Curbing the mob mentality

Small town meetings can be a tough place to be. Often issues are of great concern to those in the room and since whatever the topic it has a greater impact on each resident of a small town tempers flare. Even when they do not flare so visibly there is all too often a kill the messenger mentality. We take leave of our senses, manners and all that we know about being professional and accomplished only to berate someone who has come to address the town. Frequently we do this in the name of speaking truth to power. In the long view it looks far more like lining up with a shotgun and taking aim at one's own foot - I can tell you it will hurt but can't stop you from pulling the trigger.

So what do we do to prevent this? One of the biggest things would be to come with a written list of questions one intends to ask. If others ask the questions then cross them off the list. If new ideas come out of the conversation then write them down and ask them.

It is easy to forget human nature in these situations. At a recent meeting I attended one member of the audience asked questions, basic questions, about the item being discussed. Had she done the homework and read the materials offered these questions would have been answered (and she may have). Several other people in the meeting openly criticized the presenters and their colleagues. These criticisms were spot on. However one can imagine the different reaction each of these parties would get at the organization's office the next day. The person asking questions, having made the presenters feel even more expert, will often get great treatment. Those offering criticism will get the minimum cooperation possible in many cases.