Thanks for the great feedback on the post, both in the comments, and in private messages, conversations, or emails. You gave me a lot to think about, and I loved it! Hopefully I can return the favor by passing along some of the very insightful things the (clearly clever) readers of this blog let me know:
1) Sometimes we truly don't know what we want, or we have no skin in the game, so how can we speak up, or better yet, why should we? Kori, WE HAVE NOTHING TO SAY, and even if we did, THE DECISION WON'T AFFECT US. WHY ARE WE EVEN BEING ASKED?
My thought: Be honest: "I don't know what I want—may I have a minute or two to think about it?—and/or this decision doesn't affect me. No matter what, I am happy to help brainstorm."
Brainstorming doesn't require preference; in fact, brainstorming with an open-mind might be the best kind there is.
It occurred to me more and more as I thought about the discomfort of group indecisiveness that the key might be in simply breaking down group disconnection; offering help connects us to each other.
2) Patterns of known behavior can make speaking up feel futile, or worse, humiliating. If you always ask for help with XYZ, and you are always met with blank stares, or more directly, assertions that either a) you won't get help or b) you don't need help ("you won't get help" + a little bit of shame mixed in), why be direct about your needs?
I'm not a therapist. I don't know anyone's situation, or how to best address. I can't say what the consequences might be for anyone who suddenly disrupts a long standing pattern of behavior.
I'm sorry if speaking up makes you feel unheard, or unhelped. It must feel awful.
If you have people in your life you can talk to to make a plan for changing those patterns, think about it. Talk about your feelings with people who listen and care. Take heart and know that using your voice is not the problem, and the problem can be addressed.
3) Different places have different levels of ambiguity and indecisiveness as their norm. California friends chimed in immediately that their culture is so chilled out, sometimes being decisive is downright uptight. I would imagine that, in other areas, if you are the type of person who prefers thinking things through, or needs a minute or two to determine your feelings on a subject, you could get swept away easily in a sea of verbal, decisive people.
My best guess at addressing culture? Ride the wave, but when it counts, say what you think, even if it makes you look uptight, even if you chime in ten minutes later and must explain that you needed additional time.
My experience this week, saying what I really feel:
1) I sometimes judge myself as cranky or picky when I am specific
2) I don't always respond as kindly to those giving me their preferences as I'd like; taking a moment to breathe and think, "That's how he/she feels, it isn't good/bad or right/wrong, it just is, and I hear it," helps (but I'm not perfect)
3) Saying what I want/need/prefer/request does not validate my feelings, the people to whom I express them to do not validate my feelings: only I can validate my own feelings.
Also learned: it's nice not to eat pizza when you aren't in the mood for it. If speaking up means that can happen more often, I might chalk that up as enough of a win for this experiment to keep it going. I'll call it a workshop now. Do you think I can charge money for this, bringing people into a room full of various take-out foods, then asking them to "workshop their decisiveness" and "come to consensus?" You can always charge money when you take a noun (workshop) and use it as a verb, right?
I'll leave you with a great animated segment of a Brené Brown talk that I saw yesterday; I've read her work on empathy and vulnerability, but rehearing this (with the visual) was a wonderful reminder. Haven't read any Brené yet? Oh, please do, her research will ROCK YOUR WORLD—"Daring Greatly"is a good way to start.
As this video suggests, maybe if we just all put our empathy hats on, and give more bear hugs, being decisive or clear about our feelings won't be nearly as risky.
Hugs to all of you.