“The Abilene Paradox:” Saying “Yes” when You’d Rather say “No”

The other day we saw how Solomon Asch’s conformity experiments, showed that people will deny what they see with their own eyes when under social pressure.   But what happens if the group pressure is not flatly stated, but only perceived  pressure?  Pretty much the same thing.   Watch the clip below of “The Abilene Paradox,” an organizational  training film based on the book by Jerry B. Harvey, professor of management at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Professor Harvey was trying to figure out why organizations so often ended up making decisions against their own self interest. Click here for a link to his book about this, which is a parable based on his own personal life experience.  His experience was a very uncomfortable family trip 50+ miles away in a hot car in the blazing hot 100+ degree Texan heat just to have supper at a cafeteria in Abilene that no one felt like going to.  The father only made the suggestion because he assumed that’s what everyone else wanted to do. He had no interest himself.  But they, in turn, assumed this was his wish and so all voiced agreement when not a single one of them wanted to go.  You’ll see a couple of other examples in the trailer.  A research and development guy who’s been tasked with “Project X:” making jet fuel out of peanut oil; and a young man and woman at the altar who don’t really want to get married to one another.

So when we do not want to embark on a course of action, why do we so easily agree to do so? And why don’t we at least communicate our disagreement?  Seems we just don’t want to rock the boat. Jerry Harvey’s conclusion is that human beings are always trying to spare themselves the pain of “anaclitic depression” or separation anxiety: Feeling cast out, unwanted, isolated.  It’s as though we’re always in survival mode when these defenses kick in.

The irony is that the human fear of social isolation runs so deep that we will navigate a huge portion of our lives around it and constantly make assumptions — often false — about what other people believe without really knowing.  In fact, you can know someone for years thinking they disagree with your views only to find out later he was on board with you with just about every issue.  But we never know if we don’t talk to people.  Do we?

Instead of acting on our assumptions , we ought to verify those perceptions more often.

The Abilene Paradox is another good lesson about how political correctness uses this human weakness.  By reinforcing this fear of isolation, people are less likely to get to know one another and exchange ideas.  Political correctness promotes this isolation so that open communication doesn’t get in the way of pushing PC agendas, and more folks can be nudged into agreement despite any misgivings they may have.

How Personal Relationships Threaten the Power of the State

Have you noticed a recent push to keep single people single?  It’s out there.  Click here for my latest essay at The Federalist:  “How Personal Relationships Threaten the Power of the State.”  It  examines advice given across the board to all single working class mothers:  “Don’t get married.”  Specifically, a recent article at Slate, co-authored by two feminist legal scholars, states that single mothers should “Just say no” to marriage.

So what’s with that?  Of course marriage is a choice and it’s impossible to discern whether or not the choice is a good one without knowing all of the  details and circumstances in any given case.  But the Slate piece comes down almost as a manifesto claiming that these moms ( never mind their children) are better off going it alone.

But if we step back, we can see a bigger picture emerging.  It’s as though individuals in our society are being nudged today towards isolation, away from human companionship that is autonomous and real — and pushed into a sterile form of “community” in which the state calls all of the shots in our lives.  Perhaps that’s why it seems those pushing big government agendas seem unfriendly — and even hostile — towards strong personal relationships.

Here’s an excerpt from the Federalist piece:

Strong relationships are about teamwork:  real communication, real cooperation, real trust, and real fellowship.  How might individuals seek to cultivate these things?  They can, you know, if government gets out of the way.  And teamwork is about self-sacrifice, which is a dirty word these days.  Yes, strong relationships may be difficult to produce.  But that’s what makes them strong.  The blacksmith analogy is apt:  the tempering of the iron in the fire – as with a relationship through trials — will give it shape and strength.

But the really dirty little secret statists would rather you not know is this:  strong relationships of mutual self-sacrifice yield the greatest prosperity of every kind – spiritual, emotional, and material – for everyone.

The hunger for strong family relationships will persist.  Social engineers can only offer weak “communitarian” relationships as cheap imitations for the real thing, which, in the end, is real, human love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Doctor-Patient Relationship IS the Practice of Medicine”

I was so pleased when a friend sent my way  this Wall Street Journal op-ed written by a physician who spells it out:   Obamacare is essentially all about meddling in the doctor-patient relationship.

