Keeping Your Head When Groupthink Takes Over.

I had fully intended on making my next post all about penis facts, 1. because I started with vagina facts and then stopped and 2. because why not, penises (peni?? ) are fascinating. However at this moment in time I find my personal/ professional life starting to creep in and impinge on what’s left of my creative brain and I am just not having it. So instead of bottling it all up and not writing I’m going to wax lyrical to you lovely lot, if you’ll indulge me and I promise I will have an article of penis facts for you very soon.

So What is Groupthink?

“Groupthink, a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis (1972), occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment” (p. 9).  Groups affected by groupthink ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanize other groups.  A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making.”

Groups can be wonderful things. A group of individuals coming together to solve a problem, immerse themselves in a creative process, sharing commonalities or whatever the case may be. When this is a positive thing  it can be the most wonderful thing in the world. However when being part of a group means that you have to alter or sacrifice your true self can be exceptionally difficult. This is something I’m working through at the moment and I would like to share what I have learned.


1. Go With Your Gut!

Of course decisions need to be made for the good of the group. Does this mean that you go along with the groupthink if you disagree or are unsure. A group is a collective of individuals working together on a common goal or theme, the key term here is individuals. We are all individuals (there’s a monty python quote there someplace) we all have our own unique views and standpoints on different situations. Sometimes we don’t know what to think, and that’s ok too. However if you are stuck in a situation where you are part of a group and you are unsure, Go with your gut! You and only you know the best solutions to whatever situations or issues arise for you. It is so important to stay true to yourself in a group otherwise you are not offering your views and perspectives the respect that they deserve. It will be tough, any situation where a minority disagree with a majority poses a difficulty. However in the long term, regardless of peoples opinions on your decisions if you have conducted yourself with honesty and integrity people can feel whatever way they like. Remember peoples opinions of you are none of your business. It will feel so much better to be able to stand over your actions and decisions if you authentically believe them than if you are simply going along with the group because it is easier.

2. Be Open To Change!

This point may seem to be in direct contradiction with the last one but I promise you it isn’t. Of course it is important to go with your gut but if you come accross new information or a new way of thinking that also rings true to you, it doesn’t mean that you are not being true to yourself but that you are educating yourself. We would all be very stagnant individuals if we consistently held onto deep rooted beliefs without ever questioning them. Always question everything, it is the only way to challenge yourself and to learn more! Not only learn more about yourself but about the wider world. Knowledge is power my friends.

3.  Acknowledge When There Isn’t An Even Playing Field!

When a group is working  towards or fighting for a common goal it is important to acknowledge that sometimes everyone is not equal in the group. That is not to say that they are unequal in terms of the value of their contribution to the group or the part that they play but that people are different and come with different backgrounds and experiences. In any group there are going to be vulnerable members, the people with the most to loose or the least to gain from taking a particular action. They may be people who are already marginalized by societal or structured norms. The group should not be a place where this marginalization should also be perpetuated. When you acknowledge and name an issue it becomes real,  tangible and something that is open for discussion. If issues are ignored or brushed over there can be a number of impacts. Those who are most vulnerable feel as if they don’t matter, they feel as if they are not understood and therefore become marginalized by the process also.  Naming an uneven playing field makes it real and opens the lines of communication around the issues.  By naming an issue you take the power from it and you can work together on creating as equal a space as possible for people.

4. Good Fear, Bad Fear and The Wisdom To Know the Difference!

Challenge and change can be scary. As people we generally don’t like newness or change, particularly if it means that you are not as comfortable  as you  have been. This fear is normal and healthy, it is borne out of the newness of a situation or circumstances. However if  this fear is a negative one and impacts upon you for quite a while then it may be  time to question where this fear is coming from. What exactly is it that you are afraid of?  If it is the change element then by all means go with it and question it’s origins and try to find positives in the situation. Enlist the help of group members, friends and relatives if possible to help you cope with this transitory period of fear. If you feel it is safe to do so name this fear in your group. You might be surprised to learn that you are not alone in your thinking and others may be in the same position as you. Even if you are the only one who feels this way naming this fear may help take the power out of it and the group may be able to help you find a solution to it. The most important thing is to keep yourself safe. If  you do not think the group will be a supportive forum for your fear or that your fear is so compounded that you cannot see a positive solution to it then it may be for the best that you step away from this process and take a break from the group. Again you are the most important person in this situation and you won’t be able to help others or help the group if you are not 100% comfortable in yourself and your choices. So make sure to mind yourself.

