Monday, April 15, 2013

Can We Just Be Friends?

Oh, those dreaded words--especially when directed at you by someone you're interested in. In other scenarios, this is the best thing that could happen.

A blogger friend who has a critique group is in the midst of a war of words with a former prospective member that was asked to leave the group. I won't get in the middle of the conflict, but will offer general words of 'Do This, Don't Do That' guidelines for critique or any other groups.

1. Not everyone's going to like you--and you're not going to like everyone. As long as you're polite, brush off any comments or critiques that don't sit well. You're not all going to be best buds (or even buds), so don't make a big deal of it. This is not elementary school where you cry, wondering why someone doesn't like you. New member or group lifer, personalities will clash.

2. For the newcomer: you're coming into an established group. The other members know each other and it may be a little hard trying to fit in, but you've been invited into the circle so your foot is in the door. Coming off like a know-it-all is not going to endear you. Remember, you're the person changing the status quo. Be polite, listen, and learn the group dynamics before you stir things up.

3. For the group, the new person is like a kitten, trying to mark a bit of territory for him/herself. Everyone needs stake a bit of 'space' in the group. You invited this new person in, so give him/her a chance to step into the waters. They may be in defense mode because you're all strangers, and he/she is unfamiliar with hierarchy, procedures, etc. in the group. Chill, lean back, and let them get their feet wet as you all familiarize yourself with the new dynamics.

4. Politeness matters--for everyone. What will you accomplish by insulting the group? You will get asked to leave. What benefits are there to disparaging a newbie? There's going to be a blog post ranting about your cold welcome. Professionalism counts! If you must vent, do so at home, with a non-writing pal, family members, or your partner--in private.

5. If the worst happens and the invite needs to be rescinded, when the newbie (or even an established member because circumstances change) walks out the door, end of discussion. For those getting 'uninvited,' swallow your anger and hurt. After all, if the group isn't a comfortable fit, do you really want to stay and be miserable? Of course not, so just move on. There is a group that works for you out there, keep looking. Neither side should run to Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or websites heaving their guts about what went down. It doesn't look good or bode well for the person spewing the vitriol.

What makes me sound like a know-it-all (and I don't, I'm just a 'know-some-of-it')? I've had a critique group for a number of years and people have come and gone. Some I was sad to see leave, but they had their reasons. Others, I couldn't wait to shut the door behind them (and lock it so they couldn't get back in). That's the human condition--agendas, personalities, expectations, needs, perspectives, and experiences lead to conflict (as if the world situation/history weren't proof of that!).

Group not working out? Say thank you for the invite, but you need to go elsewhere for what you need/want. Individual not working out? Apologize for the situation that leads you to ask them to find another group that is better suited for them. Then, everybody HUSH! See, easy!

The publishing world is tough enough without us turning on each other like cannibalistic piranhas.

Be good to each other!


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