On 12/29/11 a member was suspended from our group for the first time. Many of you may be confused about the line he crossed. The last thing we need is unarticulated anxiety that inhibits members from contributing, because they're unsure what Matt Rugar did wrong.
Groups need a safe emotional environment. When a member shares a painful personal experience, doubts, fears, or other personal vulnerabilities, he/she is giving all of us a precious gift. When another member uses that information to insult, ridicule, or attack the giving member, it's not just a betrayal of trust toward the individual. It's an attack on the group itself. If such betrayal goes unanswered, security shatters in the group. Members are reduced to superficialities, with no possibility for mutual validation. It sends a painful message, "nobody is safe here."
Matt Rugar didn't just attack Joan, when he said this, he betrayed the trust of the entire group.
Joan is still whinning about some thing that happened 4 decades ago and attacks who ever does not join her in her pity party. She goes from group to group to be martyerd.
So how does one give negative feedback without betraying trust and making others feel unsafe?
1. Qualify your criticism as your opinion or perception.
Example: (where X is an offending sexist remark)
Instead of saying "You're sexist." say,
"That sounds sexist to me."
"When he said X, I heard a sexist remark."
"To my ears that smacks of sexism." or
"I perceive X as sexist."
By qualifying what we say as our judgment, we show respect for the person. We imply that he/she could do better. We present the behavior as a mistake. We imply that we too make mistakes, from time to time, that we are equal adults. This is called making the person/behavior distinction.
When we label an offender, we imply that this bad behavior is a defining trait, that he/she is not capable of doing better, and that he/she is therefore inferior.
2. Avoid "Mind Reading", i.e. claiming to know the intent of others. Nobody knows what goes on inside the head of other people. In the example above, Matt claimed to know what goes on in Joan's head. Here again, this is easily avoided by qualifying what you say as your interpretation, your reaction, your judgment. You can say you "feel as if", or "get the impression that."
Oh my goodness, this episode was a very long time ago. December 30, 2011!!! Well, a lot of water has flowed under bridges ...
It doesn't mean that is all we think about or do. We are multi-dimensional people and I expect to work side by side with others who have issues of importance to them: racism, sexism, homophobia, mental illness, etc.
In the meantime, we have a strong support system here. When we feel blamed, or criticize, or accused, we can come here and lick our wounds and get up for another round. Kind of like one of those Knock-Over-Dolls. Resiliance, perseverance, confidence, determination, competence.
Love you all.