Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Dealing with Bad Behavior

Many years ago, when I was beginning to co-lead an Integral Transformative Practice (ITP) group, George Leonard told me that volunteer groups were horrible to manage, because 'the only currency is power' and that there is 'always someone' who is real jerk and difficult to get rid of. George knew, because he was one of the founders of ITP, and a long time board member of Esalen Institute. I know George was right, because one of those people actually drove me from the group about 5 years later.

My husband now organizes a small, informal monthly group of folks who go out stargazing. We've been doing this for a little over a year now. The cast of characters varies from month to month, though some folks are regular, or semi-regular.

We had one of our sessions last week. Jim, who volunteers for the larger, more organized group of which we are a part, decided to come. Jim is not one of my favorite people. A year after he broke the agreement my husband and I had with him (the incident is described in this post), he is still unemployed, still sponging off the person with whom he moved in after he left our home.

Our group hiked out to our stargazing spot, hauling chairs and equipment about 3/4 of a mile, mostly up hill, in the dark. We set up, and Jim sort  of took over, standing in the middle of our circle, expounding and lecturing, though not the most knowledgeable or experienced member of the group. A few people asked quietly for him to sit down so we could meditate. He did not. Then he began to play with his 250 milliwatt laser pointer (the kind you can buy at the office supply store are usually 10 milliwatt), holding it steady as he pointed into the air (you're supposed to move it constantly so as not to blind a pilot), and shining it in the direction of the airport, both of which we told him not to do. Finally, he crossed one of the group members' eyes with it, temporarily blinding her. 

No one forcefully put a stop to this, including me. I take partial responsibility for letting this happen, but I had driven for 5 hours that day, in terrible traffic, and was not even able to keep my eyes open. I know I can't allow it to happen again. How do I prevent it, short of telling Jim he's not welcome in the group?

I know I have to talk to him. In person would be best, but he doesn't live near me, and I'm not willing to drive to him. I doubt he'd be willing to drive to see me, as I'm not one of his favorite people, either. That leaves the phone. (Email is out for two reasons. First, it is so easy for things to be taken wrong, Second, I don't want to leave a 'paper' trail -- who knows how that might be used?)

I have to be specific about what he did wrong, and tell him that this is not only my reaction, but that of others in the group, as well (which is true, btw). Ideally, he'll understand what he did wrong, and agree not to do these things again. If not, I will have to tell him he is not welcome in the group.

I did call him last night, and left a message. I'm quite sure he won't call me back. As I said, I'm not one of his favorite people. So today, I'll call him using my husband's phone -- we'll see how far that gets me.

If he does not talk to me, the fallback position is that he is not welcome in our home or in the group.

The lesson for me? Leopards don't change their spots -- nor do jerks change their ways without good reason. 

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