Why didn’t they move to help her?

groupthink

There was coughing in the quiet of the library. I continued typing away at my laptop. After a few moments, I came out of my focus and noticed an old woman sputtering, trying to catch her breath. She was seated at a computer, and she continued her string of coughs and I started wondering how long she’d been at it. Was she choking?

I got up from my chair and made a move towards her, as did a woman who sat near me and another man who sat closer to the choking woman. We hesitated a couple of long seconds, not touching her, and luckily she regained her breath. She shook her head and muttered, “down the wrong pipe..” She coughed again and patted her chest. “I’m sorry.”

No one said anything. In silence, I retook my seat as did the other two who had stood up. I looked around. There were maybe ten others in the room who had watched the woman choking. They hadn’t moved.

I think one of our greatest qualities is we follow obediently. We fall in line and work together, without arguing over pride or ego…too much. We don’t all try to give orders. This allows us to get stuff done, as a team, as a nation, as a human society.

On the flip side, we wait on others. We wait on someone else to take the lead sometimes. We wait for someone else to do what we know is right, instead of doing it ourselves.

And this makes our tendency to follow also one of our greatest weaknesses.

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