I am wary of groups now. Some can form and lift you up. Since leaving cohousing I joined a creative class and we support each other and encourage each other and celebrate the rewards and performances of all the creative souls. That’s an example of a group bringing out the best in everyone and it’s a win win all around.
I think most have had the opposite experience. How many want to return to middle school? That’s where we did care what the group thinks! I know in 7th grade I wrote down my grades from each assignment. A girl next to me saw it and yelled out to the class that I was a nerd. I never kept track of my grades again and almost failed sex ed in 8th grade because of that (I crammed for the exam, went into school with a fever, took the exam then went back home and passed). The point is that some groups tear each other down and fitting in may just strip away who you really are.
Cohousing is marketed as a place where you can have privacy and individuality but work together with the neighbors to run the place and be social together. So, why are some conflict management techniques so interested in how the group thinks? Obviously if you have to make a consensus decision on what color to paint the kitchen – okay, figure out what is best for the group. But who cares what Chip thinks about the time Dale stole the acorns from Mickey and hid them under the deck? That’s an opinion – it doesn’t help the conflict at all. It can also make Dale feel picked on. If Chip has a problem with Dale about that or something else, why not talk about it one on one and work it out?
There have been plenty of studies, even one in a TV program that I’ll discuss in another blog entry, where groupthink happens quickly. People tend to see that one person is doing something so they do it also. Groups can think as one. We humans have the need to belong. Sometimes that means not speaking up for what’s right. Other times it means considering something that you personally thought was ridiculous is now fine. It’d be nice to believe that dehumanizing someone so much that it is easy for every day people to kill them is a one time event but history keeps repeating itself and it starts with one group moving the line on what is right and wrong. So, keep your individuality, embarrass empathy, and watch group behaviour cautiously.