I still remember Professor Bielasiak admonishing a student in my Poli-Sci Comparative Revolutions class freshman year at IU. As he handed the student his graded essay he announced to the class, “Never use the editorial “we” unless you are, indeed, an editor, or a person with tapeworms.”
The “we” version of “me.”
Then came Herman’s head in the early 90’s. That was a show completely based on the “we” version of “me.” The show literally portrayed four aspects of Herman’s decision-making process: his intellect, his sensitivity, his anxiety and his lust. We watched them battle it out inside Herman’s brain, and then Herman acting on it in real life.
I would go so far as to say this was novel back then. This was prime time for the IBM Blue Suit Top-Down business and personal are separate approach to decision making. Direct. Facts first. And, in US American business, that is still the norm.
As I sat facing some tough decisions this week, eating my third serving of tortilla chips followed by one (or two) Weight Watchers mini-fudge bars, I wondered, is this my anxiety or my lust (using Herman’s model) taking the lead right now? And what would it look like if everyone (in my head) could come to consensus?
Always the interculturalist.
I looked at how other cultures approach decision making. There’s Hofstede’s Dimensions of National Culture which looks at things like Power Distance Index (PDI) and Masculinity vs Femininity (MAS). This latter one measures a top-down vs consensus orientation. (Were I Hofstede’s marketer, I would recommend changing the gender-based terms for this otherwise measurable concept). The Hofstede review was interesting to see the interplay of influences on decision making.
Taking our own minds as a parallel, our intellects our PDI—we’re taught to squash down feelings and make informed decisions. Yet at the same time, in the US, our Indulgence vs Restraint (IVR) indicator is set on “relatively free gratification.” No wonder it’s hard sometimes as USAmericans: we are culturally programmed to be at odds within ourselves. Be individual! Know the facts! Wait…Indulge! Take risks! (a la the Uncertainty Avoidance Index-UAI.)
Maybe we are like a person with tapeworms.
The royal “we” being all of the conflicting priorities in our own heads. Perhaps internal consensus is the way to go. If the annual World Happiness Report is any indicator—Finland is #1. In fact, most of the top 10 happiest countries are Scandinavian. And guess what? Scandinavia culturally favors a consensus building approach to decision making.
So, I say, put down the chips, sit with the data, see how you are feeling, take a deep breath, and then trust that together, you will know what is right to do.