The word “they” is a pronoun used to describe a group of people, or a person of unspecified gender. Lately, the word has been used to categorize people into opposing ideological groups . This term, and accompanying mindset, seems to be on the rise. A quick glance at social media or any daily newspaper will confirm this trend.
Whether personal or professional, there is a danger in categorizing people into opposing groups referred to only in the third person. They fails to recognize and respect individuals. My travels and experiences have taught me that people are incredibly complex. They have unique identities shaped by their life experiences. Holistically, people tend to dwell on areas in which they differ, and rarely focus on what they have in common. We are all more complex than the simple labels we use to identify political ideology, race, religion, sexual orientation, or favorite team. I don’t believe we have to lower our personal standards or compromise our own beliefs to coexist with others who hold differing opinions. We just have to respect those who disagree with us. We need to listen and seek to understand opposing viewpoints if we wish to be treated with similar respect.
They also encourages “group think”. Groupthink is a well documented phenomenon in which a group of people make decisions without dissenting viewpoints. A culture of they insulates people to believe their viewpoint is right and vilifies the beliefs of others. Poor and divisive decision making is often the result of groupthink.
It’s not easy to have your beliefs challenged and it’s uncomfortable to deal with conflict. However, we shouldn’t fear these experiences. We should view them as opportunities to share our personal convictions with others, and offer them the same opportunity.
[…] Earlier this year I wrote about the dangers of groupthink. This occurs when a group of people make decisions without dissenting viewpoints. I believe this happens because group culture does not always encourage diverse opinions. This is unfortunate because critically examining multiple angles of every decision is critical. A classic example of groupthink is highlighted in “The Undoing Project”. A team of trauma doctors assessed a car crash victim and discovered an irregular heartbeat. They related the condition to the patient’s pre-existing thyroid condition. The supervising physician acknowledged this was a possibility, but not statistically likely. He challenged the staff to think of more probable causes for the patient’s condition. Quickly, someone discovered the victim had a collapsed lung. Once treated the patient’s heartbeat stabilized. Left untreated, the condition could have been deadly. The doctor only asked two or three questions, but his well timed questions were essential to this patient’s well-being. Healthy group dynamics and a spirit of cooperation is critical for any group, but it should be accompanied by a culture of inquiry. Ultimately, we should work collaboratively and think independently. […]