Group Think and the 4Ds

Published by Paul on

Is Group Think dangerous and divisive?  “Group Think” was a much discussed subject while obtaining my M.A. in Psychology and Counseling. The power of suggestion and control by a few can lead to a blind following by many. Are we in America losing the concept of individual decisions and taking ownership of rationale for what we believe?

standing-alone-smallA recent post-election walkout by 5,000 students in the Greater Seattle area is representative of Group Think. I surmise that the majority of young people were influenced by “sound bites” and thoughts of others while not understanding facts and ideas around the issues. Is it possible that Group Think was at work?

I believe the antidote to Group Think is found in the 4D process:

  • Discussion—let’s talk about the issue(s) and see what we are all thinking, research ideas
  • Dialogue—put forth your ideas; what do you believe; listen to the other side
  • Debate—explain and present facts for your side with passion
  • Decision—come to a decision as to how you will choose the solution

group-think-1The 4D process leads to the discovery of facts, feelings, expectations, alternative ideas and an understanding of differing ideas and philosophies. This process can reinforce, modify, or change one’s philosophy. Group Think is thereby countered and ownership of beliefs established.

Group Think can occur when discussion jumps to decision—bypassing dialogue and debate. Anger, animosity, and judgmental attitudes against other viewpoints are emotions that emerge. Shutting down another viewpoint is often a goal of Group Think. This is dangerous and divisive.

In my early 30’s, faith in Christ developed through questions I asked of people of faith who were patient, stated their positions (discussion), explained reasons for their belief (dialogue) and countered my objections (debate) with a solid understanding of their beliefs. The 4Ds led to a personal commitment that became an informed, not a blind, faith.

The recent election resulted in a lot of Group Think on both sides. During the founding of the US, bitter disputes erupted: Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, and countless others.  But a 4D process prevailed. After decisions were made, our leaders came together for the good of the country.

Is it a possible that there is an area of Group Think in your life?

Paul Tomlinson

King Solomon wrote:  Wisdom like an inheritance is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun. Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.” NIV Ecclesiastes 7:11-12

How Can I Counter Groupthink?


Categories: Life Coaching


Paul has worked with hundreds of individual clients from executives to recent college graduates related to career transition and life coaching. Paul holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology. He has written a book, How a Man Handles Conflict at Work. Paul founded (1991) the Career/Life Institute and provides coaching, organizational design and career transition serving clients ranging from large organizations to family owned enterprises. He served as a consultant to management teams, and had senior positions for Bank of America, Right Associates and CRISTA Ministries. His ministry outreach includes Poland, Romania, and 11 trips to Ethiopia. He volunteers for Congregations for the Homeless in Bellevue, WA.


Rosie Barrett · November 29, 2016 at 9:18 pm

I’m impressed. Good words. Glad to know you and Jeanne

Rosie Barrett · January 18, 2017 at 3:39 pm

Love your talk on Group Talk..

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