Group Dynamics

Are you adept at group dynamics? Groups exist in most areas of our lives from family to workplace teams to community organizations. When you have groups, you have all kinds of personalities interacting with each other. Some of those personalities will get along well with yours, and others won’t. So how can you be in a group and retain your peace and happiness?

First, let us say that all groups are not meant for you. You may find that you had a certain perception of how a group would operate only to have that idea dismantled after participating in it. The other truth about groups is that they are constantly changing. Leadership changes. The people in the group change. So while the group may have been a good fit for you at one point, you may have outgrown it or it no longer resonates.

Family is the first group you learn to navigate. Families come in all shapes and sizes, and how you learned to interact with this primary group impacts what you attempt as you grow up. The structure and rules of this initial family may look completely different than the next group you participate in such as sports teams and peer groups. You then have to learn a different set of rules of engagement. Sometimes this goes well, and sometimes it doesn’t. You may have found yourself hurt or wounded in some of these dynamics or perhaps not reading the social cues correctly. This leads people to feel like outliers.

In team dynamics in the workplace, boards and associations, and community organizations, we often discuss the stages of development that teams go through. These stages include forming, storming, norming and performing. The first two stages are difficult, but often if you can hang in there through the rough patches, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you reach norming and performing. Even with very different personalities and perspectives, groups can find themselves working well together after some time. Some key components of getting to these stages without too much damage includes effective communication, good leadership, and empathy and understanding of differences.

Dealing with Narcissists

Have you ever interacted with a narcissist? Do you have one in your life now? How do you end up feeling after being around a person with those characteristics?

It’s interesting to note that narcissism is on a continuum, ranging from healthy narcissism to a clinical disorder. Healthy narcissism is what encourages you to get up in the morning, take care of yourself, and go for your goals. Symptoms for the personality disorder called narcissism include an unreasonably high sense of self-importance and requiring constant admiration. They also feel entitled to special treatment and lack true empathy for others. Narcissists often take advantage of others and objectify them.

Some people exhibit some of these characteristics but not all of them and not all of the time. These people are somewhere on the continuum. You might be surprised to learn that there are nice narcissists who can be very charming. They are often skilled at masking their true intentions and agendas. Dealing with these people can sometimes be the most difficult because you can’t quite put your finger on why you feel so uneasy after engaging them.

Narcissists can be in all kinds of roles in your life, sometimes unexpected. This can be confusing for people. It may be your parent, child or sibling. It may be a co-worker or boss. Narcissists can be clergy, teachers and people who inspire others. One size does not fit all. There are loud and quiet narcissists. They’re not always braggarts and big in the room, although they often are.

Some effective psychological and behavioral strategies you can employ if you find yourself in relationship with someone with these traits include:

– Create structure and strong, consistent boundaries around your interactions with this person.

– Limit your frequency and length of time with this person.

– Have a voice in the dynamic. It won’t be offered to you by a narcissist. You must claim it.

– Be good to you. Narcissists won’t meet your needs consistently and sometimes not at all. You will have to do that for yourself. Ask yourself what you need and desire, and ensure that you receive it.

Value Your Own Opinion

Do you find yourself valuing others’ opinions over your own? Are you a person who often asks others what they think you should do? Is it difficult for you to trust yourself when making decisions? Some people even ask waiters what they should eat at a restaurant. How would the waiter know the answer to that question if they don’t know you.

It can be easy to fall into a pattern of overvaluing what others think and devaluing what you think. We’ve observed this phenomenon with young people choosing a major in college. Sometimes they want to please their parents or peers over what they truly want to do with their careers. Unfortunately, it can be years later when they realize they chose the wrong path.

We’ve seen it with entrepreneurs trying to figure out what’s best for their business and parents wanting to do a good job raising their children. Often people are afraid to make mistakes, so they let others decide. If they make a choice based on the advice of someone else, they can abdicate responsibility.

The fallacy of this approach is that what has worked for one person may not work for you. Also, there is a vortex of conflicting opinions out there, and it can get confusing fast. Even if you are being informed by someone else’s advice, it’s ultimately your personal responsibility to make choices in your life. While it’s great to check in with experts and even hear the viewpoint of your friends and family, the most important opinion is your own.

To get better at this skill, practice refraining from asking others about smaller decisions. Make your own choice with the full knowledge that if you make a mistake, you will be accountable. Some simple areas include what you’re wearing, what you’re eating, how to respond to innocuous emails. This strengthens your habit. Once you feel confident in these smaller decisions, you can step into even more important choices in your life. What do you think?


The Tall Poppy Syndrome

Have you ever heard of The Tall Poppy Syndrome often used in Europe, Australia and New Zealand? It’s a metaphor used to describe how some people are eager to “bring others down to size” out of jealousy, intimidation or spite. In the U.S., we often use the image of a pedestal. Have you ever put someone on a pedestal? Or perhaps others have put you on one? It rarely works out well for anyone.

It’s quite a long fall from a pedestal, isn’t it? We’ve observed how others become quite disappointed and even disillusioned when the hero or guru reveals their humanity and imperfections, and thus falls from the pedestal. We’ve also seen how some people can’t wait for that person to fall from grace. In fact, there are many public platforms designed to highlight this. Television shows, magazines and social media often amplify mistakes and missteps of others. Wanting others to be humiliated or even fail is not the best version of a person, and we don’t encourage others to participate.

It’s also uncomfortable to be put on a pedestal yourself. While you may have accomplished much, you know that you are human. And it’s quite uncomfortable to fall from that pedestal. People often do this because they see greatness in you. They admire who you are and what you’ve done. And sometimes, they need to find hope in a hero.

We often tell people that the reason you admire something in another human is because you have a seed of that greatness in you. While it’s a lovely feeling to be inspired by others, don’t underestimate who you are and what you bring. You may express and manifest your gifts differently, but they are equally as important. Remember that greatness can be expressed quietly and just as powerfully as publicly. Take time this week to explore all of the beauty and light within yourself. Release yourself and others from any pedestals. Humans don’t belong up there.

Can an Apology Really Help?

What are your patterns around apologizing? Are you able to swiftly apologize to someone if you’ve made a mistake? Or does it feel too vulnerable for you to admit when you’re in the wrong? Many people struggle in this area for a variety of reasons.

How do you receive apologies? If someone apologizes for hurting you, are you quick to forgive and allow them to repair the relationship? Or do you hold on to their mistakes out of indignity or even fear of the same thing occurring again? People report that, once hurt, forgiveness can feel challenging.

Research by Dr. John Gottman shows that people in the most successful relationships have the ability to easily offer and receive apologies. Sometimes this can be difficult if the wound was deep and created ripples of suffering. However, even with the most hurtful offenses, practice can help you get better with it.

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When we refuse to offer or accept an apology, this is often called stonewalling in the research. This dynamic is a strong indicator that the relationship will not be successful. Sometimes you might get stuck in stubbornness or fear, especially if you’re not adept at apologies. Here are some strategies that can help you navigate apologies better:

— Write out the apology before you speak it, so you are sure to use the words that are most meaningful.

— Practice saying the apology alone before you have the actual conversation.

— Be mindful about which approach is best – in person, by phone, email, text or card. Some people even include gifts with their apologies.

— Ensure that your actions align with the words. You will lose others’ trust if they don’t line up and you keep making the same mistake.

— When someone approaches you with an apology, offer grace and the benefit of the doubt when possible. It takes humility for them to approach you. Remember that everyone is flawed and would not want to be summarized only by their mistakes.

— Consider how it would feel to get to the other side of the conflict and resolve any festering thoughts and emotions. That liberation feels far better than being right.