THE FOLLOWING EXPERIMENT took place in
Brooklyn: sixty-two teenagers were assembled in a room. Labels
an inch and a half high were stuck at random on each persons
forehead. The labels were all different, saying things like:
Lazy, Ugly, Famous, Rich,
Cool, Clumsy, Wimpy, etc.
Each person could see everyone elses label but his or her
own, and it was against the rules to tell someone what their
label said. They were told to treat each other according to the
label on their foreheads. Then they mingled.
At the end of the experiment, one young
man said, I feel distrusted, like Im some kind of
thief. I dont like it. The label on his forehead
read, Dishonest. As you might expect, the people
wearing the labels Rich and Famous enjoyed
the way people treated them. The participants could tell, just
by the way people treated them, what their label saidmaybe
not the exact words, but the general idea was pretty clear to
each of them.
This illustrates something very useful.
For years self-help authors have implored
their readers to change the way they appear to others:
Dress well, speak with confidence, move with assurance, smile.
In other words, act like a well liked, successful person, even
if you dont feel like one. Believe it or not, this is practical
advice. All these ways of expressing yourself are like signs
on your forehead. They tell each person you meet, just as
surely as if you had it written in big letters, how she or he
should treat you. These ways of expressing yourself are signs
that say, Im successful, well liked, and worthy of
No matter what you do or how you act, you
are telling people how they should treat you, and youre
conveying that message whether you are trying or not. If the
sign on your forehead is a good one, leave it alone. But if youre
not getting the response from people you want, make a new label.
Act like a person who is well
and worthy of respect,
even when you dont feel that way.