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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Hmph!  I had read somewhere that the challenge had been closed, but apparently not!

And Ruth? Way to keep control of the conversation! Nice to see someone gives a damn and is active enough to back it up!

Sad that our discussions get to this point but glad that it was nipped in the bud so soon and dealt with accordingly. I read a little of the discussions but as it started to get out of hand I did not visit again.

The thing I love most about this site is that we are all adults and we can speak our minds and still act like adults.

Just about every site, commentary or blog ends up in arguments and insults that have nothing to do with the original topic but I love the discussions here and am very glad we can all relate to one another humanely. Kudos to all!

i might respectfully disagree.  i'm not saying that what Matt said was right, and i really only glanced at the accused offenses.  still, i think that your example is nit picking, and that banning someone from the group should be a real egregious offense.  i'm not sure that what Matt was saying was that incredibly terrible, although it could certainly be labeled as insensitive.  what i think, perhaps incorrectly, is that his comment touched a nerve, particularly regarding his perceived slight towards women.  mind you i'm not trying to "mind read" here, but that is the way i am interpreting it.  forgive me if i'm wrong, and please point out where i may be misinformed on this issue.  ultimately, i don't care for censorship, and seeing this occur was off-putting to me.  i notice you said this is the first time this has happened, so i'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. 

Matt was not banned, merely temporarily suspended, and his comments were not deleted. So your worries of censorship seem unfounded, Matthew.

I don't like censorship either, matthew. As distasteful as it is, punishing offenses is absolutely required to maintain any commons, not just a social group. We have a common social space, which requires trust. Just like a shared water resource or public park, everyone benefits only as long as individuals don't abuse it. Failure to punish violations guarantees the destruction of any commons.

Were I only to suspend members who verbally attack women, I'd do a terrible job as a moderator. Perhaps I see attacks against women more quickly. But I rely on you, members with a diversity of viewpoints, to let me know if someone is abusing our trust in other ways which I fail to pick up. Also I can't read every reply in every discussion, as our group grows and activity increases. You have a job too, to let me know if someone is behaving badly toward yourself or someone else.

Feel free to criticize my behavior. You set a very nice example here, matthew, very civilized.

I'm human and make mistakes. I might slip up, insult or patronize somebody. Of course it's nice to discreetly send me a message or comment, if you think I said something inappropriate, but certainly not necessary.

Don't forget your individual discretion as well, to report abuses directly to the administrators. Just go to the bottom of any page to "Report an Issue." I will not take offense if you jump directly to them.

I guess the bottom line in your disagreement with me is that I saw Matt's behavior as having a chilling effect on sharing here, and you did not. Is this correct?

Wanderer, thanks for the clarification. 


You too Ruth.  As i stated, i didn't fully read through the whole thread, and it appears as though he may have crossed a line.  Perhaps i am overly sensitive to the cencorship issue. 


Overall, i see very few posters on AN who are hostile or aggressive.  i do not like that sort of thing so i typically avoid those kinds of discussions.  i really like this place and i'm so glad that i joined.  it is an amazing forum for learning, as well as sharing individual ideas. 

ruth, you got got my support. i think you are doing just fine.

When the 'offender' stated quite clearly - when referencing the two ladies involved that women were good for two (2) things - praying on their knees and.....oops....yeah.....it was said without saying it. That's pretty much out-of-line and so far off topic that I even sat back at that particular remark. That took the situation well over-the-line in my humble opinion.

That would have had me in an uproar. That alone makes me feel really safe now that that is not tolerated.

The men on here have shown themselves to be very pro-women and that would have shocked me to read that.

You did well to ban someone who is just a hater. It makes us lovers so much more happier without them :)

Victoria, I agree, most men on AN are powerfully pro-woman, offer support when needed, encouragement, and lively conversation to keep the brain cells working. They also quickly notify when double standards occur, or stereotypes cloud the waters, or when not taking responsibility for one's own statements. I love it here. Describing one's faulty thinking is a lot different, superior, and helpful than blaming someone for faulty thinking. 

I did follow the incident. I was tempted to write something snide and sarcastic to Mr. Rugar, but then I thought, "Why do I want to stoop to that level?" Besides, I thought Susan, Joan and Ruth did a fine job of handling it. I doff my hat to you, Ruth. Good call, and thanks.

Pat, I am really glad you didn't chime in to that unfortunate situation.  I used sarcasm, which I hate, and it backfired on me, and rightly so.  The beautiful thing about believing a deity does not exist is we don't have to take the assaults personally; there is nothing personal about criticizing religion and is entirely based on foolish, ignorant claims that cannot be verified or replicated. It is with full confidence I can say I believe no deity exists and if evidence comes forth in the future that does not exist now, I can rethink my position.  That is what science is all about.  That is what Copernicus and Galileo and Newton taught us.

So, a lemon comes up, use the lemon for some productive purpose. 


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