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Lately I've been thinking a lot about communications and friendship. As I see it one of the most important things in any kind of group activity among friends is keeping dialogue and the lines of communication open. When these break down, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the group activity, much as we appreciate our friends. Now, granted: it can become difficult to initiate discussions and activities when people do not seem intersted, but in my experience it really does require mutual effort. "Proactivity" is far from my favorite buzzword, procrastinator that I am, but there is a limit to passivity beyond which even our peers (friends and colleagues) and mentors/mentees become reluctant to keep doing for us. I've seen this on both sides of teacher-student relations, and though I was fairly ambitious as an advisee, I've seen surpassing levels of initiative-taking among some of the stronger researchers I've worked with.

In any case, I digress. What I think is particularly important about communications within a social group, be it for research, writing, roleplaying, or other creativity and entertainment, is that people express their satisfactions and concerns. The latter is ideally, sometimes necessarily, done early and with a mind to do something about the issues. A number of times in my adult life, I have seen discontentment in groups burgeon and fester. I once belonged to a research group at another university that was fairly dysfunctional in this way, and I watched the morale, group loyalty, esprit de corps plummet inexorably from very high to next to nothing. It was certainly very unfortunate and saddening to watch. I realized then that there is seldom anything as hurtful - including to oneself - as not telling friends, family, and others what is bothering us, and what is going on with us. This can indeed be a tall order, but it is also very often worth fighting the inner resistance (and discomfort) to do so.




Joyous Samhain greetings to Wiccans and other pagans among my friends, and Happy Hallowe'en to all you hallowburtonists. :-)
While we're on the subject, here's a good place to stash a couple of useful links that istari_ala gave me last week:



Two of the Yurpian TEUNCs, mrowe and siocled, decided to have a little bonfire in the chat last night, and the result was a shower of lutefizz-laced ash, tentacles, cutterfish, Smurrow-suede shoes, and Sith cloaks.


--
Banazir

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
megruder
Oct. 31st, 2004 01:30 pm (UTC)
One possible explaination
Having been on both sides of the loss of communication dichotomy, I fully agree with you.

Something I learned during my last hospitalization was that in order to have a solid and trusting relationship, no matter what type of social group, each person has to be willing to take risks. While these usually start as small and seemingly insignificant, they are extremely important. If each of these progressively increasing risks are returned by a positive response then the relationship will thrive. However, if at any point a negative response is given then the relationship growth can halt and even diminish. It is then important to keep this in mind when one is interacting with other people, both as the one taking the risk and the one responding to it.

As I've experienced in a couple groups I've worked with, the lack of or decrease in cohesiveness in a group can result from an individual responding to others' risks in a negative way. While this is not an excuse to never open one's self up, it can explain why some people are less likely to open up and why some groups can fall apart due to one individual's crassness.
sui_degeneris
Oct. 31st, 2004 08:56 pm (UTC)
one teeny comment
(I'm still suffering from CHOKLIT overload, so the brain isn't quite working.)

There is a special case when one person perceives a problem and decides to address it in a way that others in the group find more distressing than the original problem.

There are variations of this.

One person perceives a problem that no one else can see, an in attempting to fix said problem, creates problems where there were none before. Think of someone who tries to scrub a mark from a wall, and ends up creating a dinner-plate-sized area of lighter/shinier/duller wall.

Or both people perceive a problem, but each feels that the other's solution will lead to trouble. For example, say the hem on an article of clothing has come down. One person may feel that it needs to be rehemmed properly, with matching thread, all neatly done. The other person may feel that a quick tack job will suffice.

Who's right? Who's wrong? Both, and neither. Which do you value more, having the garment available more quickly, or minimizing total sewing time? The first person may do the hem properly, but it may take months before that item gets out of the mending pile and back into the closet. The second person may be able to wear the tack-hemmed item almost immediately, but the hem may need to be redone properly later.

At that point, it's a matter of values.

They may never see eye to eye on that immediate level. They may agree on a higher level (they want a nice wardrobe, or an active group), but they may disagree strongly on how to achieve that. And Person A may resent any perceived attempt by Person B to force A to act according to B's values.

And that can lead to communication failure. If someone consistently tries to argue me out of doing something that I know is right for me, well, sooner or later, I'm going to stop talking to that person about what I'm doing. If no one knows about it, then no one can give me a hard time about it.

Goodness, I'm still dealing with CHOKLIT brain.

Gah. Glad I feel obliged to stock M&Ms only once a year. Although next year, I think I'm going to go with the raisins and pretzels only. Much less temptation!
burkhardt
Nov. 1st, 2004 01:10 pm (UTC)
Re: one teeny comment
Gah. Glad I feel obliged to stock M&Ms only once a year. Although next year, I think I'm going to go with the raisins and pretzels only. Much less temptation!

Make sure you weigh the eggy reprisal quotient before making this decision.

One person perceives a problem that no one else can see, an in attempting to fix said problem, creates problems where there were none before.

I would actually respond to this with the thought that if there was a percieved problem by someone then there was a problem. That problem may not necessarily be in the group dynamic, but somewhere with some member of the group there is a problem. Now their attempted fix can cause more issues (depending on how they go about it), but I'd like to think that in most groups even a mishandled fix can be resolved as long as everyone does their best to stay honest about where the real problem comes in.

The issues really start cropping up when you have someone who is creating problems but refusing to stay honest about the source of the issues (IE somebody who is stirring up trouble then claiming they did no such thing and won't stop doing it). Unfortunately this is significantly more difficult for a group to handle well.

Honestly is the key for communication of all sorts. Don't take me to mean that you need to share everything. Just try to maintain an objective view about where problems are coming from, and for the love of all you (you being the general you, not you specifically) find holy open your mouth if something is really bugging you. Holding it in will only lead to resentment in the long term.
sui_degeneris
Nov. 1st, 2004 02:21 pm (UTC)
Re: one teeny comment
I would actually respond to this with the thought that if there was a percieved problem by someone then there was a problem. That problem may not necessarily be in the group dynamic, but somewhere with some member of the group there is a problem. Now their attempted fix can cause more issues (depending on how they go about it)

I don't disagree with this. In fact, it is roughly what I was trying to say. A person may perceive a problem, and attempt to fix it, but the problem may be more in the person's perception than in the reality of the situation. So there is genuinely a problem, but it isn't necessarily the one the problem-perceiver is trying to fix.

The issues really start cropping up when you have someone who is creating problems but refusing to stay honest about the source of the issues (IE somebody who is stirring up trouble then claiming they did no such thing and won't stop doing it). Unfortunately this is significantly more difficult for a group to handle well.

Very true. Very difficult to deal with passive-aggressive saboteurs. Removing them from the group, if possible, may be the only real solution, but that may well cause problems in turn, as other members may perceive that as an attempt to evict people who have dissenting opinions.
burkhardt
Nov. 1st, 2004 02:27 pm (UTC)
Re: one teeny comment
Removing them from the group, if possible, may be the only real solution, but that may well cause problems in turn, as other members may perceive that as an attempt to evict people who have dissenting opinions.

Better than letting them remain many times. Most of the passive aggresive saboteurs seem to spend most of their time pleading their case with others in the group. Next thing you know you wind up with massive division. The problem is drawing the line between cutting out poison early enough that it can't do any damage, and giving people a chance to mend their ways.
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