There is a lot of material on AP about group dynamics; more specifically, how to construct and maintain a group, and the kinds of people you should be looking for — or getting rid of. There is most definitely a list of folks you don’t want, and we’ve covered that in detail. In reading feedback from my email, conversations in various classes, and other venues, I’m noticing a need for clarification. As long as the “undesirables list” might be, there’s one that stands out.
Conventional wisdom tends to hold that “the Feds,” in whatever form or shape they take, are the biggest threat you can encounter in your group. Everyone worries about the informants, the undercover agents, etc., and with good reason. We talk a lot in my classes about how they, among others, infiltrate groups and for what purposes. I’m the last person to argue that federal infiltration isn’t a problem, because it is. There is, however, a bigger threat to your group, and chances are it’s already inside.
The Effect of Attitude on the Dynamic
It takes all kinds, as the saying goes, and that ends up being true in a group as well. A group made up of all followers, for example, won’t get much done, and a group made of all alpha personalities might not either; they may be too busy scrapping over who’s in charge. When it comes to personalities, you need the ones that will charge the hill but you also need the ones who can sit back and see the bigger picture too; they can direct efforts, find resources, and help support others.
One thing that has to be the same across the board, however, is the attitude. They need to all be pulling the same direction; imagine a six-man crew team when two of the rowers are out of sync. You won’t get very far if some of your people have a bad attitude. Esprit de corps is important, but it’s even more than that; it’s the concept that you and your group have a goal, an objective, and a means to achieve it — and a set standard of conduct for the process that everyone will follow.
Defining “Bad Attitude”
What exactly constitutes a bad attitude? Or at least, what parts are we discussing here and what make them a threat? The type of person I’m talking about has a very specific characteristic:
They don’t need or want to learn anything because they already know it.
Yes, the #1 threat to your group is the person who is arrogant in their own ignorance.
We all have things we are good at, or things that we know well. But there is always someone who knows more, performs better, or can teach you a few things. One of the hallmarks of being intellectually honest is being able to shift our thinking when we are presented with information that contradicts what we think we know. Being humble enough to admit that we could be wrong, or even to just be willing to consider new information is an important step, not just in personal growth but in overall group safety and effectiveness.
One thing you most definitely don’t need is someone who refuses to learn, refuses to be wrong, refuses to let go of their own awesomeness enough to see the forest for the trees.
Why Is This Such an Issue?
For some reason, arrogance or stubbornness is often shrugged off or even celebrated within many types of ‘patriot’ groups. The louder and more obnoxious someone is “for liberty,” the more they are often seen as some kind of stalwart patriot. Groups often look at the loudmouth in their group as being the one with the most balls, or the one who can be counted on in a pinch, but that’s not always the case. I can guarantee you that the person who doesn’t want to learn anything and is always running their mouth is NOT the person who is the most highly trained/best relied upon.
Sometimes that arrogance comes from insecurity, but sometimes it comes from a belief that they are as knowledgeable and “far along” as they need to be. They don’t want to attend training, because no one can teach them or everyone else is “wrong.” They don’t want to hear that their skill level is less than it needs to be. They don’t accept new information because anything they need to know, they already have — and that’s a very dangerous position for not only them, but any group that keeps them as a member.
People often see humility as weakness in the political group context, but that’s also incorrect. There are few things stronger than someone who is cognizant about their own shortcomings both personally and intellectually, and actively facing them and working to minimize them. It’s a difficult thing to do, and you never quite ‘get there.’ It’s a constant balancing act, a work in progress. Real weakness, however, comes from ignoring those shortcomings, denying they exist, or attacking others in an effort to distract people from seeing them.
Keep in mind, too, that arrogance is a leverage point. If you ask someone for information, they may not give it to you. But if they’re arrogant enough and convinced of their own intellectual superiority or knowledge, if you tell them, “Well, my understanding is that you’re wrong because…” they will fall all over themselves giving you information to prove that they ARE right and more knowledgeable than you are. It’s an easy trap and one that gets used often.
How Can You Recognize Them?
It’s actually not hard to see these folks because they flat out tell you with their words and attitudes; what IS hard, it admitting that’s what they are doing. As mentioned above, we often gloss over these types of things because we need to believe that our groups are “okay” and “ready” for whatever comes. We think our groups need more people and can’t afford to lose the ones we have. We don’t want to anger the person in question because we already know how they’ll take it if we bring it up. (Which, by the way, is kind of the point of the problem.) We shrug it off because “their heart is in the right place.”
Do you have someone in your group who has these traits?
- If there’s an internal conflict, they’re probably part of it because they consistently foster that negativity and complaining.
- They don’t attend outside training, or if they do, they tend to talk a lot during class so that the instructor and class sees how knowledgeable they are.
- When they go to internal training, they also talk a lot, telling everyone what they should be doing and barking orders even though that’s not their job.
- They’ll argue with people who do know more than they do, and are oblivious to the fact that they’re doing it.
- Any mention that they might be incorrect or that there is information contradicting them, and their temper will flare.
- They may berate people in the group, demean them, or be condescending. Typically people who do this hide behind the idea that it’s camaraderie or that “hey, I’m just being honest,” but we all know (or should know) the difference between people ragging on each other out of camaraderie and mutual respect, and people who are doing it because they’re jackasses.
- When someone dares to put up a new idea, a conflicting opinion, or something else this person doesn’t agree with or doesn’t like, they will stomp it repeatedly. They know everything, after all, so if they didn’t think of the idea it must not be a good one.
- These folks also tend to attack the person rather than the idea. Instead of presenting solid evidence why the idea is bad or won’t work — and offering a better one — they’ll simply dismiss it, stomp it, and then take aim at the person presenting it as being clueless, stupid, or worse.
Chances are that if you have someone in your group who does all of this, you’ve noticed, and they’re a constant thorn in your side. You may have someone who does only some of it. The point is that all of these activities and traits are poison in your group. I don’t care how much you like the guy, or how great he is at something, if he isn’t willing to learn and is arrogant about that ignorance, then he shouldn’t be in your group. Unfortunately, most groups have at least one of these. Any time spent traversing the various websites, comment sections, and forums will show you that there are many, many of them out there, all looking to tell anyone who disagrees how stupid and worthless they are.
None of us have “arrived.” We should constantly be striving to expand our knowledge and experience, and while that often means self-study, it also means taking instruction from those who are better than we are. It means going to training, hearing out new ideas and information, and holding our own beliefs up to scrutiny from new information as we learn it.
It’s also an excellent idea to surround yourself with people who know more than you do. We all like to be the smartest/best person in the room, but sometimes we aren’t. If your focus and desire is to get better, you’ll seek out the people who are further along in the knowledge/skills journey, and learn from them. Maybe someone doesn’t have as much training or experience overall, but because of the type of experience they do have, they can offer a different perspective or things you may have missed. If your focus is personal development, you’WANT to find those who are better and glean the knowledge that you can from them. Make sure, however, that you’re also seeking out people with integrity, character, and the internal traits that you want to foster and grow within yourself as well. You can learn from anyone, but your closest people should share your worldview, moral code, and belief system.
Humility, both internal and applied, can only make you and your group better. Seek to recruit and retain people who have a thirst for learning, for new ideas, for smarter ways to do things. Teach what you know, certainly, but always be on the lookout for where you can learn more, ask questions, get more information. Learn to evolve — intellectually, emotionally, even spiritually. There is nothing more worthless than a stagnant human being. Don’t be that. Be better…and clean your group’s house.