I bought my first Jeep Wrangler in my early twenties. It was by far the most expensive thing I owned at the time and I loved it.
I remember the day I bought that Jeep like it was yesterday. It was a perfect fall day in Atlanta. After filling out the reams of paperwork required to purchase an automobile, I had the salesman teach me how to take the top down. And I left it down for the drive home. The wind was overwhelming on the highway, but I didn’t care. It would be a sin to pull over and put the top back up. So, I cranked up the stereo and enjoyed the ride.
A few short minutes into my trip, two beautiful young ladies pulled up to my left in a fully loaded white Jeep. Their top was also down and their blond hair flowed in the wind like a TV commercial. They seemed excited to see me. “Do I know these girls?” I thought.
They waved at me with huge smiles and asked, “Is it new?”
“Yeah,” I replied.
“Whoo!” They both shouted. “Welcome to the club!” said the girl in the passenger seat. And they sped off. Wow, I must be something special.
Sort of, but not quite. After that experience, I began to notice other Jeep owners waving at me as they passed. What’s going on here? I waved back, but was confused... at least in the beginning. Then I realized, “Oh, I’m in the club. It’s a Jeep thing.”
It’s true. Jeep Wrangler owners wave at each other as they pass. It’s almost a requirement. I had never noticed before because I hadn’t owned a Jeep.
I have to admit, it feels pretty good to be in the club.
As a kid, my bus driver’s husband owned a Corvette. She told me that Corvette owners wave at each other, but not at other sports car drivers. It’s a Corvette thing.
It’s the same thing with motorcycle riders. Their wave is subtle; it’s almost a downward point. The cool thing about bikers is they don’t distinguish between makes and models. It doesn’t matter if you ride a Harley or a BMW… if you ride, you’re in the club.
Why is this such a wonderful illustration of decision making and persuasion? Because it is an excellent example of in-group bias. To be in the Jeep Wrangler club or Corvette club or motorcycle club… you only need to own, drive, or ride one of those machines. That’s it. Gender, ethnicity, wealth and status have no influence on club membership.
It’s inclusion at its finest.
When I speak about stereotyping (which is driven by in-group bias), I remind people that it is neither good, nor bad. It just is. It’s how we think. We categorize and we look for commonality. Unfortunately, our categorization gravitates to the obvious. Things that are easy to identify, like race or gender.
But it doesn’t have to. When you really get to know someone, you will identify something in which you have in common. It might be a hobby or an interest, an athletic team or school, an experience or bucket-list item, a point of view or enthusiasm for a type of machinery. You are in the same club. Sometimes it takes a little digging to find it.
Ironically, on the road it’s easier to identify a Jeep, Corvette, or motorcycle than it is gender, ethnicity, or religion. Maybe that’s a good thing.
I like being in the club. It’s a Jeep thing… you wouldn’t understand.
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