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5 Ways To Avoid GroupThink

5 Ways To Avoid GroupThink

In a world that often seems intent on fracturing societies into various tribes, causes, religions and movements it can be a dangerous thing to actually think for yourself. It can be seen as a threat to those who can’t or won’t.

It can, for better or worse, set you apart, distance you and isolate you. It can be a prison at times. But, more importantly, it can be your wings. When it comes to groupthink your aim should be to keep aloft, above the incessant, destructive and parroting chatter found in its wake.

Here are 5 ways to not abandon yourself or your principles in order to avoid conflict, fit in or not rock the boat.

Arthur Schopenhauer once claimed
"All truth passes through three stages.
First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

1. Stand your ground

People engage in groupthink because they are afraid of being disliked.  You may find yourself locked in an internal battle between abandoning yourself or facing social censure or not being liked.

­­It’s more important than ever to say what you think and feel because if you don’t you may not only be abandoning yourself but also be abandoning those who lack the courage to speak up or speak their mind or are given no voice or agency to do it.

2. Give your power of flight some historical perspective

Take comfort in the knowledge that free-thinkers, innovators and individualists have often led the forward march of mankind through the darkest and most challenging of times. They have at times been dismissed, ridiculed, punished, imprisoned or worse. That does not mean they were wrong. 

In 1543 Galileo Galilei promoted the heliocentric theory (the theory that the earth revolved around the sun, as oppossed to the sun revolving around the earth) of Nicolaus Copernicus published in De revolutionibus orbium coelestium 

Galileo’s discoveries were met with opposition within the Catholic Church, and in 1616 the Inquisition declared heliocentrism to be “formally heretical.” Heliocentric books were banned, and Galileo was ordered to abstain from holding, teaching or defending heliocentric ideas. This would be known later as the Galileo Affair. 

Think also of the staggering challenges Martin Luther King also met and overcame in trying to advance his ideas, ideas and convictions at the time.

3. Look for other freethinkers

You will find people whose ideas and approaches resonate with your own because they do not swim in the tepid waters of conventional wisdom and dogma. They, like you, consistently think for themselves and you will find that you can take refuge in their company and counsel. 

They are safe havens, ports of call to load up on logic and reason. Visit them often. Restore and replenish them as they will do for you and others.

4. To be a free thinker does not always mean you are right

It means you are a thoughtful and critical thinker, who avoids assumptions, prejudices and preconceived notions as much as you possibly can. Leave those handicaps to the others.

You can be content in the certainty that you arrive at your conclusions based on research, logic and reason – even if you are wrong.

5. Research is a very important tool

For instance, most people might tell you that the quote “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” comes from Voltaire. However, it is not from Voltaire, the 18th-century philosopher. It was a paraphrase from a biographer named Evelyn Beatrice Hall of what she thought Voltaire was thinking. 

Nicholas Klein, an American labor union advocate said in a speech to Clothing Workers,

“First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you.”

This has been both misquoted and “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”, and misattributed to Mahatma Gandhi as, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

People who have only skimmed the surface of quotes often misattribute them or do not understand their full context, if they have not adequately researched them. This also holds true with ideas or concepts. 

5. Final thoughts

If you are both lucky and diligent you will find other ways to avoid group thinking. You will avoid like a dark plague people unable to think for themselves and be drawn to and befriend those who can.

Francis of Assisi once wrote, “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” 

Try to not abandon yourself or others in laying claim to and putting forth noble words, ideas or pursuits. Do not be afraid to be ignored, ridiculed or condemned by those who’s words or opinions should not and do not matter.

Be a light that keeps the darkness at bay both for yourself and all those you love, admire or respect.

Don’t avoid groupthink if your thoughts happen to be aligned with the group or collective. It’s not about thinking differently as much as it’s about always thinking for yourself.

Agree or disagree? If you have thoughts about any of this, we’d love to hear them.

What do you think?


Lisa Ryan LPC

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