Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Tavistock - Finally

I finally remembered what the note "Tavistock" meant.

Group dynamics are endlessly fascinating. The care and feeding of any group that you have some influence in is important. If you have a Tavistock observer at your group (which is inflicted on professionals to help them see principles in action) you are continually unnerved by the observer saying things like "David attempts to rescue the leader," or "Julie harmonizes the two main antagonists," or "James distracts the group with humor."

At a potentially contentious meeting last week, I took responsibility for group badness so that the discussion could proceed. As soon as we started, I announced that my primary desire was to punish the other agency we were talking about rather than do what is best for the patient, and wanted to take all that off the table by removing myself until the end. I did this because there were actually many people around the table who wanted to punish the other agency, and I thought that would be a distraction, as most of them would never admit to such a base motive. It wasn't a lie on my part either, as I was probably the most angry at our counterparts in the community.

Once I had put "punishing the other agency" out on the table and taken responsibility for it, no one needed to insert it into the discussion again. Planning proceeded with the patient's interests foremost.

Some people do this naturally, without any training, adopting the role needed to move the group forward. Most of us have a role we generally stick to as congenial to our personalities: harmonizer, blocker, informer, whatever.

Loads o' fun to think about, really.


Old Wacky Hermit said...

I think I'm the Devil's Advocate. I'm in a Yahoo group of crunchy ladies like myself, and they started in on an anti-Wal-Mart rant, and I reflexively started defending Wal-Mart. I think I kind of serve to keep their holier-than-thou-ness in check. I do the same out in regular society-- I seem to go out of my way to put the lie to everyone's stereotypes and implicit assumptions. And yet I desire to be totally normal in every way. It is the fundamental dilemma of my life.

Ben Wyman said...

I'm a devil's advocate myself, to the point where virtually no one can tell me anything without me immediately thinking of the flipside and arguing that side. This is not usually healthy behavior in non-group-debate type sessions, such as a co-worker explaining to me the other day why she divorced her husband in regards to apparent abuse of their children, and my mind immediately jumped to arguments for the other side anyway.

It's a good thing I have some sort of filter.

Speaking of Tavistock, though, you still need to get me a present.