Wednesday, June 11, 2014

OB -- The Spokesman: NOT

"I’ve been asked to be spokesman by a group of friends, to tell A that we all object to something specific that A does when the group is together.”
This has so many layers I’m sure I’ll miss some.
First, this is the bad puppy trap.   If you are housetraining a puppy, you absolutely cannot let them do the bad thing and lecture them later.  Nothing will bring the issue home to A like saying NO the next time the behavior happens.  Nothing will confuse A like letting it happen and trying to give a convincing lecture about it later.  You may object to the puppy comparison, but the reason A doesn’t realize already that the group doesn't like this behavior, is because none of you have said NO when it actually happened.
Second, absolutely do not be the spokesman for the whole group.  Next time A does this when the group is together, say NO for yourself.  Then let them speak up.  If you act as spokesman for the whole group, I guarantee that psychologically, A will decide it’s just you and nobody else in the group who feels that way, and A will not change.
Third, when the group is together, and you are the only one saying NO, then you will have learned something about your friends: they may gripe behind A’s back, but they are not serious about this being a problem because they won’t do anything when A is around.  Don’t be surprised.  You already partly know this from the fact that they wanted you to be the spokesperson.
Fourth, how long have you known A?  If this group has been together for a long time, and A doesn’t hang out with anybody else, then you are the only ones who can give A this lesson.  But if A has been doing similar things in relation to others, and they haven’t done anything about it, then A will not understand a lecture.  You must say NO when A does this again, not give a speech at some other time.
Fifth, you don’t have to give a reason for saying NO.  That’s the “boyfriend trap.”  When a guy asks you for sex and you say no, you don’t have to give a reason.  No means no.  Anybody who asks for a reason doesn’t really want a reason, they want an argument because in an argument, they can try to wear you down.  When A says “but why?” the next thing A says will be “you never said so before.” That’s true, but it’s not the point now.  Now you’re saying NO and that’s the end of it.
Sixth, everybody in a group plays a role.  One is the mother, one is the solid right-hand, one is the funster, and so on.  Each person in the group gets a quid pro quo for the role they play.  Since none of you have told A that this behavior is unacceptable, A feels by now that that is the quid for A’s role in the group.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell A that nobody likes the behavior.  That just means you have to think about what the group will lose when A goes.  Then you either have to not tell A off, or you have to prepare to lose whatever A brings to the table.
DO NOT issue any ultimatums except that the behavior has to stop.  Let A issue the ultimatum “then I guess I don’t belong here any more.”  A’s ultimatum is immature and a sign that there will be no change.  Say “I’m not going to argue with your decision.”  Because it is A’s decision, not yours.  Let it end there, and prepare to put up with the group losing whatever it was A brought to the table.

OR, be prepared for A to not leave the group, but to decide later that none of you were serious, and repeat the behavior.  It takes more than one swat with a newspaper and more than one scolding to housebreak a puppy.  Ask anybody who has housebroken one.  Decide now what you're going to do if A promises to behave and doesn't.  Or behaves once and then goes back to the bad behavior. 

There may come a point where the group has to start making plans without telling A, or find a new hangout without telling A.  That's if they're serious.  But they might not be.  Then you have to make the decision for yourself.  And that probably means not hanging with the group any more.   If you decide you can't rely on them to back you up, even when you're right, you might have to find a new group to hang with.  Not fun.  But some people mature faster than others.  A seems to still be a child.  You seem to be the mature one, while the rest of the group is somewhere in the middle.

Do you want to hang with people you can live up to, or people you have to live down?  It may never come to that.  You will have to decide.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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