Being in the business of understanding the motivations, attitudes and behaviours of people, I frequently reflect on my perception of different groups. Is my view of how people behave right? Do I imagine them correctly? Or have I been misled or not paid enough attention to real people?
Each Tuesday I regularly attend a suburban exercise class comprised of only women. It gives me a little surprise each time to see what these women are really like.
They look nothing like the women I see in ads, on TV, in the media at all.
They’re thin. They’re chubby. They’re daggy. They’re happy. There’s the girl who looks like a trucker, doing cardio in her jeans, whooping it up and cheering for her favourite song to be played. There’s the 45+ lady doing breakdance moves on the floor, acting the clown and giving everyone fits of laughter. There’s women who grin and shake their booty like no-one’s watching (not me for the record).
Of course what they look like is not the point of this article, and not a commentary about the portrayal of women in the media (although it could be). It’s just relevant because how they look is an expression of their attitudes and how they feel about themselves.
If you’re in the business of connecting with real people, it makes sense to mix with real people. Hang out at Westfield, even if it doesn’t fit with that inner-city hipster image you’re working on. Go to the new housing estates, even if it offends your sense of fine design.
See some real people in action, find out what they really think and feel. Query that perceptual image you have of them, which just might be redundant.