When in the course of human nature, we conflict....
Here's how to resolve it.
WHAT TO DO WHEN SOMEBODY TROLLS YOU
- Establish whether the "troll" is an attempt to get a rise out of you. If not, skip this section.
- Argument and chaos feed trolls. Instead of escalating the issue, ask the alleged troll why they feel how they feel. Use their own example in your question, so that you are speaking directly to them.
- Continue the conversation. The first few responses are likely to be confrontational or inappropriate. Continuing to keep your cool and approach the alleged troll on a intellectual and open format will either turn them off, or will establish a good conversation.
- Responding to an alleged troll with sincerity, serenity, and discussion always takes longer, can be messy, and irritating. But it de-escalates the incident, and may help the alleged troll to be more open to your point of view, creating a possible friend.
WHAT TO DO WHEN SOMEBODY DISAGREES WITH YOU
- Conflict and disagreement are beautiful. It's human nature. As you expect people to be open to your idea, you must be open to other people's ideas.
- Actively listen to all that the other person or people have to say. Allowing people to speak their side of an issue helps to keep things calm and collected.
- Ask follow-up questions, nod, and actively show that you are engaged and listening to what they have to say, even if you don't like it.
- Once the other party has finished what they have to say, you have asked any clarifying questions, then start your response by first conceding. Concession is useful, because it shows that you are willing to compromise and work together. It's a show of respect. Concession usually sounds like "I agree that ____, however, you may consider that ______".
- It helps to personally speak to the party. Feel free to ask what to call them. Ask what to call them, not their name. Many people do not like to give their name - but usually will have a name or title that they would prefer to be known by. When speaking to them, use that name, but do not be condescending.
- Continue to work together, making concessions and remaining open to opposing views, as sincere effort can result in consensus - which is beautiful.
- If the other party is not willing to offer any ground to move forward, then it may be best to peacefully disengage the conversation by first acknowledging that they have a good point, and that you may personally discuss it another time. Offer to them the soonest time you are free and hold yourself to that time. By offering a specific time and place to continue discussion, you are showing that you care about what they have to say.
- If the other party refuses to see you another time and tries to continue arguing, them let them know that your offer still stands, but you do not feel like arguing further at this point.
WHAT TO DO WHEN SOMEBODY INTERRUPTS YOU
- If you are interrupted, raise your palm and say "Would you please let me finish?" firmly and loudly.
- Repeat the above until the party in question stops interrupting you.
- DO NOT STAND UP, ADVANCE UPON, OR POSE AGAINST anyone interrupting you. This may escalate the conflict.
- If the other party does not allow you to finish, then it may be best to wait until they are done. It hurts to be interrupted, but if in public, the public should definitely be aware that the other party is being rude after you've called attention in step 1+2 that you were interrupted.
- After you are allowed to finish, do not comment on how rude somebody treated you by interrupting you. It's unnecessary. Everybody knows interrupting is rude - it's obvious enough, and calling somebody names or calling them out may escalate the issue further. It is best to resume speaking to the best of your ability and do not glorify the interrupter.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU DISAGREE WITH SOMEBODY
- Wait your turn to speak, no matter how important. Restraint helps you.
- When it is your turn, preface your disagreement with "I think", "In my opinion", or "Personally," because the worst thing you could do is command the audience to think that anyone is right or wrong. Speak as an equal.
- Do your best to reply directly to another party's statements - hitting on direct points helps keep things clear and neutral.
- Do not attack another person's beliefs - we all have a right to free speech, thought, and religion, so long as it does not infringe upon anyone else's rights.
- Do your best to control your emotions, do not dominate, command, offend, or belittle - these things can quickly escalate a disagreement, especially if the party in question identifies as being a minority.
WHAT TO DO WHEN SOMEBODY DISRUPTS A MEETING VERBALLY
- First, realise that outbursts are usually reactionary - it's very human.
- Interrupting an outburst can very quickly escalate to violence. It is much better to allow the party to finish their outburst than it is to cut them off, no matter how long or how brutal it is.
