Is there a term or an idiom for a situation where two (or more people) are doing something only because they think the other person wants it. They themselves may dislike or be neutral about it.

An example would be two people going to a concert even though neither enjoys the particular band, but they're under the assumption that the other one enjoys it.


This is called the Abilene Paradox, and describes a situation where a group of people make a decision that is counter to their individual wants or beliefs. The name comes from an anecdote where a family takes a long, boring trip to Abilene, Texas. The trip is suggested by the father, who isn't too interested but thinks the others might enjoy it, and then the others agree because they think everybody else in the family wants to go. When they return home after a rather unpleasant day, they discover that nobody even wanted to go in the first place.

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  • For a more informal idiom (which is also mentioned in the Wikipedia link) they're trying not to rock the boat. – John Clifford Mar 29 '16 at 8:39

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