Friday, August 19, 2016

Resolving conflict caused by competition for recognition in social group dynamics, or STFU

There was some drama this week among my medieval hobby friends.  I didn't see it, I don't need to see it.

A few weeks ago another friend from this same group told me about something.  I only had it from one point of view and didn't know who had talked to her, but I wanted to rise up, do something to right the wrong.

Every.  Single.  Social.  Group.  Every one, from the churches I have been involved in through office politics.  People say mean thing to each other, compete for recognition, get hurt and turn into martyrs.

And often I feel like I want to come to the defense, be the champion, somehow turn the tide and make the world a better place.  I am not one for quick comebacks, though.  I'm also and introvert.  By the time I figure out what I want to say, the moment is long gone or I think better of it.

But I do ponder and write about stuff.

And I do get angry and hurt sometimes myself.  This is what I have observed.  Some people are just really good at pushy self-promotion and kissing up to the right people.  And they are really good at not saying the nasty little mean things in front of the people who they are trying to impress.  It's us powerless shlubs that get the mean remarks.  And they are really good at not saying it in front of anyone else.  And so my friend feels helpless, and I feel helpless.

And we give up.

We give up doing something we enjoy because it is not worth the fight.  It is unfair, but these people always win.

Now, this just sounds like a whiny rant, but I have another point.

Most of these people who are so hurtful, I don't think they really hear themselves, I don't think they know how hurtful they are, I don't think they know any other way to play the social game.

I didn't know another way to handle the conflict and the hurt feelings.  But I saw another way last weekend.

I was in a business meeting of a Quaker group that I have been attending, a group that practices silence.  An issue was brought up. and someone expressed displeasure at something, and people started getting defensive, and it could easily ended in several people walking away carrying a lot of self-righteous hurt and anger, over a really small thing.

Then the person appointed by the group to keep things on track abruptly said "Let's go into silence."  And we sat in silence, and...  Thought?  Listened for God?  Reflected on the words that were said?  And after a bit, one person spoke, then another.  They reflected care for the person who brought up the problem.  They reflected a willingness to find a resolution.  They reflected that the person who used to handle this issue was no longer with them, and was missed, and the sadness over that.

Instead of blaming and competing and criticizing, people listened to each other, showed caring and respect for each other.

I don't know what the long term results will be, but I think there is something very powerful in not being so quick to have all the snappy answers and comebacks.  I think the honorable behavior that my medieval group, the professionalism in my workplace, the love of God my former churches desired; I think they could all benefit from sometimes just listening and reflecting before speaking.

I know that harsh words and escalating anger are not taking us any place good. I hope we can try to learn a different way.

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