How Groups Rarely Encourage Kindness

Photo by Jaime Spaniol on Unsplash

In the battle of the in-group versus the out-group, no one is going to win. As an individual, you will probably agree with that because you know that humans are interdependent.

We rely on each other for so much in this life. I cannot farm my own food, I do not make my own shoes and I should not diagnose my own illnesses (despite my attempts at trying when on WebMD), among a long list of things I depend on others for.

As an individual, you know that everyone has their own gifts and talents. Everyone can do something exceptional when compared to the rest of the population. And there are so many things we need in this world that everyone has an opportunity to excel at something.

And yet, when we put ourselves in groups and groupthink (the phenomenon where a group’s reasoning lacks uncritical viewpoints and tends towards blind acceptance) sets in, a lot of this logical and experiential knowledge goes right out the door for ideas of victimhood, supremacy or perceived morality.

The research illustrates that people are both good and bad. If you’ve been alive long enough, you knew this already. And again, if someone asked you if people were either good or bad, as an individual, you’d say both. That’s the only honest answer there is.

But if I put you in a group, your opinion is likely to shift. In a religious group, you might say that people are sinners and inherently bad. In a nation group, you might say that another nation is full of reprobates. In a fandom, you might drop a scathing review of a competing franchise. In a group defined by gender/sex, you will see one side pitted against the other in a confusing display of hostility.

People in groups don’t seem to be aware that the identities that they cling to in order to define themselves would cease to exist if there wasn’t an opposite or different identity.

Sorry if I’m bursting your political bubble but liberalism and conservatism wouldn’t exist without each other. The identity of being white wouldn’t exist if there weren’t other races. We live in a relative world and there will be those who want to change things and those who want keep things the same just as there are variations in skin tone, ethnicity and culture.

And yet, the more someone deeply entrenched in a group reads this, the more irrational thoughts they will have.

It’s natural though, isn’t it? We will defend who the think we are because if our identities are questioned, who are we? Furthermore, groupthink links us back with our tribalist roots from antiquity because we favor group cohesion over voicing our personal ideas and values, especially if they conflict with the group’s identity.

This is why groups are not kind. Is there a refugee situation? Well, that’s not our problem. Is there a man ready to atone for his sexual misconduct? No, he is irredeemable because those types of men are irredeemable. Actually, we need to cancel all men. Do black people commit crimes? Yes, and that’s why they are beneath my race. Are there cops guilty of racial profiling? Yes, and that’s why we need to kill them all.

Historically, groups are not kind to each other. Wars were fought between nations, religions and ideologies. They still are to this day.

You might think that you have me beat with the wildfires in Australia. Nations have been giving support there. Yeah, for the animals. In an animal holocaust, you will gather support for sure. People love animals. People hate and distrust people.

When California suffered wildfires, people were far more indifferent and dismissive because a bunch of rich people lost their homes. Once again, there’s the in-group (poor/middle-class) versus the out-group (rich) dynamic rearing its ugly head.

How are you going to be kind to a group of people you believe are villains? Even the individual would have a hard time doing this, but it is the individual who brings an end to the tribalism. How?

When an individual of the in-group meets with an individual of the out-group, they tend to see how they are similar and are able to agree to disagree on certain matters.

As a result, the in-group/out-group ends because both individuals are in. The new dyad fosters reflection and insight. As Daryl Davis, the black man who has reportedly changed the hearts of over two hundred racists said, “When two enemies are talking, they’re not fighting.”

Social psychology’s “contact hypothesis” backs up Davis’ actions. The way to end conflict is for individuals to meet one another and to remember what makes them the same rather than what divides them.

It’s not always as simple as bad people make bad groups. Furthermore, the solution to a problem isn’t to bomb them to hell, as that often that creates a vacuum for others to look at the aggressors and retaliate in righteous indignation.

That’s not just for the strife in the Middle East. It’s the strife that drives a wedge in the middle of potential world peace.

But in understanding group dynamics and seeing that the individual is kinder than the group ever is, we can take our personal steps in removing our unhealthy biases and prejudices, and start to build bridges one conversation at a time.

Former Edu. Psychologist | Current Writer | Constant Learner | “By your stumbling the world is perfected.”

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