Saturday, February 7, 2009

Horrible group members

Painful (but necessary) working sessions this week with various groups have shown me how I behave in group settings where power is shared and there's no single leader.

My group is strong. We're all strong students. But one thing I've noticed is that we all occupy different roles that change from meeting to meeting. Some days I'm facilitating a discussion. Other days I'm introspective and could even be perceived as apathetic. Some times I'm angry and enforce the rules, other times I have a relaxed attitude to deadlines or protocol.

It's like a sociological petri dish. Everyone has shifting patterns of behavior. A really funny dynamic I've noticed is that we can side with another group member's ideas one day, then disagree with them the next. Overall, I feel we have to listen more, but this whole experience has provided me with an insight into the different archetypes that I become from one day to the next depending on the tone of the meeting.

So this is not a reflection on my group, it's a reflection on me.

Here are the horrible group members who I have been:


None of my ideas ever seem wrong when I'm
the Defender. Nothing I say can be refuted and if you try, well then you're just being a dick. Speak to me only when you have to say you're sorry for disagreeing with me or when you finally understand the superior point I'm trying to prove. I come into the meeting with guns blazing, eyes closed, and ears shut. I make my point as aggressively and loudly as possible, interrupting anyone who wants to contradict me.

I hate being this role. When I'm the Defender, I should chill out and appreciate the fact that other people have perspectives and insights that may be stronger than my own because of their own unique knowledge.


When I choose to meet with the group, I do so grudgingly. It's a pain in the ass for me to be dividing my time between school, work, homelife, and 601. My attitude to working is that it's best accomplished on one's own time rather than wasted for hours trying to press through a group document together. I cooperate, smile, and cheer people's ideas - but I'm dying inside! I can't wait until I get to leave the meeting room and go to do my own things.

I strongly identify with this archetype because I take a very rational approach to group work and don't see the benefit in wasted time. I work efficiently on my own. The problem I face in this role is that no one takes my ideas seriously and I never end up contributing as much as I'd like to in meetings. The group is worse of as a result of my not 'bringing the thunder'.


Things are great when I'm the cheerleader! Nothing is ever a problem that can't be expediently buried and forgotten about! I help the team out my succinctly rephrasing something that someone else has said and I passing it off as my own! At the beginning of our meetings, I am animated, upbeat and motivated to do work, but by the end I quickly lose interest and go off to doing my own things! Nevertheless, the team loves me and I can never do anything wrong!

I'm rarely a cheerleader, but when I am, I find that the things I have to share with the group are unsubstantiated and lacking in any deep insight. I use happiness and stoking the group's energy as a cover for my own lack of knowledge about the subject matter. Recognizing this, I think I could do a much better job sometimes of coming prepared to meetings.


We agreed on rules and dammit, we're going to stick to them. Conveniently, we've forgotten rules that no longer make sense, but have yet to establish new rules that can prevent subversive group behavior. I rally the troops, set plans, and oversee action. My foresight is perfect but ability to guide the team through difficult times needs some improving. When I lose control over the group, it's like a lone soldier taking a stand against an army of zombies. I just wish they all thought as clearly as me.

My needs for stimulation and chaos in life often mean that I dislike rules - or at least I dislike the rules that I have to play by. As the Deputy, I have limited authority to enforce the rules, so it might make sense for me to develop more constructive ways of facilitating a chaotic group dynamic which obviously doesn't work well with structure. When I become this archetype, I need to find ways of innovatively applying my natural goal-setting abilities to create an appropriate framework for the meeting.

Life is pain, and pain is life. We're put here on this Earth to suffer, especially during group meetings. I work hard because I see it as penance for my sins and misguided belief that someone will notice me. I act out and make scenes to draw attention to myself but spend a lot of time reflecting on how things got so messed up. The problem is that I've gotten so down that it's hard to see the way out again.

Recently I've noticed that I take on this role too easily. At one meeting I snapped and sarcastically commented that "my opinion obviously doesn't mean anything" - something I really shouldn't have said in retrospect because it only deepened the animosity among the group at the moment. I need to do more to lift my spirits so that the group can benefit from my insights without feeling like they have to begrudgingly accept them.


I stir shit up.

My comments are jagged and rapid-fire, without a lot of sympathy for the audience. My brain works really fast and I can see your next move ten moves before you. I speak to hear my own voice and demand that I be heard, even if I say something that was discussed earlier and neatly resolved. I am 100% focused on the group and my mental energies are absolutely committed to the task at hand. It's not like I'm a bad group member, I just have a lot of power which is sometimes negatively used.

This is an easy archetype for me to slip into. It's full of qualities which I despise in myself and a mindset that prohibits me from actively learning from others in my group. I also am limited in how much I can synthesize from previous group meetings when I'm wearing this role because I'm so caught up in the moment. Stepping back, taking a breath, and closing my mouth are techniques I should try when I find myself becoming the Asshole.

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