- Actively listen to the outburst - ask for what to call them by, ask clarifying questions, and openly acknowledge that they have a good point.
- If in a meeting, tell whoever disrupted that you would like to discuss that, but out of fairness to the group, the group should decide whether they would like to spend a few minutes (do not put a limit on the time to discuss disruptions, as it may feel cruel) to discuss the disruptor's concern. Do call it a concern, as this uses fair and neutral language to describe it. If anyone was interrupted by the disruptor, you should acknowledge that a concern was brought to the floor, but that we can ask the group if they would like to discuss it once the person finishes what they were saying. Then, ask the original speaker if they would like to continue what they were saying or first address what was brought up by the disruptor.
- Any interrupting, belittling, or silencing can escalate the issue or cause walk-outs. It is hard to be calm, but one must do so and acknowledge that disruption, anger, outbursts, and emotion are all beautiful human nature - anger is almost always in reaction to something - and for somebody to feel so impassioned as to disrupt must mean that there was something important enough to inspire them to do so. It is important to find out why, and to work together to find a solution.
- Clear space from the disruptor. Often, people will move closer to the disruptor to attempt to calm them down or engage them - but approaching somebody who is feeling hurt or in distress can quickly escalate to violence. Never ask an angry person to calm down, and never interrupt somebody that's shouting.
- If a person continually disrupts meetings, it may be best to attempt to mediate the concerns outside of meetings. Approach them peacefully after they start to leave and ask them if they would be interested in discussing their concerns either privately or with other people to calmly and fairly discuss the concerns so that you can work together and find some solutions.
- You cannot force a person to cooperate. And some people cannot communicate "peacefully". You can only hope to encourage open, fair, and equal communication, along with chances to discuss and mediate conflict outside of meetings when it's not advisable to do so immediately.
WHAT TO DO WHEN SOMEBODY DISRUPTS A MEETING PHYSICALLY
- There's no doubt about it. Physical disruption is awkward to deal with. It's also scary. If somebody feels so impassioned that they are willing to go to fisticuffs, then you must acknowledge that there was a reason - it's important to deal with it, realising that that reason is perfectly valid.
- If you feel that violence is imminent, you must act quickly to clear the area of bystanders. Temporarily adjourn the meeting. Clear the area from the media to prevent any possible media smearing. Ask everyone to take 10 minutes to cool down.
- Allow the person to speak their mind - doing so may de-escalate.
- Under no circumstances should anybody cut off or approach somebody who is ready to strike.
- Inform the person that some people feel unsafe right now, and you would like to help address their concerns in private or in public, whatever they desire. If they would like to speak in private, use the buddy system for safety.
- If you feel that the person may be armed, it may be best to call the authorities, as hard as it may be to turn in or report fellow Occupiers, it is not worth the injury or death of people to self-police.
- If people are personally threatened by repeat offenders, it may be advisable for those individuals to obtain a restraining order against those individuals. Although it is regrettable that anyone should be compelled to violence frequently, it is best for the safety of anybody that feels unsafe to have a safe space without having to attempt to ban or excommunicate people as a group. This should be a last resort - restraining orders use a legal system stacked against us, but they are the only legal and enforceable method to keep violence at a distance.
A TREATISE ON WHY FORMS OF CENSORSHIP/EXCOMMUNICATION ARE INEFFECTIVE
When faced with frequent disruption, violence, or forms of abuse, it may feel natural that one would seek to restrict speech, voting, or attendance as a disciplinary action.
