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Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor
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Thomas F. FischerNumber 291
1) "Lets Get It Over With Already!" The desire to get things over with quickly can be a strong indicator of fear. Time has a way of bringing things to light. Given enough time, everything gets discovered and revealed.
2) What Do You Have To Hide? Those who accuse others of hiding things are generally the ones who conduct the secret meetings, the undercover caucuses, and the "superficial" appearances of meetings which deal with things anything but superficial.
3) "Cover Up!" A more intense version of "What do you have to hide?" "Cover-Up"'s tend to have a greater sense of illegality and immorality about them. It also seems to imply that premeditated plotting and deceit are the real reasons the initiative has been successful. The solution, of course, is that "we must get to the bottom of thisNOW!"
4) Youre Too Partisan! This accusation, intended by the obstructionists, has at least two purposes. First, its to make you soften your demands and give up your control. Second, its designed as a means for obstructionists to publicly pronounce your bias. The more public the statement, the more the obstructionists hope that they will coerce or pressure you to give up or give in to their demands.
5) We Need Bi-Partisanship. The call for bi-partisanship is nearly always the cry of the underdog. Not having the power, votes, control or persuasion necessary to overcome the opposition, the call for bi-partisanship is a veiled threat "inviting" the winners to compromise, cave-in, and hand the reins of power to the minority.
If the majority fails to do so, or refuses to offer bi-partisanship to the degree demanded by the obstructionists, the "veiled" threat will be unveiled as obstructionists "up the ante" of disagreement.
6) Its Unfair! This strategy, as others, is primarily a minority strategy. Since they know they dont have the votes, the power, the influence that the majority has, they have to seek other means to get their votes. If they cant do it through normal means or if the rules are not in their favor, they must disqualify the vote. The simplest way is the "Its unfair!" strategy.
7) Legalistic Recourse. This strategy requires minute investigation to determine whether something has been done properly, by procedures, according to the constitution, etc. Regardless of the documentation and its clear-cut support of the dominant position, obstructionists will resort to any means necessary to obtain some sort of legalistic rationale for their position. Issues such as "intent," the "real meaning," and "invalid" or "illegal" procedure often are used.
8) Absent "Experts." Obstructionists will also use witnesses, experts, professionals, or other recognized authorities to support their position. Some will be "invisible" and "unnamed."
Others, of the more insistent type, may actually appear on the scene. Once there, such individuals often discover they have been used. Whether they appear or not, their "valued opinions," "what they would have done," etc. are used to obstruct and confuse the dominant position.
When the positions stated by the "Absent Expert" are presented, often they must be investigated to avoid further attacks. Such delays in implementation is a major benefit of this strategy.
9) Positional Flip-Flop. Obstructionist will often cry, "Youre going to fast" or complain about the "lack of openness" of various processes and proceedings. When these concerns are addressed and the process slowed-down and made open, they often protest too much being made known and that much of what is known is irrelevant. Such "flip-flops" are clear indicators that the presented issues are not the real issues. There is another agenda at work.
10) Double-Speak: Saying one thing while doing another is a classic, frustrating strategy. Those using it will, to guard their obstructive use of it, point to the leaders' alleged repeated usage of "misleading information," "lying," etc.
11) Scapegoating. In order to divert energy, attention, and support away from progress, obstructionists must have a scapegoat. Leaders are especially prone to scapegoating since anxiety always works its way up the hierarchy. The higher it goes, the more focused and intense the anxiety can become.
Accusations of others having "hidden" agendas are a type of verbal "tarring and feathering" of those most able to accomplish the given initiative. When such leaders are scapegoated, the desired obstructionist response is that the leader demonstrate a display of cracked character.
Reactivity, defensiveness, targeting enemies and a general overall pre-occupation with the conflict all help to obstruct the given initiative and derail the leaders energy and character.
12) Victimization. Since change always entails anxiety, obstructionists usually do not have any trouble finding anxious individuals who crave attention. Such individuals may not necessarily oppose the initiative. Indeed, they may be totally unaware they are being used as "poster children" by obstructionists. Desperate to show "they care" (and the leadership doesn't), obstructionism can effectively bring others into their "caring" alliance.
Those demanding their "rights" will often use the most public and damaging process possible to draw attention to their temper-tantrums. Once given what they demand, they often take more than what was given and trample on other's rights!
Some examples of this might be when they demand and are given the right of equal access, they will deny free access of others to them. They may demand the right to be heard, but will interrupt, object, protest and even destroy those in the opposition wishing to exercise the same right. once given often they will not exercise the right.
14) Demonization: Nothing draws people toward a common cause like confronting "evil." This is especially true in Christian settings when conflict is at elevated levels. Demonization energizes such high reactivity that rational processes can be more easily subverted and disregarded.
Demonization has added benefits for obstructionists by diverting attention away from the real issue at hand and changing the focus to an individual or group. This drains energy away from appropriate consideration and deliberation of the real issues at hand while also undermining the integrity of those desiring the proposed change..
