There’s power in belonging to a group. There’s power in knowing “people like us do things like this.” Annie Duke has some feedback on how to advise people who are struggling to make decisions in uncertain times. Duke says above all, remember the power of identifying with a tribe. Here are three steps to harness that power.
The first step is to help a person understand a similar decision in a prior period. They need some data (aka a base rate). She uses the example of what happened to people who sold everything in 2008 and where they are today (they never made their losses back). She then adds what happened to people who stuck it out (they made their losses back as well as enjoyed gains in the years that followed). Ask which group they would like to be in.
Second, make them aware of the vocal persuasiveness of “the others.” They will try to get you to do this. They will try to get you to think that. Use a dumb group and a genius group for contrast. The dumb group thought they could know everything and ruined themselves. The geniuses do know everything but we can’t tell them from the dumb group until after the fact. Plus, we definitely don’t want to compete against them at their own games. Remember, identity is closely tied to knowing what we are not.
Finally, be honest about the current, uncertain reality. Since we can’t know what happens next, we have to reconcile the situation we are in, within our tribe. We’re not the only ones feeling this unease, confused about what to do or feel in this moment. We know what the dumb group did. We are sure the geniuses are out there. We know what we have to do now (even if it’s nothing). End with action, but action defined in the context of the pack.
I highly recommend listening to the whole conversation Annie Duke had with Brian Portnoy. Ted Seides posted it on his Capital Allocators podcast, ep. 132.