I know the saying is supposed to be “then beggars would ride”, and this blog was supposed to be about turning intention into action.
But instead, let me tell you about my horse Maybelle. She was a big, black, applesauce drooling draft horse that lived on our farm years ago. Picture a huge sofa, more than 6 feet tall. A retiree from an Amish farm, there was room for all three of my kids on her back as she calmly sashayed through the pasture keeping an eye on our livestock.
She was a sassy, bossy, stubborn old gal with a sense of humor. She loved to freak out our neighbors and customers by laying down to take her naps in the fields in the most uncomfortable positions. The only way to rouse her before she was ready, and especially if they stopped to knock on my door to tell me about my “dead” horse, was to bring her some sweet feed. For that, she would jump up like a foal, snickering as she shook herself off before running to the fence line to the waiting treats and adoring fans.
She was an excellent sentinel and definitely did her share on the farm keeping the sheep out trouble from coyotes all night long. But for all the good she did, years later my husband and I had a revealing conversation. As we were talking, we realized that neither one of us had wanted to get her.
I’d wanted a team not a solo horse: my husband didn’t want another mouth to feed. We went to see the team, but her teammate was sold separately before we got there. But since I was very sure Ethan wanted her and he was positive I did, we wrote the check and loaded her on to the trailer and took her (cranky & lonely) home. A few days later a recently retired racehorse-turned-Premarin mare showed up to keep her company. So we had 2 horses, two big mouths to feed, and no team to replace our tractor.
This, my friends, is a great example of unintended consequences and GROUPTHINK. Here’s the definition from Psychology Today. Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when a group of well-intentioned people makes irrational or non-optimal decisions.
I couldn’t have said it better, but I cringe to think how accurate the irrational part is. More embarrassingly, I have been guilty of doing it more than once at home and work. I am sure you have too.
There are several ways to end up on the road to group think. Wanting to look good, avoiding conflict, rocking the boat, or feeling pressure to fit in with the group are all common. Those scenarios are also easier to diagnose and prevent. Layer high stress into those scenarios and it gets even trickier.
Try to make a good decision without a lot of time or energy to consider other options. We are living in high stress times right now and bad decisions are easier than ever.
Here are few ways to prevent groupthink, because one person is usually enough to break the spell.
- Listen to what your gut is telling you.
- Speak up. Don’t assume that your coworkers, family, or friends can read your mind.
- Stay curious. Ask questions and make sure you find out what others are thinking.
- Play devil’s advocate. Make a case against the decision. See if you can live with the consequences.
For me, I start by asking myself, “Am I Maybelling?” It is one of my favorite self-management hacks.