The first issue with this is that it is inherently undemocratic. In a democracy, everybody gets a say. If they don't, then it's not fair. No matter how seemingly horrible a person, it takes 100% of the people to make this country work. We cannot pick and choose who gets to participate in this country and who doesn't. Silencing, in any of its forms, is abhorrent to human rights. We all have the right to free speech, freedom of assembly, the right to vote, to a fair trial by jury of peers, the freedom of thought and religion, of the press, to peaceably assemble, to democracy, to move freely, to our Miranda rights, and that one may not be detained without charge, due and speedy process. We have these rights only to the extent that they do not infringe upon another's rights, and to that end only may we be held accountable for those violations. We are all to be treated fairly and equally, without bias to one's ethnicity, capital, status, disability, education, sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as all other means of identity, whether voluntary or not. Let they among us without sin be the first to condemn. With liberty and justice for all. Freedom is a right, not a privilege. It is not for us to abridge the rights of The People.
The second issue is that it is not the place of a movement such as Occupy to officially legislate or become in any portion judicial. People study for years and years to practice law, to practice law enforcement, and to judge that law. We see very clearly that despite many years of education and practice, the judicial system is still stacked against us, and is often misused or abused. Clearly, much of the judicial system isn't done very well. As Occupiers, we are probably the LEAST qualified to practice law. It's not a matter of credentials, it's a matter of practice. We do not practice law, if anything, we're inclined to use the law as general guidelines, especially when referring to civil disobedience, direct actions, and resistance. It would appear that this movement has no time or place to practice law AND change the world. We can only find ways to work together better, we cannot create or enforce law beyond those rights which are extended to us as citizens. Leave that to the justice system. If you don't like the justice system, then reform it first, then use it.
The third issue is that as impassioned Occupiers, our judgement is often compromised by thought, emotion, and ideals. We have the right to fair trial by jury and an impartial judge - this cannot be achieved within a revolutionary movement. It is impossible to be a protester and a judge, even if one hopes to alternate. It is impossible to have a jury of peers when all peers are stacked against or for you. In this way, having any sort of trial, hearing, or judgement becomes impossible.
Fourth, this is a movement of dissent. To penalise, reprimand, or attempt to quell dissent within Occupy is illogical. Why is it fair for Occupy to oppress its own when it's not okay for the government to suppress Occupy? As a movement of dissent, all dissent must be welcome. What seems as dissent may instead just be a differing point of view. Differing points of view can definitely strengthen cause, conviction, and the movement on the whole.
Fifth, desire to abridge others rights and privileges may be a reflection of our unwillingness to accept different points of view. It is more worth it to work together to find consensus, which strengthens everyone, rather than weaken the movement by alienating people. Even what seems as violent language may actually be a brutal but sincere way of trying to help. If it is worth saying, its worth listening to. If it's worth saying, it may be worth acting on. Point of view is a miracle worker. The ability to listen to, work with, and accept varying points of view is an amazing skill that should be improved upon daily. The ability to build off of varying points of view exponentially grows the movement and its resolve, as well as set a standard of cooperation and progress.
Lastly, it must be considered that some people cannot effectively communicate in the standards we hold as what's nice and what's rude. Whether is is mindset, upbringing, tradition, mental illness, or otherwise, some people cannot communicate without being somewhat confrontational or argumentative. It is not the place for Occupy to attempt to judge and restrict others, especially when behaviour is beyond the control of the persons in question. Additionally, Occupy should not be in the business of behaviour modification. It is not in the business of Occupy to assimilate, force compliance, or attempt to gentrify behaviours. External factors as well as internal factors are not up for critique, judgement, or punishment - they are beyond the scope of Occupy to attempt to facilitate. Instead, we must actively seek ways to cooperate to find consensus, equality, and fairness, even if it means accepting viewpoints one may not typically agree with. This movement is meant to be broad - it is meant to be the will of The People. Since when are The People single-minded?
