Sunday, March 28, 2010

Think Alike Syndrome

Catherine Tornbom

One of the challenges in communicating effectively in a conflict is the “Think  Alike Syndrome.” If you and I are in a conflict about an issue that is really important to the both of us. I will assume that you think just like me.

Wait a minute. This does not make any sense. If I were to ask you this question, “Do you think everyone thinks like you?” You would give me one of those looks and say, “what a stupid question, of course we don’t all think alike!” We have amassed overwhelming evidence through our life experience that demonstrates beyond any doubt we do not all think and feel the same about any given issue or topic.

But when faced with a conflict, emotions of anger or fear are invoked and this causes us to narrow our focus. We take the facts of the situation and create all the reasons why our position is correct. And because we have spent so much time thinking this through our approach is clearly the best one. Anyone as intelligent and rational as we are will totally understand and respond as we ask them to.

This almost never happens. While you are forming all your thoughts, the other person is doing the same. If the conflict includes a family trying to make a significant decision about Mom’s care, there are as many thoughtful and rational approaches as there are family members.

This is the value of mediation – it provides a safe place for every person in the conflict to fully express their thoughts. Since each perspective is different, an expanded perspective begins to emerge. When the expanded perspective is combined with the facts of the situation, mutually beneficial solutions can be developed.

Challenge yourself – where do you find yourself in the Think Alike Syndrome? Take a moment and ask yourself, “I wonder what their perspective is?” Remembering that others think differently and that their viewpoints are as well-reasoned as yours can really help in a conflict situation.  Catherine Tornbom (2)  3/28/10.  See more about Catherine at

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