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Friday, March 09, 2018

Dr. T-Ruth on Smoothly Running Groups

Pointers on Group Dynamics

Written by Dr. T-Ruth

Welcome to our first inquiry submitted to the Dr. T-Ruth interactive column brought to you by the TAP "Resilience and Wellness Project", a team of mental health professionals who are TAP volunteers.  Each month, the TAP Resiliency and Wellness team will be sharing our thoughts on mental health challenges and opportunities related to opening up to 9/11’s true nature.

Doctor T-Ruth also invites you to share with us, using dr-t-ruth [AT] 911tap [DOT] org, the challenges you face as a 9/11 Truth activist:

  • What questions do you find difficult to answer when discussing the events of 9/11/01 with neighbors, friends and strangers?
  • How has awakening to the painful and frightening realities of 9/11 affected you?
  • How has it affected relationships with family members and others?
  • What is it like for you to be living in a world where so many people think you are the crazy one for challenging the official 9/11narrative?

Initial Submission

Dear Dr. T-Ruth,

My local 9/11 TAP group has started to feel kind of negative. It seems some of our members' egos are getting out of hand, and our discussions sometimes get off-topic, or nasty. I don't feel comfortable being in a group that can't get along. Should I give up on the group,
and start my own?


"Seeking Truth and Good Company"

Dear Seeker

Take heart, Dear Advocate for 9/11 Justice! You are not alone. Every activist organization struggles to keep meetings positive and productive. 9/11 Truth activists are, I believe, smarter and braver than most, but our battle scars about 9/11 sometimes show up as patterns of urgency, hopelessness, brittleness, and blaming. Hang in there.

 Here are a few pointers for staying on track: ( pdf Ideas for Keeping Your 9/11 TAP Group Running Smoothly (225 KB) )

Ideas for Keeping Your 9/11 TAP Group Running Smoothly

The following are some ideas for working together as a healthy and productive community.  One of the things to remember is that we are trying to create a better world and this includes practicing how to coexist with other people.  As Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

Egos, Hierarchy and Rules

  • You’ll need a modicum of hierarchy within your group, with a core group and at least one designated leader. Think of your organization as a circle, with the core leadership as the inner circle, and the less committed and newer members in the outer circle. Every organization needs to screen new members to assure internal consistency and integrity of purpose. Your core group should ideally be composed of relatively emotionally-stable people who play well with others, have been active for a while in the 9/11 Truth movement, possess manageably-sized egos, don’t get distracted by fringe or pet theories and can keep your target audience (the general public) in mind at all times. The discussion leader should be able to keep the conversation moving briskly along and remind participants of the rules firmly yet diplomatically when necessary.
  • Consider using a consensus decision-making model within the core group, in which any one member can exercise veto power. This works best if the group is small (suggested maximum: eight members), the members know and trust one another and they feel safe to express their disagreements and reservations within a respectful environment. Consensus decision-making can be time-consuming and laborious, but it ensures full buy-in and high participation from the members, and the thorough airing of potential pitfalls can prevent poor decision-making.
  • Have an agenda with items triaged in order of importance and time budgeted to each item. Appoint a timekeeper to keep discussion on track and confined to the time allotted (and support the timekeeper to do this; it can be a stressful job!). Respect participants’ time and end the meeting at the agreed-upon time. Given that warm, trusting relationships are key to any group’s long-term effectiveness, consider picking a venue that allows for relaxed socializing afterwards.
  •  Keep the discussion confined to 9/11 TAP activities. Don’t assume that all participants, whether in the core or larger group, are on the same page regarding issues such as the current president, climate change, single-payer healthcare, Palestine and Syria. We need to attract and hold onto a broad sector of the population.
  •  If necessary, ask a disruptive participant to leave, and sooner rather than later. I’ve seen this happen, calmly and firmly, with a person who refused to end an anti-Semitic rant. As evidence emerges that Israeli intelligence operatives were active participants in setting up and executing the 9/11 attacks, this rule becomes increasingly important. We must keep in mind that the most likely 9/11 suspects include people from many national and religious backgrounds, including our own.
  • Along the same lines, expect infiltration, both electronically and in-person! The more effective our groups become, the more that intelligence agencies will be derelict in their duties to not infiltrate us. They know we’re expecting them and will adjust their tactics accordingly. Be prepared for subtle attempts to steer us away from our stated mission as well as for language that advocates violence or oppressive/polarizing behaviors. We must keep all discussions and actions legal, respectful and morally unimpeachable, with our means (our tactics) strategically and ethically aligning with our ends (our long-term goals).

Diversity Considerations

  • AE 9/11 Truth has been dominated, as an organization, by white male professional architects and engineers. This is an observation, not a criticism: the organization simply reflects the current demographic makeup of these professions. 9/11 TAP, as a grassroots, non-professional outgrowth of AE, should actively seek diversity of race, nationality, gender, class, religion and age in both its group leadership and rank-and-file sectors. Use language that doesn’t alienate: for example, avoid the automatic use of male pronouns, words that imply that black or dark is bad and light is good and classist terms such as “redneck” and “1 percenter”.
  • Notice who dominates the discussion at your meetings. If necessary, institute a speaking order so that individuals from under-represented groups get a chance to speak first, and no one gets to talk a second time until everyone has spoken a first time, etc. You’ll promote a diverse, representative group membership and effective public outreach, your group will generate more creative outside-the-box thinking and you’ll be encouraging and training leaders who may not have been thinking of themselves as leadership material.
  • Actively build relationships with non-9/11 TAP activists and organizations, both inside and outside the 9/11 Truth movement. Activists’ time and energy are precious, limited commodities, so find ways for people to contribute that allow them to maintain their primary allegiances to their existing groups: signing the 9/11 TAP petition, attending one-off events, making one phone call or writing one letter to a Congressperson. When possible and practical, visibly reciprocate on behalf of their primary issue.

 When Conflict Arises

  • If possible, identify and address the underlying cause(s). Sometimes people, especially those new to the movement, just need to vent. Formal meetings probably won’t allow for this, so create space outside of them, perhaps after the meeting, to socialize and release tension. These less-formal gatherings should still adhere to rules that promote respectful, non-oppressive conversation.
  • Remind participants of the need for solidarity and the group rules as necessary: no name-calling, no contemptuous behaviors such as snorting or eye-rolling, no blanket accusations of “You always” or “You never”, and so on.
  • Don’t allow discussions to get hijacked by people who need to demonstrate at length how smart they are. Other group members get turned off very quickly by this; keep discussion moving along and limit the time for each person’s remarks; the leader can respectfully interrupt a monologue by saying something like “Thank you for your input; I’d like to make sure everyone gets a chance to speak.”
  • Contain open conflict between two or more individuals by saying that the time allotted can’t accommodate resolving the conflict but after the meeting a time can be scheduled for the conflicting parties to meet with the group leader or other person who can act as mediator.
  • If the conflict must be addressed in the group, use a timer for short turns (e.g. 2 minutes), back and forth – with no interruption by the other participant allowed -- as often as deemed necessary and proper by the agreed-upon mediator, and have the parties address their concerns to that mediator. This reduces hostility engendered by direct eye contact between the conflicting parties, allows both parties to relax and know that in two minutes they’ll get another turn, and allows the mediator to clarify points of contention and point out common ground and potential solutions. Intense emotions may arise; the mediator should calmly allow for tears to flow and voices to raise yet interrupt/shut down name calling or other true nastiness, which may mean tabling the discussion or even ejecting from the meeting the offending parties if they refuse to cease and desist.

To share your concerns or stories, contact Dr. T-Ruth at dr-t-ruth [AT] 911tap [DOT] org.

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