One of the most common phenomena in the world is the Abilene Paradox. I’m sure most of you have heard of it, and I’m positive ALL of you have fallen victim to it at least a time or two in your lives.
For those of you who aren’t aware what it is… let me summarize.
A group of people sitting in a room are trying to decide what they should do for the evening. One of them, trying to fish for what the rest of the group wants to do, suggests they drive to Abilene for dinner, 53 miles away. Now, the guy who suggests driving to Abilene doesn’t really want to go there, but he thinks the rest of the group wants to. He’d rather just stay at the house and play cards.
However, someone else in the group agrees they should go to Abilene. THAT member doesn’t want to go to Abilene EITHER, but he’s trying to be a team player and go along since HE thinks the guy who suggested it wants to go.
To make a long story short, EVERYONE in the group agrees to drive to Abilene for dinner, and NONE of them actually wanted to go. Therein lies the paradox.
I’ve fallen victim to this many times in my life, the more recent of which was this past week. My family tries very hard to figure out what everyone else wants to do, and then go along with it. It’s tricky when 6 people try to read each other’s minds. Very tricky.
Three years ago, my dad and I bought season tickets to the Chiefs. We had gone to a couple of games a year before that, and we always enjoyed tailgating and watching the games. Arrowhead stadium is known for being the loudest outdoor stadium in the NFL (averages 116 decibels), and it’s exciting to be part of all of the false starts the other team inevitably commits.
So when we bought those first two season tickets, we thought it would be lots of fun. And it was. It was novel. It was fun. It was 10 games a year. (We never had to worry about going to the playoffs, thanks to Dick Vermeil’s refusal to have a defense.)
The next year, we bought 3 season tickets and my younger brother joined us. Again, it was novel, and we were really “getting the rythym.” We knew when the perfect time to arrive was, we knew exactly where to park, and we knew exactly how to get out of the lot faster than anyone else… even though we never left early.
So naturally, this year we purchased 4 season tickets. That way we could rotate the tickets around and two couples could go. Then, my brother moved to Colorado, I got sick, and we were all pretty much over it. We went to the first game of the season. Trent Green got knocked silly, we were terrible, and it poured rain on us the entire time.
I started dreading the next game… wishing I didn’t have to go, but knowing that I didn’t want to be the party-pooper.
Meanwhile, my dad was also over it. My brother was also over it. The three of us had independently made comments to my younger sister about how we didn’t want to go, and we’d rather watch the game on the 57″ big screen and eat home cooked food.
Well, God forbid any of us be party poopers. We trudged on through more games… all of us dreading it and hating it. Such a pain… the entire day is eaten up, the traffic sucks, and the walk from the parking to the stadium is about 15 miles. Then you get up there and it’s cold, and there’s nothing to eat but greasy food I can’t even eat anymore.
So finally, on Friday, I decided I was just going to have to be the one to say it out loud. I told my dad I didn’t want to go to anymore games, and I didn’t think we should buy season tickets anymore.
He got a big grin, and said “Wow, I don’t want to go either! This is great!”
So then, we figured out how to unload the tickets, and we’re all better off for it.
So, the next time you’re getting dragged along to something you don’t want to do, why not just say it? Maybe you’ll discover no one else wants to go either, and they’re just trying to take one for the team…
You never know.