Many people have never worked in a non-hierarchical group before,
and many people have so many years of organizing experience that they have learned
to pay lip-service to their principles while manipulating people to get their
is an amazing
correlation between organizing and playing
music; a good political discussion and a good jam session have similar
dynamics. Here are some categories of do's and dont's apply to meetings
or rehearsals. When you see "talk", substitute "play." Probably 90% of
the following can be summed up in one word: listen.
Hog the show/ filibuster. Talk too much, too long, too loud. (But, have
patience with new people who ramble and get off the subject.)
Play wallflowers. Hide in the corner even when you have something important
Speak in capital letters. Give one's own solutions or opinions as the
final word on the subject, often aggravated by tone of voice and body posture.
Defensiveness. Respond to every contrary opinion as though it were a
Nitpick. Pick out minor flaws in statements of others and state the
exception to every generality.
Focus transfer. Transfer the focus of the discussion to one's own pet
issues in order to give one's own pet raps.
Restate. Especially what a woman or person of color has just said perfectly
Interrupt. Cut people off, jump in while people are taking a breath.
Conclude. Formulate a response after the first few sentences, not listening
to anything from that point on, and leaping in at the first pause.
George Custerism. Intransigence and dogmatism; take a last stand for
one's position on even minor items.
Be "on the make." Sexual harassment; slobber on your friends to the
point where you drive them from the group; Use sexuality to manipulate
Run the show. Continually take charge of tasks before others have the
chance to volunteer.
Graduate studentitis. Protectively store key group information for one's
own use and benefit. Manipulate through superior discourse.
Flake. Commit to responsibilities you know you won't fulfill.
Stereotype. "Give shakers to girls." "All Black people like playing
drums." "You can't play drums in a wheelchair."
Bureaucratize. Keep people from getting things done through paper work
or parliamentary procedure.
Perpetual crisis. Avoid criticism and process discussions by creating
a crisis of the moment.
Process fetishism. An over-indulgence in the form of a group instead
of its content and actions. Take these guidelines so seriously that you
don't get anything done.
Many of these categories are extremes which can be balanced
through the dialectic of praxis; an analysis leads to an action, and the
action gives you something concrete to analyze for the next action.
Getting: Look at constructive criticisms as gifts that show how much
people care about you. If they really hated you they would just ignore
you, and let you keep making the same mistakes. Giving: Don't shirk from
helping your friends be better musicians or people. Especially, don't tolerate
oppressive behavior. It is no act of friendship to allow friends to continue
dominating those around them. But check your own motivations before you
attack or "one-up" another: "Why am I doing this? How do I feel towards
the other person? Is now the right time?"
Avoid being criticized altogether by constantly evaluating your own
part and how it fits into the group. Check to see your not louder or softer
or faster or slower or playing with a different feel than everyone else,
and make changes constantly and smoothly. Don't be afraid to stop, and
say "I'm sorry. I fucked up." Recover, and play without guilt.
You won't have to resort to criticisms as much, when you get in the
habit of using the carrot, the velvet glove, the good cop, positive reinforcement,
esteem building, etc.
Do what you say you're going to do. Ask for help with
what you can't do. Be on time.
Question all stereotypes
Throw away your assumptions and treat people
Strive for consensus
Nothing beats a show of hands for efficient decision
making, but put a little extra effort into balancing conflicting positions,
and making unanimous decisions.
The group will do fine without your anxiety attacks.
Become a good listener
Good listening is as important as good speaking.
It's important not to withdraw when not speaking; good listening is active
participation. Listen to yourself and others.
More dynamics at Rhytms of Resistance
Material re-adapted from an article by Bill Moyers, from
the Handbook for Nonviolent Action
Criticism/Self-Criticism/ Praise and Consensus from the
Groundwork Red Documents.