Saturday, January 28, 2006

Minority Influence

This week I was looking at minority influence in one of my classes. We were discussing how an idea or opinion that at one time is only held by a few can many effect people and may even become a mainstream idea. For instance, this week door-to-door paper recycling facilities have appeared alongside our normal rubbish collections. It doesn’t seem long ago that environmental concerns like this were very fringy. The same could be said for buying fair trade or organic produce. Minority influence has real applications in many areas including my Christian faith.

The most important key to having that influence is consistency: across the minority, in the individual over time and between what we say and do. People may disagree with the minority only to agree later forgetting where the idea came from. But interestingly minorities’ influence is impaired if they appear too inflexible. Encouragingly a snowball effect can sometimes be seen – as the idea gains momentum more and more people are convinced. I think a good illustration of this is the film Twelve Angry Men where a jury is convinced one by one to turn to the view of the one juror who initially votes innocent.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


A few months ago Nettes and I took part in a communication workshop for couples. We used a method called Listen-Talk to discuss topics such as stress point, a life-change, a difference between us and an aspect that we appreciate in each other. At the end it was suggested that it would be a good idea to repeat this experience on a regular basis. The other night we finally got round to doing some Listen-Talks again. It was great.

A Listen-Talk involves each of us expressing how we feel about something. The trick is that we must listen carefully and not interrupt our partner. We then have to feedback what they have said while they listen to the feedback and correct any misunderstandings and add anything that has been missed. We then feed that back, and so on – until the fist person feels that they have been heard. It’s also a good idea to hold something like a cushion to designate whose feelings are being discussed.

Listen-Talk is very simple method that is a really good resource for our marriage. We just want to keep doing it.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

What is my Vocation?

A book that’s very precious to me is Richard Hallow’s Full Time Father. When Callie was born I was in a very fortunate situation of being able to choose how many hours I could teach at college being on a part time contract with the option of overtime – I just cut back on the overtime. If it wasn’t for this book I could easily think of only my paid employment as my proper job. Yes, teaching psychology is a vocation for me but then so is being a dad to Callie and also a husband to Nettes.

I love teaching psychology and I love being a father. I also think that in today’s world it is much more common to have a number of careers in a lifetime. For instance, I worked as a computer programmer at one time and I may do something different in the future. Perhaps I should think of my vocation as everything that I do including every part of my life, my faith and my interests, everything. Or maybe even just in being the person I am, living out what I believe in the many different roles that I play in life.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Psychology of Initiation

I was just looking at classroom activities on conformity. One of them outlines the behaviour of gang members. The suggestion is that one of the explanations for high levels of conformity could be to do with initiation ceremonies. For instance to join one Latino gang in LA you need to be beaten up by three other members for 13 seconds! Similarly aggressive initiation ceremonies from a Royal Marine commando base have been in the news not long ago. A bit like the behaviour you might see in the film Jarhead.

On a more positive note, I was interested to see Dr Hilary from GMTV recently talking about overcoming depression to life coach Lyn Blades. One tip was to initiate yourself into a new happier life by ‘baptising’ yourself in some big body of water. Rather than being an issue of conformity this could just be a private commitment but it was also said that surrounding yourself with happy people was a good idea too. So perhaps there are some parallels here. Whether it’s initiation into a gang or into a happy life the rite of initiation as well as others around you appear important in starting the adventure.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


I’m not really into New Year’s resolutions as such. But I do think it is good sometimes to take stock of where we are and to set goals for ourselves. A new year is as good a time as any. One thing that we would like to do more of this year is being hospitable. I think all we mean by this is make a bit more of an effort to invite people round for meals. We haven’t really got the space to invite people to stay. I think it would be good to take chatting to people that step further and start to open up our home. Why not find out a bit more about people, learn from them and perhaps even be an influence on them? We’ll probably start with our own circle of friends, such as the church, but we don’t want to stop there. Nettes and Callie regularly go to a group works both as a playgroup and also a support and information group for people new to the area especially for refugees and asylum seekers. I think this would be a good area to expand our friendships into by way of our hospitality.