Discomfort at holiday parties – A few wobblies tips to help you deal with the situation

By Anarkitty

The holiday party season is fast approaching. It's well known, it is for most leftists a period dotted with very pleasant moments, but also many situations that will make us cringe and to which it is not always easy to know how to react. Should we systematically denounce each problematic word or gesture and risk alienating everyone? ? Should we let it pass and then become a bad ally? ? Is it relevant to debate with our conspiratorial cousin who will not change his mind anyway ? These are all questions that many of us, including me, have arisen more than once.

interesting thing, the wobblie in me has recently realized that there are great similarities between many of these situations and those one encounters day to day in an IWW labor organizing campaign. Indeed, during a wobblie campaign, the challenge of both bringing everyone together AND getting them to support the idea of ​​building a union is daunting ! It forces us to constantly educate our colleagues and intervene in their problematic behaviors, all this without antagonizing them. It's not simple, and for this task, we have acquired over the decades a great experience on the practices to adopt and those to avoid. I share with you some of them, I hope so, may be useful to you !

  1. Ask questions and listen to the answers

Human beings generally have the defect of being very easily wrinkled. Tell them that you don't agree with them and they will feel confronted., will want to defend their ideas and will almost always fall into “jousting” mode. Their purpose will no longer be to discuss and/or learn, but only to win. This will usually lead to a dead end, see (and studies show it) strengthening their starting positions.

To avoid falling into this abyss, the best thing we've learned to do is simply ask questions, listen to the answers, go further with other questions and lead the other to find the answer by him or herself. A golden rule that is often repeated is that of " 80% / 20% which consists in giving 80% speaking time to the other and to keep only 20% for himself.

This method also has the significant advantage of greatly improving the understanding and retention of information in the other person.. Indeed, since the person we are talking to will have done the reasoning themselves leading to the conclusion we wanted, she will necessarily have understood it for real and will not have just nodded her head pretending to have grasped.

Be careful though, it is essential to be in good faith with this approach. We are not Socrates. The goal is not to ask questions with a mocking tone to ensnare the other and/or to ridicule him or her; it's more about having a real conversation and, mostly, to avoid leaving in an unsolicited lyrical flight which will generally prove to be counterproductive.

  1. One-to-one conversations

Have you ever noticed that it is much easier to change a person's mind by debating with them when there are no other people in the conversation? ? If yes, this is a good observation and it is again due to this ugly fragility of the ego. It is therefore better to address a problematic situation or discuss a political issue alone with the person concerned rather than confronting it in front of everyone.. Furthermore, this avoids obtaining the disastrous title of “social justice warrior” (or the very fashionable "woke") who, usually, ends up being counterproductive because no one listens to us anymore and considers what we say. Finally, it's very risky, MUCH less to deteriorate our relations with the person himself or the other people present who would have witnessed the scene.

  1. Aggression and social pressure

Because no rule is absolute, there are obviously situations in which intervening by setting the problematic person aside is not the right thing to do. Among those, any situation where a person insults, intimidates, attacks etc.. another obviously requires immediate intervention to put an end to it. Those where a person says or does something that hardly anyone will defend can also be an exception., since by directly addressing the problem, there is a good chance that others will support us and that social pressure will have an immediate and long-term effect on the problematic person. Furthermore, since everyone will have witnessed it, it usually helps to “raise the bar” for future situations by demonstrating that this sort of thing will no longer be tolerated. Finally, it also makes it possible to show people who would have said nothing that when we dare to get up to speak all together, our collective power is greater than our individual power.

  1. The alcohol

It would be difficult to write a text about the discomforts of holiday parties without mentioning alcohol.. I will not dwell on this subject since it is rather obvious : If you believe that tense situations can occur, it is better to plan ahead and always keep in mind that moderation tastes better.

Of course, we can't control other people's alcohol and drug use., but can make an effort on ours.

  1. The power of vulnerability

*This one is not from the IWW, but of a person who is dear to me, I've seen it used often and its power hits me every time. Yes had to slip a word.

Our society always asks us to be “strong”. It teaches us that showing our vulnerability is to be avoided. Or, this is completely wrong. If someone says something to us that hurts us to the point where we have to hold back tears, the best thing to do can sometimes be to embrace our emotion and the discomfort it will generate and start crying. Contrary to anger, this response will tend to elicit empathy from others, to make the person who hurt us very uncomfortable and to generate a lot of introspection in them, especially if it is an empathetic person who has only been awkward. She will usually open up to us, will listen to us, apologize and grow from it. Our relationship with her is also much less likely to come out of it deteriorated..

Be careful though, it should not be an emotional manipulation technique ! The idea is not to pretend to cry to make another person feel uncomfortable, but good to dare to do it if it happens naturally. Also, if the person who harmed us is not in good faith, it is likely that the power of vulnerability does not work. I do not consider that it is absolutely necessary to hide our emotions in front of this kind of people.. It's up to you to make the decision that seems best to you..

  1. Choose your fights

Some people are reasonable, others not. In absolute, it is very likely that everyone can change their mind, but in reality, it depends a lot on the relationship we already have with them and their intentions. for example, the classic case of the person who starts a conversation with us for the specific purpose of “triggering” us and then laughing at us is one where hoping for a constructive discussion is frankly naive. religious fanatics, the conspiracy theorists and political activists who approach us to try to convince us are usually not in good faith either. Generally (but that's just a personal opinion), I would say that any conversation with a person who refuses to answer our questions is a waste of time. I take this opportunity to mention at this precise moment that this whole article aims globally so that we ourselves are not those people who are counterproductive and extremely unpleasant 😉

And There you go ! I hope these few tips, methods and guidelines can be useful to you to manage the uncomfortable situations that will occur in your holiday parties this year, but also in all the other uncomfortable situations that you will encounter in the future.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, consider joining the IWW if you haven't already and/or register for our next organizer training 101. You'll find out it's not just a union, but also of a very beautiful militant school and human relations.

Have a good holiday season and rest well 🙂 !

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