Friday, March 31, 2006

Group Discussions

I can't really remember too much of my reading of Dante's Inferno, but I'm certain group discussions are one of the more perilous and soul-killing circles of Hell.

Whether weekly work meetings, therapy, or a typical cast of Starting Over, the dynamics and participants are all variations on a theme:

Instructor/Therapist/Life Coach/Manager/Etc:

Brimming with good will and taking great pains to appear objective, the Instructor is the control freak all the other participants both fear and covet. How well the Instructor handles this responsibility depends on the quality of his/her character. Be ware, be very ware, of low self-esteem types: they will make you want to saw off your arm with a ballpoint pen.

Handout doodle: interlocking circles or cubes

The Know-it-All, Jaded edition:

This participant is only present because they are forced to be. They've already decided nothing is to be learned from the group discussion, it's merely to be tolerated. The Know-it-All is given to eye-rolling, loud sighing, clock-watching, and spitting out answers to any questions directed at them with as much condescension and venom as humanly possible. Generally, they have nothing to offer and are best left to their seething and moping.

Handout doodle: intricate caricatures of other participants, if they are artistic; big, shaded, 3-D expletives, if they aren't.

The Know-it-All, Blowhard edition:

Blowhards know every motherfucking thing there is to know, got it? And don't think there is a different angle or approach they haven't already considered. This participant will talk, talk, talk, over anyone else, going off on unrelated tangents, blathering along without regard for time or other people in the room. They are skilled at hijacking other's thoughts, i.e. "Ooh! That reminds me of a time...", "I was just thinking that. Why,..." The Blowhard is THE Authority on all things, and won't be denied. The only option is to distract them.

Unless the Instructor is gifted in diversion techniques, the other participants will just have to wait until the Blowhard runs out of steam.

Handout Doodle: No doodles, but the handout is folded and frayed while other people talk

The Meek, pre-Earth-inheriting:

Silent, trembling, desperately afraid they'll be called upon to speak aloud, the Meek dread these meetings like nobody's business. They sit as far back in their chair as they can without being behind it, and try to remain motionless, lest someone look at, or talk to them.

Introverts usually have terrific ideas, the tricky part is prying it out them.

Handout Doodle: Mythical creatures or their loved one's name in a heart, if they are brave; if not, the handout is untouched--who are they to mar the handout?

The Teacher's Pet

Odiously manipulative and cheerfully evil; what's not to hate about the Teacher's Pet? They magically appear with coffee, water, or mints for the Instructor; they prop up the Instructor's ideas in discussion, congratulating the Instructor for their great ideas or deft handling of a sticky situation; they make the other participants look like chimps whenever possible.

With the Teacher's Pet, your options are: a) get on their good side, knowing they'll hand you your ass if it suits them, or b) stay off their radar, knowing you better have a good story if and when the Teacher's Pet buttonholes you on your standing on the issue at hand.

Handout Doodle: Nasty comments about the other participants, to-do lists

The Passive-Aggressive

"Well, I worked all night trying to come up with an idea--I just couldn't sleep from all the stress--but it would never work, anyway, so, nevermind."

Anyone who has the patience to deal with this personality type--in and out of stuffy meeting rooms--has my astonished admiration. I can barely write about Passive-Aggressives without flying into a plate-flinging rage.

Handout Doodle: Their minds are too dark for doodling.


Blogger marty said...

I'm generally the passive/homicidal at these meetings.

9:02 PM  

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