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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TED Talk Tuesday: Why Rush Limbaugh’s opinion is what we’re talking about



Susan Cain has made a significant realization: Group think is taking over smart think. Culture is promoting group discussion over your own. Our culture encourages collaboration and working in groups, starting from the classroom, and then to the open cubicles of corporate America. The problem is, our ability to think independently is being hurt as a result.

Susan calls for allowing people some introversion, or should I say, introspection? Some of our deepest thinking comes from alone time. In fact, everyone’s opinion comes from their own unique perspective. At least, it should. It shouldn’t come from some authority figure, whether it is a talking head on the entertainment/news shows, President Obama, or your parents. Even us extroverts need this time by ourselves, maybe even more so. Today information is flying at the speed of light, and before you know it, mob mentality and the cult of personality has influenced your decision.

Susan’s message is timely, in a society where we’re inundated with info, and that info is either what other people are doing, or it’s news that is colored by bias and our limited attention span. It’s hard not to pick up another person’s convincing argument as our own.

What’s more dangerous is when we believe that the stuff that’s reported is the real issue. But what may be the worst is when we throw up our hands in helplessness, because we think no one else realizes that the emperor has no clothes.

Is Rush Limbaugh’s opinion what we should be talking about?

Think about what’s right and wrong in government. Then ask whether you want to talk about Rush and the two political parties’ agendas, or if you want to talk about electing people who will help us become responsible consumers, mindful investors, and powerful citizens again.