HOW TO CONDUCT A COUNCIL MEETING
Council meetings may be called to:
- Facilitate discussion of concerns or issues
- Convene spokes of affinity groups
- Facilitate open forum
- De-escalate conflict, with unanimous consent to do so
Council meetings are a very old tradition, in which all people are seated or positioned in a circle, with nobody holding positions of power or authority, where everything is egalitarian. It is best when there are no time limits, and when everyone is willing. Council groups should not be able to hold power in and of themselves other than to the extent of the group itself - in other words, a council may direct itself, but must still focus and prepare proposals to the General Assembly on matters which effect the whole as per the points of process. It is advisable to use something such as a "speaking totem" that can be passed around the circle so that there is only one speaker at a time, and this also encourages ownership of ones words, and consideration of them. The use of a physical totem also encourages focus - it allows people to focus on holding the totem, allows people to channel themselves through holding something rather than to open air. This method is frequently used in learning environments for persons with attention disorders, with significant improvement in focus.
- Because of the egalitarian nature of the council, it is advisable that everyone gather in a circle.
- Always begin with brief introductions as an icebreaker - when new people join the council, allow them to introduce themselves before moving on to the next speaker.
- Advise the council that it is best to keep all statements brief, but that no matter what, only the person holding the totem gets to speak at the same time. If another person wants to speak, they can raise their hand at the end and they can get the totem to speak. Don't interrupt, out of respect for the council and whoever has the totem.
- Encourage everyone to speak from the heart.
- If using the council as conflict resolution, inform the council that it would be kind to give priority to those in conflict. Advise everyone that the best way to speak to each other is by using constructive language, even if its criticism.
- If things start to escalate, call for a 10 minute cool down, or a moment of silence in respect to the council.
- Everyone should get a chance to speak. Passing the totem around a circle can help the silent speak when they are handed the totem.
- The council is not a forum for judgement. It is a place for safety.
WHY THE SEVEN POINTS OF PROCESS ARE PARAMOUNT
- All decisions that affect the collective are made by the general assembly. No decisions that affect or represent the whole are made by working groups. Working groups focus proposals to bring to general assembly, and they coordinate the work.
- Yelling really loud does not put you on stack. Come to the front and get on stack if you have a proposal or an announcement. Never repeat what someone else has already said.
- Assembly time is precious. Think three times before you speak. Does this really help the assembly make a better decision?
- Nothing is more precious than the thoughts of the quiet. Nothing is more precious than the words of the silenced. Speak up! Especially when it's really hard!
- Facilitators make space and move the process. Facilitators never present content or represent someone else's thoughts. The assembly is responsible for keeping the facilitators in line.
- Use the People's Microphone. It makes us choose our words, and makes us listen.
- The assembly is responsible for signing to the facilitators. If the assembly doesn't sign, the facilitator doesn't have anything to facilitate!
- No one else can speak for you. That's why we need you here!
These points are beautiful. These should be the foundation upon which the General Assembly is built. As the foundation, they should be read aloud, along with the hand signals, as an introduction to all general assemblies - this may be done just before the GA actually starts, to keep things rolling on time. Because these points of process form the backbone to the entire assembly, it is imperative that we understand these point for point. All "point of process" signs should be to cite why the above process is not being followed. Facilitators, specifically, are absolutely bound to the 7 PoP.
Facilitators should be randomly selected, and like young baby diapers, should be changed often. And for the same reason. Facilitation is a not a position of power, it is a communal duty - having the same facilitators over and over can create the actuality or appearance of power or exclusion. The silenced make for the best facilitators. Ask for volunteers. If you don't get volunteers, use the number guessing game, or tape papers with the team positions on them under chairs, or other neutral and random ways to get facilitators. Having the same facilitators builds tensions, even if there's a very small pool of actual volunteers doing everything.
Frequently, the facilitators will take it upon themselves to interpret the will of the general assembly, to present content or summarise what others say. This is not acceptable. Like Lady Justice, facilitators should be blind, with the sole exception of signals. When the GA signs, this should be the only time when facilitators see and act. When the assembly signs, it is time for the facilitator to remark on the signals or compel a "temperature check" to ask the GA what it wants to do. If the assembly does not sign with it's facilitators, then the facilitators must sit on their hands. If the assembly goes awry, that's not the facilitators fault, it's the assembly's fault. If they don't sign, then there's nothing the facilitators can do. It's as simple as that.
