FIND RECIPE HERE!
Are You Going to Abilene?
You know the ones. They are a plea for ideas when your fountain of options has run dry. After weeks of successful meal planning, I can run into a patch of apathy which results in meal planning paralysis.
“What shall I make today?” I might ask.
Inevitably, the apathy appears contagious, which then leads to frustration.
But is it really a group agreement that apathy is the only answer to my question?
The idea that people outwardly agree on a decision or group response despite differing personal opinions reminds me of something called the Abilene Paradox. Back when I was pursuing my Master’s Degree, our class was shown a cheesy management training video, the kind of video containing questionable fashion choices and equally questionable acting. In this video, a family of four is playing dominos when the older father suggests they get into the car and drive to a café in nearby Abilene for dinner. It’s summertime in the South so the drive will be long and hot. The wife agrees believing she is supporting her husband. The son and his wife go along because his parents obviously want to go. In the end, their outing is indeed long, hot and an overall disaster. Upon their return home, the father admits he never wanted to go. He only suggested they eat at the café in Abilene because he thought everyone was bored.
And that is what my family now calls Being on the Road to Abilene.
Just ask a group of people where they want to eat. Typically, no one has a suggestion. If someone does speak up, you might notice an enthusiastic consensus – even if your companions suggest a seafood joint and you are allergic to everything in the ocean.
That’s the Abilene Paradox.
In our family, a weekend without a plan is ticking time that needs to be wrangled. We walk around asking one another: What’s the plan? It’s almost out of desperation. When someone is brave enough to suggest an activity, the family comes aboard even if it’s clearly the last thing they want to do. Never does anyone say, “Let’s sit around and do nothing!” which may be everyone’s basic desire. Instead, there is an unstated belief that we need to be doing something. Together. Sometimes the outing works; sometimes it’s a recipe for complete family discord.
Conversely, three years ago, I spoke up despite my discomfort. A friend and I signed up for a tour of the Northeast during the fall. It was spectacular! While preparing for the trip, our guides needed input about certain menu items from participants. As you can imagine, a lobster bake in Maine is standard. Not a shellfish fan, I requested an alternate dish despite it being the most ridiculous thing one can do in Maine. They happily offered chicken and I breathed a sigh of relief. On that lobster bake day, a gal sat next to me confessing that she could not bring herself to order anything but the lobster because of the location and circumstance. She didn’t like lobster, so there she sat without much for dinner. I shared my chicken in solidarity.
I’ve decided staying silent is usually about weathering unknown consequences that are often more egregious in our minds than in real life. Sometimes the reactions of others are egregious, but the relief of speaking our truth can feel like freedom.
I was especially struck by this phenomenon when visiting a patron at Pioneer Manor last week. A new resident was interested in getting books from the library, so my partner and I interviewed her to ascertain her reading preferences. She confessed that she liked to read, but her health and age were compromising her eyesight. She tearfully described how her son, studying as a pastor, had brought her a Bible and wanted her to study passages in anticipation of his next visit. She couldn’t tell him that she was unable to read it on her own.
Here’s what I’ve noticed: When you share your truth, you give another person the opportunity to make a different choice, an informed choice that could ultimately make both of you happy. When we shield our truth, we shield others from a fully informed decision.
If you dislike seafood, tell the group. My hunch is they will happily accommodate your taste buds.
If you want to have a weekend off from entertaining the family, tell them. My hunch is they will find something to do without you. (Your guilt may haunt you for a few minutes, but you’ll get over it)
And I bet if my dear new friend had the courage to tell her son that she isn’t able to read small print, he would gladly help her access the Bible based on her reading needs.
So, I invite you to stop taking the road to Abilene by remaining silent when you want to speak up.
Give others the gift of making a plan based on your truth. They want to make you happy as much as you want to make them happy.
And if no one steps up to help you with meal planning, I’m going to help you now!
This recipe is a staple at our house.
It’s quick, delicious and each person can fix it for themselves - whenever they are ready and however they like it.
Peace & Light,
The Busy Buddha
Talk Back to the Trio
What happened as a result?
Do you ever buckle up for a trip to Abilene?
Tell us your funny story!