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."

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Replies to This Discussion

Nothing is ever gained from bullying people or allowing themselves to become victims to it. When a thread starts to devolve into such behavior, that's when I opt out of it. Lets leave that sort of thing to the youtube comments section.

I vote "aye".

"bullying people or allowing themselves to become victims to it."

Or, "playing victim", …which is just a passive aggressive and deceitful form; of bullying.

Which I think, if not mistaken, Ruth is also adding to the mix. 

Richard, The one that gets me is the Rescuer: "Oh Joan, just lay back and enjoy it." or "If you don't like xxx, just get your pleasure from another's pleasure." or "If you would just be quiet everything would be all right." 

So as to "Victim, Persecutor, Rescuer", somewhere in that triangle is a healthy place to be. When someone steps on my toes or punches me in the nose, I can put on my Victim hat; if they don't stop, I can put on a Persecutor hat, and if their nose begins to bleed, I can put on my Rescuer hat. Why not just cut out all this triangulation and blow my cork at the very beginning. That is a whole lot more fun for me, and doesn't take as much energy. So, I lose a friend or two, big deal. 

Joan, the difference here is; "Playing the Victim/Victim Playing", IS a form of bullying. A particularly slimy and cowardly one. Douchebaggery at its worst

At it's most distilled, "Playing the Victim" is a deceit and a libel against those this gambit is used on, instead of being accountable for ones own words and actions.

I don't think we're talking about the same thing here, unless you really thing that the Christian claim that they're being oppressed by atheists is valid?

That …kind of victim playing.

Yes, playing a victim is bullying, as are other forms of controlling behavior, such as being a bully. A lot of people list "manipulation" as the #1 hated behavior. Strong people really hate manipulation and make a big fuss over it. On the other hand, weak people repel against use of strength against them while squawking loudly. So the weak use manipulation and the strong use strength. Which is worse? It depends on which side of the teeter-totter one sits. 

Jason, you are probably correct in your assessment; however, that has not been my experience. For me, it is not until I get roused that healthy change occurs. I know others don't want to be witness to the "fight" and they have the right to speak up, or leave. I don't see any reason why those who want a peaceful conversation cannot have it. When you wrote, "leave that sort of thing to the youtube comments section", where is that? That might be a good idea ... kind of like, "Let's step outside and settle this between the two of us!"

I absolutely support Ruth in her "Victim, Persecutor, Rescuer" assessment of the recent dust-up, and it is a pattern that we see in Steven and in me and probably lots of others who do not speak up. 

I make this pledge to one and all, when I am too "heavy" just say the word and I can disconnect my power cord and write until my spleen is refreshed. I need a good blow-out every once in a while. 

On one level, it's your ball and your bat.  On another, I don't THINK I indulge in such behavior, at least not around here.  What the heck - go for it!

I never suggested that you did, Loren.

Loren, your humor has the cutting power of a razor-sharp sword; I love it. 

I for one am in favor of such a policy. The whole point of coming to these websites and having rational discourse is the advancement of our well-being. Such behavior is antithetical to this cause, it is poisonous and corrupting to our well-being and discourages people from having a discussion in a mutually-empowering environment. As long as such a power is used rarely, and with nearly universal agreement, then it serves our purposes well.

My error. The link my judgment was bad, and I can't edit it in the original reply. Sorry.

I should also add that I've been giving thought to how I'd respond is the group consensus was to allow mind game behavior. Should the majority go that way, I would solicit volunteers to take over as group co-moderators, set up a poll for members to choose their new leaders, and bow out without any resentment. You are all adults. I would rather start another group where that behavior was explicitly ruled out up front, than resist the majority. It's easy enough for me to begin and to promote a group that I could feel good about. I would recommend that the initial description be changed to not mislead new people seeing it for the first time.

Ruth, I think this is your group and when any of us want to fight we can go elsewhere. When we start playing mind games, we should be called on it and then change our behaviors or go to the fighting room. And I know you respect anger as a healthy aspect of behavior so I am not implying that we stop strong discussions. I totally agree, your group should adhere to your SOPs. One of the reasons I like your leadership so much is you are clear, consistent, and determined. I like that. 




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