Saturday, November 29, 2014

Snippets of my Thought Process: Stress and Saying Sorry


Terrible. Irritating. Frustration. No. Those are some of the first words that come to mind when a group project is proposed. If you aren't nodding your head in agreement right now… well, you're a better person than me. We are currently finishing off our semester abroad with a very large, very complex group research project. It would be an understatement to say it was stressful.
I often find myself filling the leader role in group settings. I will speak up about the small things, I will do the work nobody else wants to do, I will organize group efforts to make better use of our time. I thought these were entirely positive contributions until a good friend of mine in the group called me out on being too controlling, causing me to reflect on the previous days. Yes, I spoke up, but to a fault; I was being too particular. Yes, I did the busy work, but I did not ask or offer ideas. Instead, I took opportunities away from other people without giving them an option. And yes, I organized for our group, but I did so with a commanding tone instead of a democratic approach.
So I tried to change. First, I changed the way I worked: I did not jump to the top to be the leader for the group. I learned to pick my battles, and I tried to accept that my personal assessments were not the general consensus. I asked opinions before making suggestions. Secondly, I changed the way I viewed the group. This time around, I analyzed what each member brought to the group, instead of focusing on what was different from my approach. I tailored what I said and how I phrased ideas based on personalities and qualities. Slowly I noticed that things were getting better, thank goodness!
 But then things got worse again. Words flew, insults stung and people were walking away from meetings in a huff. Something needed to change. So I started making efforts to talk to our teachers to address the problem. We needed to talk as a group and figure out what wasn't working. But things moved slowly, our meeting kept getting pushed back, and things kept getting worse. My group was just not working well together. Why couldn't they just figure it out?
Then I finally exploded. I got angry, and irrational, and yelled, and I ran away in a huff. I ended up running away to the garden to breath and calm down, because I wasn't even sure why I was so angry. I can't believe it took me that long to figure it out, really. This whole time I had been trying to fix my group dynamics by changing my group mates. They must be doing something wrong. I had changed. I was fine. But in reality, I wasn't. I was still one of the problems.
I returned to my group, and apologized profusely for my anger. And then finally, instead of talking about making plans to fix our group, we just talked as a group about what had been bothering us.
We still have a lot of work to do, and a lot of hills to conquer as a team. I don't think it will be easy, and I don't think this will be the last conflict our team has, but I'm glad I have at least been reminded that I can be the problem too.

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