RE: Consequences of behavior: Arguments and Arguing
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Tue, 31 Aug 1999 21:30:09 -0600 (MDT)
> Jan Ankney
> wolf1gdsfm [at]
> Ann Arbor, Michigan replied to a post I made that being yelled at
personally made him/her feel like he could understand what was going on. I
agree. In my example however I was pointing out a view that I was NOT the
one being yelled at. I was referencing the reaction of someone who observed
one person yelling at another and calling them names. This reaction, one of
avoidance due to fear of being similiarly treated, is a subtle behavioral
response to the situation that was described in the original post, where two
people were yelling at each other, calling each other names.

Yes, there is lots of variation in peoples tolerance for intensity. It is
very easy and obvious for a facilitator to notice the intensity and the
immediate the direct consequencial behaviors from others around the
intensity. The easy and obvious reactions can be worked with directly and

However, It is very difficult and subtle to notice the avoidance and
non-engagement behavior that often results from the behavior of yelling and
name calling. This was why I brought that point up in the first place. Fear
is a powerful force, and yelling and name calling will cause some people to
react from a place of fear, the most typical reaction is avoidance or
superficial engagement of the individual they fear. I seen this lots and
lots of times in many settings and have done community mediation and healing
work around fear and trust issues.

Sure, in a diverse environment, some people do not react in fear to
intensity. But the hidden reactions of fear of intensity are often very
difficult to bring to the surface and work with, it's like looking for
reasons why certain people avoid someone. Most of the time, they might just
say: I don't like that person. It's the reasons why they don't like them
that need to be understood when such reactions seriously effect the abilty
the group to work together. It may take lots of work to understand that the
base cause is that some people fear and distrust intensity (and intensely
reacting people), and will avoid it at all costs. This avoidance means the
group won't even talk about certain things. Also the people who have intense
reactions may never be engaged in a real issue, people will avoid anything
not safe. So all they get is, gee nice day today huh?

A good example of this was some work I did in a group over pets,
particularly one man and his dogs. He was an individual who reacted with
intensity, and so nobody in the group was willing to bring up the topics of
the problems his dogs were causing because they were afraid he was going to
go off "on one of his yelling sessions"  This man was given notice that he
had to leave the group, and he was clueless as to why, thus he contacted me
to mediate whatever the issue was. It turned out many people in the group
were afraid of this man because of his intensity in the past, some of whom
had never even met him! The telling of his intensity grew into a legend way
beyond the reality. He was absolutely mortified by this, he had no clue of
the impact his behaviors had, and he was incredibly contrite and sorry. The
group healed their relationships with him,(solved their dog problems) and
got a good lesson about many things said and unsaid.

I have seen fear of intensity cripple groups before, which is why I go off
on these long posts on this topic.

Sorry for all the blather, I understand most people don't care much about
group dynamics enough to put all this energy into it. It's just one of my

Rob Sandelin
Northwest Intentional Communties Association
Building a better society, one neighborhood at a time


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