I have had a recent encounter with two different bloggers (one Christian and one Buddhist) that reflect a common obstacle to dialogue. Let’s call it “Circling the Wagons”.
When someone outside a group makes a critical statement about some key word or concept used by that group, a group member may run to inordinate defense of that word. “Inordinate” in that they give a full-blown whole-package defense instead of admitting that controversy on the issue exists even within the group or that they themselves have debated the issue. Not only that, but they then pull together everything in the group and defend it as if it is a whole package. Heck, they may even defend other sects within their larger group which they may normally criticize.
Group members are more comfortable discussing doubt and controversy within their group. So if someone is perceived as outside the group, criticism can be perceived as full-go attacks and the wagons are circled to be sure to keep the enemy totally out.
Imagine the following triggers that may cause the wagons to circle:
- Buddhism –> Merit, Enlightment, Mindfulness
- Christianity –> Faith, Miracles, Religion
- Americans –> Patriotism, Freedom
- Clevelanders –> Lake Erie, Football
To avoid this unproductive block in communication, the outsider can try establish trust with the listener — this takes time and hard to do in the blog world without facial expressions and tone of voice. The Insider, on the other hand, can improve dialogue by recognizing this reflex and allowing more vulnerability, gentleness and openness–not that I am good at that. 😦
Questions for readers:
- Can you give other examples of other key words for certain groups that trigger the “Circling of the Wagons”.
- What are other solutions to this unproductive block in relationship that you have tried?
- Laager: another term for “Circle the Wagons”