Koping With The Kool-Aid

Presumably you know what “Drinking the Kool Aid” means, but if not, let’s just say it refers to people who blindly and unquestioningly accept a given dogma or belief. For those of us who have not drunk the Kool-Aid (or are at least reasonably certain of same), there is a never ending problem in life: how to cope with those who have.

Models of How The World Works

Every workplace (as well as every institution and social group) has its own set of dogmas, that is to say, a set of beliefs that are a sort of “model” of how the world works.

Acceptance of those beliefs . . . aka drinking the Kool-Aid, or at least pretending to . . . is required for being a member of that group.

Since belonging is the primary motivation for all human behavior, wholesale allegiance to dogma is a powerful force to be reckoned with. Navigating the energy of dogma, i.e. figuring out what is true vs. what everyone thinks is true, is key to both personal advancement within a group as well as effect management of a group. It is especially important if you seek to make changes; belief in dogma is the primary impediment to growth and change, as the old one has to be pried from one’s cold dead neurons before a new one can take its place.

Many people get confused by dogma energy. Common industrial-era dogma tells us that human beings are rational creatures; if you accept that highly appealing self-congratulatory model of the mind, the failure of rational arguments to manifest change can be quite vexing. If you can’t give up your own dogmatic belief that rational arguments “ought to work,” it is easy to exhaust yourself in endlessly making them over and over again to no avail.

Managing People Immersed In The Kool-Aid

If you are seeking to make change, here are the basics of managing folks immersed in the Kool-Aid:

When it comes to managing other people, it is important to realize that most people will not respond to even the most simply stated rational arguments if such arguments conflict with their accepted dogmas/ map of the world. There is not enough space here to get into the whole topic of how embracing a dogmatic belief can cause a kind of blindness to obvious facts and logic. Suffice to say that most human beings are capable of hypnotizing themselves, and will readily believe things that are nonsensical to objective observers, and simply ignore facts they don’t like.

Since logic alone is seldom effective as a change agent, if you seek to be a true disruptor, then you have to think in terms of meeting these people at the emotional, rather than logical, level.

The perceptual blindness that often accompanies dogma belief is usually induced by some past trauma or current fear that is unbearable to look at consciously. This state of apparent “stupefaction” can’t be quickly fixed. The root cause of the “blindness” is a kind of injury, and thus has to be healed. There also has to be some willingness on the part of a given Kool-Aid aficionado to do the healing; history teaches us that challenging dogmas usually invites violent responses, so pick your battles carefully. (When we talk about “great leaders,” they are usually people who have a kind of immediate healing presence that lessens or transcends the effects of trauma-induced blindness and hesitation.)

There is always this tricky balancing act between knowing when you are at a higher level of consciousness (and accepting the sense of exclusion that you suffer by not being at the Kool-Aid cocktail party) and recognizing when someone else is at a higher level than you. Just as you are currently humoring folks in the Kool-Aid swim, rest assured there are others silently tolerating your personal Kool-Aid choices much the same way. It can be hard to know the difference between those who are just eager to find followers to validate and reinforce their world of illusions and denial, and someone who has actually risen to higher consciousness and is willing to take the risk of sharing that with you. Seeing this difference requires balancing confidence and humility, as well as a fair amount of trial and error.

About The Author

Justin Locke is an author, playwright, disruptive influencer, humorist, and occasional speaker.  He is the author of Principles of Applied Stupidity and Real Men Don’t Rehearse.  Visit his website at www.justinlocke.com.