Goldfish, water, meeting-regulars and anxiety

People who are regular attenders of a group’s meetings, and who regularly hang out with a lot of the other people in the group (or attend sub-meetings on other dates!) will – presumably –  not feel any of the following anxieties that a brand new person might;

– are these people in this room reliable?
– are they friendly?
– am I a good fit with them?
– does anything real get done, or is it busy work?
– how much will I be asked to do? What if I can’t do it?
– what if it is too easy/boring? How much do I have to stick at something till I am accepted?
– what if they decide they don’t like me?
– what if I can’t make it to the next meeting?
– what if I can’t remember their names?
– will I gradually get turned into one of them*?
– and many many other questions that I can’t think of.

Because most of those questions are already answered, have become – or always were – irrelevant for those who design and run the meeting.

No wonder most people get “inducted” into social movements via friendship networks (housemates, boyfriend or girlfriend, work colleague). The “turning up not knowing anyone” can be extremely anxiety-inducing. But invisibly, in the same way water as a concept makes no sense to goldfish…

I am NOT saying we turn every meeting upside down to make it as unstressful as possible. I am saying the way we do things now doesn’t appear to be working very well. (Meetings are not the only problem, but they are a major – and visible – one).

Some related posts
Yet again: why don’t newbies stick around?
How do we increase the size and breadth of numbers in the movement?
Speech to Newbies/Old Hands/Leavers
What scares newbies off?
Meetings Matter – how to make them better
Adventures in the Liminal Zone – Why don’t newbies come back?

*On what ‘normal’ people think of when they hear of “activism”-
And if you can track it down, there’s a funny (but probably not as funny or smart as I remember) 1987 film called “Soul Man”. In it, a guy who is passing as black to get a scholarship to study law at Harvard is invited to come to a civil rights meeting of black lawyers. He is desperate to fit in, but has no idea what to wear. He turns up in full “Black Panther” paramilitary garb. It’s a funny – and true – comment on what white people think of (thought of in the 80s?) when they heard “black” “civil rights” or any such…

About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
This entry was posted in activism, competence and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Goldfish, water, meeting-regulars and anxiety

  1. vivmcwaters says:

    Yeah. I can relate to all of those feelings – and still have them too, when I turn up to work with/facilitate some group I don’t know very well or at all. These thoughts can suck a lot of energy, as well as just suck. My earliest memory of turning up and not knowing anyone was when I was about 13 (geez, a long time ago now!) I joined some young farmers group probably hoping to meet boys. I’m still doing it even now (not trying to meet boys, I have a perfectly good one at home), and despite all the trauma, negative thoughts, introspection etc I have to also ask myself why this is a pattern. It appears that there are also benefits in taking a risk with a new group, sticking with it long enough to see if it’s a good fit (btw, the farmers group definitely was not a good fit so didn’t last very long at all). So, yes, there is an obligation on the host group to make the outsider feel welcome, and maybe also an obligation on the outsider to give the group enough time to see if it will work for them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s