This week we’ve made major strides towards adopting a charter. It’s interesting to note (as Claire does in her post) that charters are often somewhat pessimistic, anticipating the problems of working in a group and setting out certain rules for managing these “inevitable” conflicts. We’ve decided to try for a slightly more positive document, one that focuses on our goals and group ethos.
While it might sound a bit cliché to say that we’ve decided to “stay positive”, there is something to the idea that writing conflict management procedures into the charter might somehow cause us to identify ourselves as a group destined for conflict. Oscar Wilde, in his essay ‘On the Decay of the Art of Lying’, tells a story about a young woman, who is so influenced by a fictional character (one that appears in a French serial) that, when the character starts to make destructive decisions, running away with an “inferior” man, the woman feels compelled to follow. Wilde points out that the young woman’s identity is so tightly bound up in the fate of the character that she cannot extricate herself from making the same bad choices. At least where identity is concerned, we are all susceptible this kind of self-fulfilling influence. This is all just to say that, if we begin to label ourselves as a group in need of conflict management strategies, we might force ourselves to become a group that actually needs them.
Our attitude, at least this far, has been to think instead about certain good practices (Eupraxia?) that capture the spirit of the program, the people that brought us together, and all the good stuff that DH has to offer. The list reads something like this: Be nice. Be professional (but not too professional). Be respectful. Listen. Reach for consensus. Enjoy the process. Fail in public. Reflect. Retool. Have potlucks.