Category: Shifting Perspectives Written by Nimue Brown
Try to do anything and the odds are someone will think it’s a terrible idea. Just taking up space can attract peculiar reactions. Sometimes that can lead to really unpleasant behaviour. I’ve been around my share of trolls, witch-wars and other such silliness so I have insights I can share that might be useful to others.
In relationships and community spaces where we all lift and encourage each other, wonderful things happen. We’re all able to do more and be more. I’ve run all kinds of spaces over the years and there is nothing more lovely than watching how people flourish when they’re given space to do that. Believing in each other, trusting each other, and thinking the best of each other invites so much that is good and joyful.
We’re not all going to get along, but the healthy response to this is to move away from people who we find problematic. If a group doesn’t work for you, starting a new group that better meets your needs is often an excellent choice. Diversifying and creating more possibilities is a winning outcome. I’ve been part of moots that formed because some people didn’t get along. While Pagans can be terrible for getting into witch wars, the process of shrugging, moving on and starting your own thing can be so productive, and I think as a community we’re getting a lot better at doing just that. Diversity is good and disagreement should just open the way to more groups doing things in different ways.
Of course if you can persuade someone that they are useless and worthless, it can shut them down. Most of the time this is not a good strategy – it’s most likely to work on people who are gentle, and unlikely to work on someone acting on dodgy motives. If someone is breaking the law, we have to deal with it on those terms and if they aren’t, we should leave them to get on with it, no matter how silly we think they are. Would-be leaders who lack for skills and ideas tend to disappear quickly enough anyway. Loud people who misrepresent the community – which has been an issue for Pagans too – will often just feed on drama, so trying to stop them can serve to amplify and encourage them. Often it’s better in such situations to just offer an alternative.
The appearance of success in some can bring out jealousy and resentment in others. Anyone who sticks their head above the parapet will run into this sooner or later, even if all you’re trying to do is run a local moot. I’ve seen so many friends go through this. It is frustrating to deal with and it can suck up a lot of time and energy if you aren’t careful. While it’s good to be open to advice and willing to hear less than positive feedback, at the same time I don’t think there’s much point paying much attention to people who only ever try to knock you down.
Some people are amazingly good at seeing the problems and pitfalls, and those are great people to have on your team. Toxic people may try to tell you that they are giving this kind of assistance, but they aren’t. If the feedback you get allows you to do more and be more effective, then it’s the good sort of hole-picking and these people are excellent friends to have. If all the feedback does is makes you feel small, useless or unhappy, then there was probably no intention to help in the first place.
Sometimes good support looks like a person telling you where something isn’t working – as with a good book editor, or a helpful test reader. Sometimes support is having it flagged up to you that you’ve missed something important or made a mistake – it’s good when we hold each other accountable in these ways. If the feedback doesn’t enable you to do better then it really isn’t worth much.
It can be tempting to try and persuade or appease the people who do nothing but criticize, but in my experience it’s a waste of time. They would be far better off doing their own thing, on their own terms.
Image: Troll At The Door By John Bauer 1914
About Nimue Brownp; Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings.
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