The Power of Speaking Up

I’m reading the book Eat Move Sleep by Tom Rath. In Chapter 9 of the book, Tom Rath talks about the effect other people have on us when eating out. He says to always order first when you dine out. The first order anchors (relying too heavily on the first piece of information you receive) the table. Research has shown that the first person to order sets the anchor for the rest of the table. If that person orders healthy, there is some sort of guilt associated with the others ordering healthy as well. If that person orders “fattening” foods, everyone else feels the freedom to do the same.

I cannot say I’ve noticed this other than in drink orders. If everyone before me orders water, I’m hesitant to order a coke. I don’t want to be “the one” who is going for broke.

Another area I’ve seen this is with dessert. When the waiter asks if you want to see the dessert menu, no one jumps to say “no thanks”. Everyone sheepishly looks at the others in the group to get a feel for what they’re thinking. If one person orders, it’s likely others will as well. I’ve been in instances where only one person ordered dessert, and they were so guilted they changed their mind.

So in what other ways do we do this? I put together 3 other ways we allow others to make our decisions.


Once someone goes negative, others will as well. When one person gossips, others follow. I’ve heard so many people complain that they don’t enjoy being around the ultra negative, but we still get caught up in small negative exchanges. I see it so often in politics. It’s not that the person just has a differing opinion, it’s that they’re an idiot and stupid. We might not say it in those words, but let’s be real: it’s inferred.


I can’t speak for women, but this can be really bad with guys. We tell our war stories and quickly try and one-up the other. No one will admit it, but this turns into half-truths, which years later become full on fairytales. Come on guys, you didn’t beat that guy till his eyes bled.


Actual busyness and talking about busyness. Have you noticed this becomes a competition? This is something I’ve been trying to do better, but I’ll admit, I’m failing. I mean, I really am busier than y’all, though.


By acting first, you’re making others disagree with you. Disagreeing is harder than setting the tone.

So what does this tell me? To me, this means making good decisions could be as simple as acting first. By acting first, you’re making others disagree with you. Disagreeing is harder than setting the tone. When someone starts to gossip, immediately speak positively. The longer you let it go, the harder it is to bring back.

It’s too easy to get swept up in the tone others set for us and the reality is we’re not strong enough to change the tide. Is it easier to stand strong in calm waters or waves? The tone is like a wave, the longer it goes, the stronger it gets. Stop it early and set your tone.

I know I’ve got to start making better decisions. What’s the worst that could happen? You’ll spend less time with those people… which is that really a bad thing?