My personal conclusions about group conflicts and dissension are based on over half century of observation and participation in work/social/political groups of all kinds, as a member and as a leader of many. I’ll use the word “community” just to mean any gathering of people drawn together for any shared interest or purpose.
- It is not possible to have any community consistently free of conflict or dissension. To expect this is to set oneself up for certain disappointment.
- There are ALWAYS cliques formed within any community. There will always be competition and power struggles. To expect any community to be free of this s utterly unrealistic and idealistic. We are not that evolved.
- There are always leaders, followers, dissenters, peacemakers and rabble-rousers in any gathering of free thinking people.
- In an open atmosphere, the actions and words of people cannot be totally controlled. Ever. By anyone. Period.
- There is only one person any of us can totally control in any community, and that is ourselves.
- It is literally impossible to please everyone. Ever.
- It one chooses to be a leader or owner or any kind of project or community, be prepared for one rough ride, because leadership is always a very difficult, highly stressful, often thankless job. Burn out rates are astronomical.
- If you want/need to remain in control of how people participate in a given community, then set very clear and explicit guidelines that are clearly visible to all who enter, along with a clear statement of consequences that will occur if the guidelines are not met. Then diligently apply these consequences across the board, consistently. People can then choose whether they join or not, based on solid information.
- If you want to run an open community with few to no clearly definable rules, then EXPECT problems to arise, regularly. People who are told they are welcome to express opinions and have debates will certainly do so, in ways of their choice. They will not always comply with your standards, and if you intervene, you will be seen as acting as “judge and jury” and be accused of unfairness and censorship. This is inevitable, *no matter how fair you are trying to be.
- Rules like ‘Don’t be a Prick” will work only as long as a community remains small and tightly knit, with everyone sharing the same understanding of this vague phrase.
- People in any group or community come equipped with whatever emotional baggage they still carry. These often bulging suitcases WILL pop open and spill over whenever conflict arises. So what you end up dealing with is not merely the current situation, but peoples old issues, triggered by it. This is especially true in venues where people may remain safely anonymous.
- Those with the heaviest investment in preserving a community fear losing it the most, and become alarmed at serious conflict. They try to solve it in many ways, including setting new rules, debating, peacemaking, lecturing, correcting each other, etc..all of which are attempts to CONTROL the uncontrollable, and most of these things only end up pissing off more people.
- The more upset people become, the stronger the cliques become, as people gather with those they feel understand and support them. Now we move even further away from “shared community” and become a loosely connected group of various “factions”, that may coexist for some time, with only occasional battles. Or not, in which case many leave. Or the community may fold when the leaders reach burnout.
I did manage to chalk up one..(count em, one!) positive leadership experience over all these years, and that was when I was given full authority to get a new (online) project up and running anyway I wanted to, with no interference from ‘above.”
I wanted to see if it was possible to avoid some of the mistakes I’d made in the past. I took my guidance from the Native Americans and formed a council, rather than setting myself up as the head of it. I chose the initial group including those I knew didn’t agree with all of my plans.
I made NO unilateral decisions; all decision were made by consensus of this group, who agreed to work any decision till consensus was reached. Only when we couldn’t reach consensus did we go with majority vote instead. Also, any decision was made from the perspective of “how will this affect the future of this project?” Everyone knew how we were operating, and everything we did was totally transparent and shared with the larger group.
And I’ll be damned, it worked. Not without problems, one council member had to leave because she just couldn’t stand not being in control of things, but otherwise it was a grand experience with a very positive outcome I could then turn over to someone else once it was up and running well.
In summary, I see what’s happening here as what happens almost everywhere people gather, sooner or later. I figure the only control I have is over my own reactions to it, and what and how I choose to contribute or not contribute here, because there’s not one damned thing I can do about anyone else’s choices! It can help a lot when people stop focusing each others behaviors, (or on their own personal needs,) and focus instead on what we each can do to contribute to the larger purpose of the community.
Wishing good things for BooTrib and all the other places online and offline that are trying to do good things to help save this country.
Isn’t that really why we’re all here?