5. Knowing What is Your “Stuff” and What Belong’s to Others!

I have to hold my hands up and say that I am the worlds worst for this. I frequently find myself becoming sad, angry, upset or disappointed on someone else’s behalf.  Whether it’s because I’m too empathetic or it’s the Irish response of “Jeasus isn’t that awful” the main reason for it is because I fail to acknowledge whether these are my emotions or somebody else’s.  Many moons ago while in college a wise lecturer told us that We choose our responses and that nobody can make us feel anything we don’t choose. This simple sentence has stood the test of time for me and frequently (though not as frequently as I should) I need to check in and decide how I feel about a situation. Not only this but I discover if the things I am feeling are genuinely mine or have I picked them up because I have gone along with the atmosphere or environment of a group.  It’s not an easy thing to do but once you do it you have a much better chance of protecting your mental health  and you’ll feel better because you’ll have eliminated stress that isn’t even yours to begin with. Win, Win!

6. Take The Time To Listen and Be Listened To!

In case it wasn’t obvious from my posts I like to talk… a lot! However I too acknowledge that sometimes I need to shut the heck up and just listen, which is no easy task let me tell you. I mean really listen too, not just nodding in the right parts until it’s your turn to speak. Really listening will give you an insight into what other people are thinking and feeling about a particular subject and will help give you a better insight and help you come to solutions in the group. I am a chatterbox at the best of times however there are times where there are more dominant voices in the room and it is a struggle to have people hear you. I wish I had a magical solution to fix this, unfortunately there is none only to command attention to be listened to. You deserve to be listened to, your voice is no more or less important than anyone else’s in the group. Sure it might take a bit of practice and a whole lot of apologising initially but you will get there I promise. When you do you’ll wonder what took you so long.

7. You May Not Always Be Right- But You Don’t Have To Be!

Sometimes we don’t say what we want to say for fear of being wrong and looking foolish in front of our peers. I’ll let you in on a secret, you don’t always have to be right. Nobody get’s it 100% right 100% of the time, you are human and you will make mistakes. It’s no big deal. So take the pressure off, you’re not expected to be an expert, give things a go and hope for the best. If you’re wrong, you’re wrong and that’s the end of it. No biggie nobody died. Apologise if you need to and move on.

8. There’s more to life than the Group!

It’s very easy to be consumed by the group process, particularly if things are not going well. More often than not if things in the group are negative it is very easy to get sucked into the mire. In recent times I have finished group sessions and  left the best of myself in the room. Every ounce of positivity and creative eneygy can be taken from you if you let it. This is the important point- IF you let it. Sure it’s easy to give into the head fog and let the negative nonsense take over. It’s a hell of a lot easier than fighting it. However there comes a point, particularly if a negative process is dragging on and on, where you need to say enough is enough. There is more to life than the time you spend in a group. Resolve to leave all the nonsense after you. You can be miserable on group time but not your own. Take on fun projects, meet friends, do fun stuff with your family. Whatever works to make you feel better, do that and lots of it.

9. Don’t Be Afraid Of Goodbyes!

This last point is key. Sometimes we have to acknowledge when a group takes more from us than we get from it. Sometimes the group gets caught in a negative spiral and there is no way out because people will not move. Sometimes it’s just not for you. If you find there is more negative than positive, there is no regard for you in a group or if it just seems like wasted energy, then do not be afraid to call it a day. Of course I would recommend talking to the group first before absconding, just to see if there is a possible resolution. However if this is not an option, say sayonara and adieu.  Your mental health is far more important than any group.

I realise that this post went on for quite a bit and was quite generalised. If you have any specific group related situations you would like to talk to me about please feel free to drop me  a line.




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