that people overestimate how much others note what they do.
This is called the spotlight effect – the feeling we have that everyone is watching us, sitting in judgement or appreciation.
There’s a simple reason for that – it’s normal to feel that way – but it can also mean we’re too scared or embarrassed to do some things or are overoptimistic about our ability to make other things work.
Gilovitch et al point out that we’re at the centre of our own little worlds – and because we focus so much on us it’s hard to appreciate how much others actually see.
What’s inside us is not easy to see
The feelings and thoughts we have are private – but we often think others see them to a greater extent than they really do.
This can make us more anxious than we need to be. There’s no reason to assume that when we walk into a room, the people there will automatically notice things about us that are off – whether it’s a bad hair day or a stain on our clothes.
Some will… most won’t.
We shouldn’t assume others know what we know
Because we’re so focused on ourselves and what we know, we often assume that everyone else knows it as well.
This means that we might think we’re explaining something well, but because the listener doesn’t have the knowledge we’re assuming they have, they don’t really understand us.
Let’s say we’re in a sales meeting. If we spend all our time talking about ourselves and our product before we understand just how familiar the other people in the room are with the topic, our chances of moving things on falls off massively.
We’re probably having less impact than we think
It’s easy in group situations to think that we’re being noticed more than we are – that we’ll be singled out because of something we’ve noticed.
Conversely, it’s easy to assume that what we’re saying is important – and that other people think it’s important.
That often isn’t the case.
Listening to someone else is hard. Listening to a group is harder. And it’s almost impossible to really listen to someone else when we’re spending all our time thinking about what we’re going to say next.
The formula for moving on
Joe Gebbia, the co-founder of Airbnb has a formula that might help us overcome the spotlight effect – especially when we’re not being noticed as much as we want to.
SW2 + WC = MO
SW squared stands for some will love it, some won’t. Putting it together with the others, we get some will love it, some won’t plus who cares equals move on.
We just need to keep working, and eventually we’ll get noticed.