I recently left a sick situation. It was a group of people who had a task to complete, but the focus of the task shifted from “how can we build our group” to “how can we keep people like this one we know from being jerks in our group” to “how can we keep that jerk out of our group”. I gave my input about this several times and finally had to set the boundary that if all group members are not invited and if the group can’t maintain its focus on its primary purpose, I would have to stop participating.

I stopped participating.

The members continue to email me about their progress, but it’s more of the same. Mostly I don’t respond. One member has been trying to get me to re-join the group, with lots of explanations about why I need to be there and what the group dynamics are and how my influence helps, etc.

It still boils down to those boundaries, though. That situation is about personalities instead of principles, and that’s a bad foundation for building something. I can’t get on board with that.

I’m done explaining. One thing I learned from working the program is that I am responsible for what I say. I am not responsible for what someone else understands. If I am as clear – simple and brief – about my boundaries as I can be, and they still don’t understand, they may never understand. It serves neither of us for me to keep explaining. My rule of thumb: I usually give it one first try and two clarifications before I give up.

The above graphic appeared on my Facebook one day. I laughed and told my spouse, expecting to share the laugh. My spouse did not think it funny, instead considering this as an excuse to shut someone down, or shut them out, refusing to discuss a situation at all. I explained that the graphic isn’t about how to have a conversation. It’s about sick situations where someone is (or some people are) trying to gain control.

  • One tries to control by explaining in an effort to turn the other person around.
  • One tries to control by claiming not to understand in an effort to wear the other out. 

Guess which one I generally was? If that person would only understand, they’d know how right I am and they would do the obvious right thing, which is what I want them to.

I had to learn to simplify my thinking and my language. I need to admit I might be wrong. If I can’t express my idea simply in few sentences, I really, really need to examine my thinking and my motives. Over-explaining is for me usually means I am making justifications. I’m trying to build a case for what I want. And here we are at control again.