Over at the wiki for Reboot, (a great conference planned for June in Copenhagen) they’re inviting participants to say who they’d most like to see at the conference. I’m not suprised to see that Top of the Pops at the moment is Kathy Sierra. Kathy’s blog is one of my must-reads.
I particularly liked her recent post on how angry/negative people can be bad for your brain. There are just so many interesting ideas and factoids in there. The notion that happiness is a “left-brain” function – and that it is directly correlated with logical thinking – is a wonderful factoid that I hope to deploy someday soon.
(I wish I could add a link to a piece of research I heard about but can’t track down. Apparently it shows that the biochemistry of being harshly critical is actually more toxic to the critic than the person being criticised.)
This prompts me to ruminate on dealing with anger in groups. As a facilitator, I am from time-to-time confronted with people who have an angry response. I am training myself to say that rather than angry people, since the distinction can be pretty important. Sometimes, anger is simply the best tool people have with which to express some kind of connection to a group – even though emotionally it feels like a form of rejection. More often than not, I can work to find a way to include them, to value their contribution. Sometimes, the “angry person” has just taken on the task of expressing something others are thinking and not saying.
And having said that, let me also say that this is not easy. In just the manner Kathy describes, I find my own neurophysiology often kicks in hard around angry people, and I have to work to keep a polite or “positive” demeanour when it feels like I am under some kind of threat. Occasionally, I will confront someone who is going over-the-top… and that sometimes turns out to be the deeper thought the group is thinking and not expressing: if you can’t find a less alarming way to express your differences, then please leave.
I’ve only had one walkout in the last 2 years. I hated the experience… but it turned out to be a huge relief to everyone else in the room and provoked some really powerful conversations about what it was really like to work in the organisation.