With the 2016 election, many of us took up roles that were outside of our realms. Saturday brunches were replaced with protest marches. Suddenly lines were drawn with family and friends while new friendships were forged as we came together to resist the assault on our civil rights and even on basic civility. Even the introverts among us found themselves joining protest groups locally and on social media.
The protest marches and all of the groups that have become a daily part of our lives serve an important purpose: They let us know we are not alone in this fight to do what is right.
But groups also bring their own challenges: Personality conflicts, constant changes, diverse opinions and experiences. Groups on social media have an added challenge – all of the nonverbal cues that we instinctively rely on to negotiate group dynamics are absent. This means that posts intended in one way can be perceived in a completely different way that the writer never intended. So it is not surprising that #TheResistance has had its share of conflicts and tensions.
Here are some of the characteristics and skills that we can each use to build bridges and help our groups succeed:
- Being genuine and human: No one is perfect. While we strive for excellence, we are more likely to achieve excellence if we are open to group processes and thus welcome input and feedback. Respecting personal boundaries is especially important in an asynchronous environment. It’s hard to feel included if group decisions were made while you were offline.
- Be flexible. Groups go through changes all the time and take on new tasks. Our contributions may vary across time and with each task.
- Communicate! Communicate! First and foremost, we must realize that what is written may have several interpretations and intentionalities. Absent non-verbal cues and vocal tone, we need to afford one another the benefit of the doubt. Ask for clarification rather than making assumptions. Communication also involves active listening and accepting that not everyone will agree with you.
- Act don’t React. It is really easy to react to all the things that happen often and frequently. There is an overload of things about which we need to be genuinely outraged. But it is frustrating and exhausting to be outraged over and over again. Channeling that outrage into actions of resistance can provide a sense of accomplishment by doing some good.
- Be supportive and respectful of your team mates. We all need time to vent. That is human. But we also need to be there to support others as well. In a diverse group of people we won’t always agree and that is ok. Our strength lies in our diversity. So nurture and affirm that diversity. Also remember that all of us are volunteers. So everyone is giving of their free time. Respect that and remember to thank them from time to time.
- Take the initiative and be a problem solver. Each of us has a unique perspective and as adults we come with a diverse set of skills. It is easy for groups to fall into dynamics that mimic their family of origin. For example, people will equate leaders with parents and so at times will become hyper critical as happens when teens begin to assert their independence. The reality is that we are all adults and thus need to remember that we are capable individuals and here for a greater good. This is when we need to take the higher road and avoid acting like the very behaviors we are protesting.
- Seek balance in the group. Time spent on group tasks is important. But we also need to spend time nurturing and enriching the group. Avoid monopolizing the group. Give everyone an opportunity to participate.
The resistance is filled with so many amazing and talented individuals! The more we get to know one another, the stronger we become. My hope is that by understanding a little bit about group dynamics, that we can become a bit more patient and tolerant of one another. We have a common goal and a united resistance is needed to flip 2018 and 2020!
Follow Dr. Bashir on Twitter @DrBashir2017