As kids we’re taught that the way to win a staring contest is to not blink. We’re supposed to keep our eyes open longer than our opponent and not blink. But, have you ever considered that if no one blinks, both players lose? I mean sure, by the technical rules of the game, no one is a winner, but if no one is a winner then, aren’t both players losers? Watch this parody of commentators covering a Staring Contest “event” and then try to tell me both players aren’t losers if neither blinks.
The other night I voluntarily watched, in the theater, Something Borrowed. If you haven’t seen it, you really should. It’s well scripted, with witty dialogue and an outstanding performance by John Krasinksi. There’s a great many themes, but one of the most important, I think, is the the least discussed or acknowledged: The Staring Contest. In the movie, we have two people who want to be together. They deserve one another. They should be together. But, neither has the confidence to express their feelings to the other. This leads to both characters being miserable with other people, instead of being happy with each other. Neither character wanted to blink. Neither wanted to make the first move. Tragic.
Sometimes you have to think about things in a different light. I try to do this all the time. Maybe too much. But, I think I’m on to something in this case. Have you been out with a group of friends when the topic for where to eat comes up? Have you been part of the misery that is, everyone not wanting to make a decision or a recommendation and instead electing to just be agreeable? Painful, right? That’s everyone choosing not to blink.
Blinking takes courage. It holds you accountable. You’re on record as being the person who blinked. Could this be why everyone middle school dances are always portrayed in movies as the girls on one of the gym and the boys on the other, with only a handful of couples in the middle? Rejection is certainly a deterrent from blinking. We fear rejection by default. We’re conditioned to be fearful of it. And why not? It stings.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, he discussed at length, with great examples that our brains are smarter than we think. Our ability to make smart decisions quickly is there, but we’re conditioned not to make decisions quick because when we do they are considered rash and irresponsible. We applaud the person who takes a methodical approach to solving a problem or reaching an answer and we frown upon the person who is quick to arrive at an answer. There’s a litany of data that discusses the psychology of jurors and how even when they know “their answer” they deliberate longer so that they can feel better about the decision they arrive at.
But, the world needs blinkers. We need people are willing to take the lead, make a decision, be bold and go after what they want. Maybe, that’s why I love blinking so much. I love being on the offensive. Ironically, as I kid, I was also pretty awesome at playing the staring contest game. Guess, I’m just lucky!