Additionally, it is best if the facilitation team, to include the media team (livestream, ustream, etc.) do not present content or use personal opinions. While it is demanded by the 7 PoP that facilitators do not present content (to be neutral), during a GA it is not appropriate for the media to speak, as this dominates the audio for all of those on the other end of the camera. One person should also not be the face of a General Assembly. During actions, it is recommended for the media to narrate the situation, but in a GA, it is time to be silent and ensure that the audience is able to clearly hear the GA. Speaking out loud dominates the camera. It's life.
Following the 7 PoP also decreases the likelihood of conflict. When only decisions that effect the whole, or the collective are made by the general assembly, all proposals are kept streamlined. Events, working groups, working group decisions, etc. are not appropriate as proposals for the General Assembly, because all events are participatory, and because conduct cannot be predicted by approval of events, it may turn out that a event endorsed by the GA can damage the GA. By using working groups to create, promote, and carry out events rather than the GA, the actions during the event are the responsibility of the working group. Cutting down on the number of proposals during general assembly also increases personal responsibility, accountability, and decreases the number of chances for disagreement, internal dissent, and conflict.
Following the 7 PoP also decreases the amount of time that it takes to do a General Assembly, by cutting down on the number of disruptions, proposals, and streamlining discussion, more time is available for open session, which there should be ample time for at every general assembly. Open session is the best time for community building, especially when not working on limited, short time.
It may be worth noting at the beginning of general assemblies that proposals are not tools for personal or group validation - proposals at general assemblies should be treated with great care, and should ideally be worded so that in five years, it's still relevant. Using those words as a guide, one may see how proposing an event may seem irrelevant and unnecessary as soon as the event is over. One should ask themselves how long a proposal is good for. If it doesn't stay in effect forever, or have potential use for forever, then it may not be appropriate for the general assembly. It may be best for events to be working group reports - this way, everyone that wants to participate in the event will know what working group to go to.
WHY PROPOSALS SHOULD NEVER, EVER BE DISCUSSED DURING GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Working groups prepare and focus proposals which effect the collective, or the whole, for general assembly approval. This should be a fairly infrequent occurrence, but when a proposal is made, there should be no discussion during open session.
If we plan to develop universal procedures so that everyone can feel welcome, then we must consider that in a large general assembly, opening discussion for every proposal is very impractical. It takes a lot of time, people are prone to argue, and proposals should be developed in the working group, or perhaps open session, not during the general assembly.
- Announce the working group that drafted the proposal, why the proposal was made, and then read the proposal.
- Ask if there are any clarifying questions, points of information, or if anyone will block the proposal, keeping in mind that a block is typically defined as a very serious vote, where the blocker is prepared to walk away from the movement if the proposal is passed, being able to clearly cite why it is against the foundations and principals of why we are gathered here, and must also be able to offer a solution to which consensus may be achieved, if possible.
- After the above, take a vote. If the vote does not pass, then announce that the proposal can be discussed during open session, and offer potential times and places where people may come to work on the proposal.
It is understandable that following the above process, it may be harder to get proposals passed, because you cannot work them out on the floor. But it is imperative that they are not. If the whole state of Washington were to convene for a general assembly, and had a hundred proposals to vote on, there would simply not be enough time to discuss and perfect each one of them - they should come perfect already. If not, then you work on it - and actively encourage anyone who voted against the proposal to give feedback on the proposal outside of GA or during open session. It is the responsibility of the working groups to create proposals which are done well enough that consensus can be reached on the first try - if not, as soon as possible. Consensus is a messy, slow process by which the voice of The People can be made a beautiful song.
Using this process also decreases the number of on-the-spot proposals. It encourages proposals to be made by working groups, not individuals. This is more democratic, and more thoughtful. Poorly made and reactionary proposals will be decreased - because it will take more time and effort, and particularly sincerity to achieve the consensus of the General Assembly.