Here are some excerpts from the fantastic essay by Daniel F. Craviotto, Jr., an orthopedic surgeon from Santa Barbara, California:

“In my 23 years as a practicing physician, I’ve learned that the only thing that matters is the doctor-patient relationship. How we interact and treat our patients is the practice of medicine. . . . So when do we say damn the mandates and requirements from bureaucrats who are not in the healing profession? When do we stand up and say we are not going to take it any more?

I don’t know about other physicians but I am tired—tired of the mandates, tired of outside interference, tired of anything that unnecessarily interferes with the way I practice medicine. No other profession would put up with this kind of scrutiny and coercion from outside forces. The legal profession would not. The labor unions would not. We as physicians continue to plod along and take care of our patients while those on the outside continue to intrude and interfere with the practice of medicine.

We could change the paradigm. . . . “

Thank you and Bravo Dr. Craviotto!

The doctor-patient relationship is just one of many personal relationships under attack today by power elites.  All big government programs aim to meddle in personal relationships.  They have the teacher-student relationship in their crosshairs, the parent-child relationship, the merchant-customer relationship, the neighbor-to-neighbor relationship.  Every personal relationship you experience.  That’s what dictators from time immemorial have sought to control.  That’s why they silence you through the dictates of “political correctness” which is just another word for coercive persuasion.

By meddling in relationships the cliques that run the bureaucracies usurp our personal power and freedom in order to bloat themselves.  In the meantime, they demand we support their habit of getting drunk on power.

All of us need to change the paradigm.  We need to “stand up and say we are not going to take it anymore,” as Dr. Craviotto urges his fellow physicians.  This means not allowing political thugs and bureaucrats to meddle and interfere with our personal relationships — our relationships with our families, our neighbors, our co-workers, our classmates, our doctors, or anyone else in our personal lives.

Freedom of association is  under attack as never before.  Preserving it is probably the first — and last — line of defense for all of our other freedoms.

Bait and Switch: How Same Sex Marriage Ends Family Autonomy

“Relationships, Power, and Freedom” is the central theme of this blog.  I really hope you’ll read my article published today in The Federalist because in it I attempt to get right into the intersection of each of these three qualities in our lives.  Click here for the link to my article, “Bait and Switch:  How Same Sex Marriage Ends Family Autonomy.”

Preserving civil marriage is key, because without it the family can no longer exist autonomously and serve as a wall of separation between the individual and the state. Abolishing it would have huge implications for the survival of freedom of association and all of our personal relationships.

[Read more…]

Nationalizing the Family

Mark Steyn makes some excellent points in this four-minute excerpt from his speech on “The Nationalization of the Family.”

http://www.steynonline.com/6203/the-nationalization-of-the-family

He notes that the takeover of the family was by far the most consequential act of state ownership of the late 20th century.   No question about it.  A faceless bureaucracy is being substituted for the only bonds that can create a healthy society:  family bonds.  Steyn also recognizes that we should grieve far more over the waste of lives than the waste of money by this bureaucratic state.  Amen to that.

But I’d like to elaborate a little here.   The organic family unit — father, mother, child — is really the template for all healthy human relationships.  We all know this in our gut.  Without the security of the human bonding in a family, something great is lost to any human being who’s been deprived of it.  Children end up more isolated and alienated, and they take all of that baggage into adulthood.   People become more detached from others if their sole source of “care giving” is a faceless bureaucracy. In a very real sense, the state can then mediate and dictate all human relationships.  For example, a poor single mother is less likely to get married if she knows she’ll lose state entitlements.  It’s disturbing as we come to realize that nationalizing the family goes hand in hand with abolishing it.

Also, let’s note how the cliques ruling the bureaucracies can’t recognize human potential, creativity, and innovation. Even if they could, they’re hostile to it all.  They squander lives and talent. And they’re in the business of squashing love.

Our only choice, in the end, is for each of us to compete with this machine.  It sounds daunting, but we must find a way to build a culture that reaches out in human love and understanding to anyone at risk of falling victim to the machine, and even those who already are.  I hope to explore in future posts how we might try to do this.