Monday, March 26, 2012

The Mysterious "Stink" of "Group Think"

A few years ago my wife and I adopted a plan to get and move our family to a small acreage. This idea was born in a desire I thought was somewhat unique. Given my personal background, values, etc., etc., I assumed our plan just wasn't something everybody wanted to do. Our reasoning for doing it was well- conceived and reasonable, and it appeared to us it was doable.

So as we began to execute our plan we got to the point where we put our home up for sale. It soon sold. We enthusiastically moved to the next phase of our plan--finding and purchasing a small acreage. We had a small time-window to make a deal. It was at that point where we discovered the general popularity of "our" idea. There were so many other people just like us doing the same thing, or trying to do it, that the availability of small acreages--and their associated costs--had become highly competitive.

We were very surprised to realize that "our" idea wasn't unique at all. We were members of a large cultural cross-section of people who were thinking exactly the same way we were!

Our plan and our subsequent effort wasn't "right" or "wrong." But the assumption we made in thinking--that that we were "different," "special," or "unique"--was completely goofy and very mistaken! We were merely ordinary folks acting like so many other similarly ordinary folks just like us.

Since that experience I've come to realize the power and influence of what I call "group think." What I mean by that is that people find themselves with an idea to do something that they sincerely believe they've independently conceived--it's uniquely their own thought and/or desire. It's an expression of their own, personal individuality. Probably not!
If we'd learn how to examine it carefully, we'd probably realize lot's of people are doing it, too.

My Dad used to say to me, "Any old dead fish can float down the stream, but it takes a live one to swim up the stream." Then he'd suggest I give an idea what he called "the smell test" before I acted on it.

There is a whole lot about contemporary dating and courtship--and about contemporary perspectives on ROMANCE in general--that really "stink of GROUP THINK." Consider just a few examples:
  • the belief that a lot of dating experiences with a wide variety of partners will better educate you about what you'll really need in an eventually committed relationship;
  • the idea that many sexual experience(s) in dating will provide you the helpful clarification you need in preparation for a future committed relationship...or...
  • the idea that if you're not sharing yourself sexually with your boy or girl friend, then you're really messed up and he/she won't like you!
  • the thought that if you're not dating before you are____(you fill-in the age), then there's something seriously wrong with you!
  • the idea that men and their core...really do want the same things from a relationship;
  • the idea that everybody dates;
  • the thought that if you don't like the dating process there's got to be something wrong with you!
  • the perceived n-e-e-d to live together before marriage;
  • the growing persuasion that commitment to one partner forever is probably "old fashioned."
  • Etc, etc.

Some real, objective, and evaluative homework about these ideas and beliefs will quickly demonstrate they are false, false, false! Try it for yourself! These and so many more just like them fail a careful smell test; they "stink of group think." They don't and won't ever lead people to have healthy thoughts about themselves, nor do they promise healthy and enduring relationships of any kind.

If I had done just a teeny little bit of homework--for example, if we had just talked to a realtor about the availability of acreages--we would have been much better prepared for the "what came next." Do you have thoughts, questions...observations...about "group think stink." Drop me a note. In the meantime have fun, be safe and above all, be smart!


(PS: So why are these ideas so common and why do they seem so popular? I'll address that next time.)