Saturday, November 17, 2012

Leadership of the Loud

A light bulb went off in my head this morning.

For many years I've suspected that some people may behave irrationally, but they don't know it's irrational because it's the way all the people in their immediate families behaved. What our own families do is what we generally accept as the norm for all families. Our families are generally drawn to others of their own beliefs, so this reinforces our belief that all people do whatever our family (and our immediate community) does.

I had written a tragic play that I thought I may have better named Folie a Deux (definition: the same mistaken belief shared by two people) for a contest. As a point of silly pleasure, I thought of how many people in groups get carried away with the group's beliefs; I jokingly labeled this Folie en Masse. Lo and behold, there is an online entry from a psychiatrist defining the term that I thought I had just coined as a joke. He was describing what led the followers of Jim Jones to drink the Kool-Aid.

Several years ago, Time Magazine published an article about what traits lead us to follow people. Disturbingly, this article revealed that we tend to follow those with the biggest voices. Unfortunately, I believe it is true that our animal brains process the biggest "bark" as leadership ability. We instinctively become frozen when we are verbally assaulted. Some flee, some follow, and the aggressive fight. What's to become of those who pull back and think over the situation?

I was reared in a dog-eat-dog family. We learned to speak loud and long. Nobody had ever really heard of bullying, except as a way to weed out the wimps who didn't deserve to live in the animal kingdom of survival of the fittest (meaning the biggest and baddest in our families). One never knew when the posturing and snarling was going to lead to deadly engagement.

My mate speaks in a voice so low one has to have an ear up against his mouth to hear him. (It is helpful in conversations to be able to read lips.) He actually has a lot of value stuff to say, if you only take the time to hear him. Early in our relationship, he said to me, "Just because you speak louder than I do doesn't make you right." Since then, I have tended to give extra attention and credence to those who always speak in measured tones and cadences.

For several years, we worked to balance our passions, mine very vocal, and his more circumspect. Perhaps you could say that I am the booming bass and he is more the sweet soprano. When he almost died, I decided to take all stress of decision-making from him. I seem to have gone from a Folie en Masse of my family to Folie a Deux with him. Things got scary in our lives without his balancing wisdom.

My booming base, not balanced by his sweet soprano has taken more than one along on my perceived path to peace. My passion usually burns bright, but doesn't last long enough to get us there. I have to take frequent breaks to get my breath again.We have all been so blessed that he continues to pick up where I leave off.

Perhaps it is again time for each of us to take full responsibility for our own actions and decisions; never, however, losing sight of the need to consider the impact of our actions on the other. I may become quieter, and he may actually learn to speak loud and long. It could also happen that our fellow community members in our country will begin to listen to those who speak softly and carry big ideas.

Neither is likely, but they could happen.

1 comment:

  1. What you say here is true. I heard all my life, the squeeking wheel gets the grease.
    When I was in leadership I tried to not let that happened, but i noticed when I lease expected it, I was following the same trend.
    Not that we like it...... because blindly following the practice is a shame.