Group Think – Part 1

groupThere is a phenomenon that can occur within teams or groups of leaders and friends that can become unknowingly destructive. It is called Group Think. One person expresses an idea or an emotion about a person and it resonates with something that someone else was feeling. Pretty quickly, low level (and perhaps isolated) thoughts are embraced by those to whom these had never occurred. Although some situations need analysis of objective facts, the difference here is the level of feeling that is affirmed or adopted by others and the unhealthy levels of escalation.

As a former teacher, working with younger people, I typically saw junior teenagers look for communal consensus as a security and justification for what they were feeling. Sometimes, of course, this is important, but as people mature they (hopefully!) get better at keeping such discussions objectively focused on processing their emotions, linking them to where they might have felt that way before. They also get better at directing group members to each own their emotions and talk directly with those concerned, whilst still respecting the right to feel the way they do and to interpret their world. But it is easy to overlook this.

Let’s not forget that good people can still cross lines without realising that they are doing so!

Of course, overreacting to expressed emotions can squash people, too (including those on the receiving end of such intensity). People do tend to communicate emotionally more than they do rationally and need space to do this and to ‘vent’ constructively, as long as this in no way entertains negativity.

Ironically, those who overreact to emotions can themselves become emotional in the process. That is why one’s ‘rightness’ can be, at least partially, wrong. It is why managing emotions is also quite difficult. Naturally, facts and emotions need to be addressed and clarified, but emotions are real and the people who have them are all valuable enough to need respect for what they feel without being shut down. It was wisely said by Theodore Roosevelt that no-one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

More tomorrow.


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