WHY THE BLOCK SHOULD NOT BE LEGISLATED BEYOND SIMPLE DEFINITION
For many occupations, the "block" has become a contentious issue. In some places, the block is absolute - one block can completely stop a proposal from passing. In other places, the block can be overturned.
First of all, if a block can be overturned, then it's not a block, is it?
A block does not have to be disruptive. The best way to fix the concerns about the block are to define what a block is, and then just hold on to that definition. If you do that well, you won't need to come up with ways to overturn blocks, or to make blocks so absolute.
- A block is a very serious vote. A valid block can prevent a proposal from being passed.
- A block is only valid if it cites why the proposal is a violation of the foundational principles of the Occupy movement and why we're here.
- A block is only valid if the blocker is fully prepared to leave the movement if the proposal were to be passed, including giving up all administrative privileges on pages, sites, and accounts on the Internet or physical domain.
- A block is only valid if the blocker is willing to stand in front of the general assembly, announce the above, and offer a means to find consensus on the proposal or issue via a friendly amendment.
- A block is only valid if, in the event that the blocker is not willing to make a friendly amendment immediately, is willing to do so by immediately setting a time and place to do so with the working group that drafted the proposal. Failure to show up, or failure to offer the friendly amendment invalidates the block.
- In the event that a block is invalid, or made invalid, then it is not a block, and merely a "no" vote.
- Careful consideration must be made to accommodate blocks from those who may be minorities, silenced, or those with disabilities - while everyone must meet the requirements to make a block valid, every attempt must be made to ensure that everyone has a equal chance to defend their block - especially those who have trouble with public speaking. All the same, if the blockers are unwilling to offer a means to consensus either immediately or through later discussion with the working group, then the block must be invalid.
- In the event that a blocker fails to offer a means to consensus as described above, the blocker may not block the same proposal again, so long as the language is the same. This only applies if the block was invalidated the first time.
Using this process, you don't have to fret about abusive blockers. A block has to be constructive, it cannot be destructive. By forcing the blocker to offer a means to consensus, you will always have a solution to advance the proposal. If not, then the proposal can be passed as-is. It takes a lot of time and effort to block - but that's fair. It takes a lot of time and effort to make a proposal. Even on a national level, this method means that proposals can only get better and better. You won't have stalemates.
The best part about the process is that the definition is the only legislation - it takes out the possibility that one may be trying to silence another, or that people are unequal. One cannot be accused of fearmongering or being a dictator when there are no decisions to be made. A definition is a definition. You must only enforce the definition.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR INTERNET ADMINISTRATORS GO BAT-SHIT CRAZY
This happens more than we like.
The first step is to prevent administrators from getting emotionally attached to their work.
A general rule of the thumb is that administrators must follow the 7 points of process, and thus should be impartial.
Administrators should never create media, and never write biased. They should make it so that people can submit their own content in a professional way without creating media themselves. If they create media, then it should be neutral, fair, and based on hard, cited facts. Administrators should exist merely to keep the internet presence running - not to create media, just keep the whole thing from blowing up. Every occupation should set its own contingency plans for the event where an administrator abuses their power. The best options are to use fail-safe options, where perhaps a neutral and uninterested third-party holds the highest privileges, and so that other admins cannot delete them. A good idea is to use local non-profits or businesses to do this part for you, so that you know that there is fallback. It also helps to set strict guidelines to prevent much of a hierarchy to be formed. In forums, the moderators should do the work, not the admins. The less power and responsibility admins have, the better.
Should anyone ever end up defaming the occupation in some way, the contingency measures should include a formal press release to disavow the work of the internet team, taking care not to name names, but name positions instead. It also helps to use a disclaimer on the accounts that the views of the working groups do not necessarily represent the general assembly or the movement as a whole.
The best tool for any occupation is emphasis on personal responsibility and accountability - this promotes professionalism.
THE LAST, AND MOST VITAL POINT
When shit happens...
When all else fails...
When all Hell breaks loose...
RUN, RUN AWAY!!