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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Past Dialogue Conflicts

Someone has asked what creates the sense of a Dialogue group working together, as opposed to rude chaos? How can conflict lead to something?

What I've watched more often is the other extreme; that most people will not go into the rude and crude in a group situation until they feel somewhat comfortable with the other participants. The challenge is more often getting a group of people to reveal their core assumptions and how they came to be that way without feeling that they will be attacked. Of course, the first person to dare do this in a group who has only been talking 'theory' will be a sort of 'sacrificial lamb.'

Mostly what happens at first is people get comfortable to reveal their habits of talking. Talking habits are very automatic, because it's only the very unusual who are not merely paying attention to content rather than style, tone of voice, etc. These habits can include really irritating strategic or otherwise socially challenging actions. The person's motives and meanings that others in the group may often misinterpret in the light of these stylistic behaviors. Most people try to ignore these irritating mannerisms and to address the content of what the person is saying, but sometimes it gets mixed up and people do not know what they are reacting to or how they are coming to their unflattering conclusions of the person who is so irritating. It is separating out this misinterpreting of assumptions that is so interesting and dialogical - and also the way that people work out their assumptions about misunderstandings.

Mostly what makes a sense of connection happen for a group that I have been a part of is a commitment to return and to continue the relationship. For some people, this has to, at the start, be legislated into getting a commitment, such as being in a classroom, etc. because most people, or certain people, will shy away from all possible conflict. For others, the chance they may meet their next sweetie in Dialogue is enough to get them coming back.

In the psychology crowd, there can be sometimes a "tough love" ideal of the Ultimate Value of Honesty where people will want to spill their guts at any opportunity and get the group to be their therapy. We've also had many people who act as if their religion is Humblism; they seemed to be determined to obliterate any trace of Evil ego. Or with an academic crowd, some might get into the debate style poking and pointing out what is wrong or doesn't fit.

Generally, when a group sees these formats, multiple people comment on them by telling their motives to undo the hard effects of identifying with them. The elegant communicators will demonstrate examples that can go beyond either of them. What emerges are often very interesting ideals of how power can be appropriately used - something quite rare in our culture. People learn to not defend themselves when apparently attacked, but instead check and see what was really intended. If an attack was intended, then the answer in a group is, basically, 'We don't do that here, because we have identified it as a common trap that deadends.'

Before something like this happens, tempers or quick reactions could motivate a group to get into the thick of a fight with each other and sometimes polarize the room. In that sort of situation, it's always very, very interesting to watch how what creative ways come up with to deal with the offender(s.) Or if it's a group problem, what the group in general does in response.

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