15) Re-Focus Expected Timetables. "When will this all be over?" Obstructionists know that anxiety can be escalated if they can corrupt expected timetables. People have limited capacities for patience. When time-tables, expected dates of completion, etc are changed, obstructed or forced to be continually re-written, obstructionists gain momentum.
Anxiety rises in those getting increasingly wary and voice their complaints. "When will this all be over?" As energy becomes drained and diverted into other directions, fatigue is soon to follow. This fatigue often drains the energy needed for accomplishment of the proposed agenda.
If obstructionists can drain energies well enough, they can modify the proposed timetable of implementation and thereby obstruct the change. If shortening the process is not in their favor, they will do everything possible to prolong the process so that it lingers beyond any reasonable time frame. Onlookers, beleaguered by the length of time needed, will become disinterested. The proposed process will be stalled, thwarted, and in extremely successful instances, blamed on the leadership.
16) Red-Herring Diversions: Red-Herring diversions are some of the most effective ways to subvert agendas, control timetables, demonize, and otherwise proliferate obstructionist strategies. "Red-Herring Diversions" can be any type of action which diverts attention from the issues. A short listing of such diversions may include focusing on minutiae, subverting the agenda, not showing up, denying responsibility, demonization, uncontrolled meetings, continually permitting loose cannons to lengthen meetings, etc.
17) Focusing on Character: This finger pointing strategy is used by obstructionists to divert attention away from their wrongs by unfairly attacking or raising questions about the character of the opposition. Such items are characteristically framed as "serious" or "gravely serious." Generally the items cannot be proven but are founded entirely on hearsay.
Even those which can be proven "beyond reasonable doubt" will not convince the obstructionists because the the character assassination is merely a tool to obstruct the leader's agenda. They raise doubt of the integrity of the leadership. They leave followers wondering, "Is there something wrong that I don't know about?" "What are the leaders hiding?"
18) Focusing on Procedure: Perhaps the best argument for retaining Robert's Rules of Order is also the best argument for discarding it. In developing legalistic procedural guidelines it becomes a nearly-impossible-to-silence obstructionist strategy. "They didn't do it right!" or "They didn't follow proper procedure" are just some of the types of accusations which the Rules of Order can inspire.
Many pastors and leaders have been "surprised" by procedural items brought up by those who would obstruct progress. When leaders use Robert's Rules of Order to counter these measures, the resulting counter-measures tend to reinforce and escalate further false characterizations proliferated by the obstructionists. "Unfair," "Heavy-handed," "Dictator," "Using the rules for their own advantage" are but a sampling of the wide range of possible attributions.
"What about the problematic now?" The most sure-fire way to obstruct progress is to change the focus from the future long-term good to the present short-term, needing-immediate-gratification present. The present is never as good as the future. The vision is always greater than the realized present.
"Doing such and such will divert us from the things we really need to do." "We must take care of this " or "We havent even done such-and-such yet?" and other such mantras are just some of the obvious-beyond-a-doubt indicators of obstructionistic agenda. Taking care of the "urgent" present nearly always exacts a price. The price paid is the realization of a vision-directed preferred future.
20) Fire The Leader. This is one of the most powerful obstructionist tools. Take the motor out of the automobile and it will stop cold. In Christian Churches all too often this takes the form of removing the pastor. Often these pastoral attacks leveled are unfairly forged, slanderously propagated, libelously proliferated, and unscrupulously presented and repeated.
Given the anxiety generated by the obstructionists and the increasing anxieties of the progressives who are frustrated in their desire to boldly move forward, the anxiety demands a focus of relief. Congregations which have found that removal of prior pastors have given such relief will tend to repeat the pattern. Unfortunately, they will also repeat the experience of having the anxiety relief being short-lived.
21) Insist On Following Tradition. The purpose of this diversion is to subvert present leadership with the decisions and practices of past leadership. The added benefit, of course, is that tradition can also be reinterpreted in a way most favorable to the obstructionist. Arguments regarding "original intent," motivations, results and comparing the past "successes" to present-day problems also helps obstructionist develop their case.
A final added benefit is that tradition diverts attention away from reality to fantasy. "Weren't those the good ole' days" and other such expressions flatly deny the conflict, the disagreement, the difficulties and the necessity for mediated compromises which allowed for the initial approval and implementation of the tradition in the first place.
22) Just Don't Do It. The simplest of all obstructionists strategies, those implement this strategy simply obstruct progress by being lazy, lethargic, and unhelpful. In it's passive form it appears as apathy. In it's active form it may appear as a type of dare. "Let's watch and see if they can pull this off. I bet they can't. I dare them!" When these two forms are combined the result is a classic passive-aggressive strategy. "I don't want it so let's just not support it. Then let's see if they can pull it off without us!"
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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:02:10 PM