Friendly Fire: Silence Without Love

June 10, 2008

Two guys, Joe and Harry, figured out that most of us are ignorant of many aspects of our personality. When I say they “figured this out”, what I mean is they quantified it into an axiom and a graphic way of looking at this problem. Here is a picture of the Johari Window:Johari Window

As you look at the picture, notice that there are two areas of our lives that are functionally invisible to us. There are also two areas which are functionally invisible to others. For others to see the deeper parts of ourselves, we have to be willing to allow them to see through that pane of glass, so to speak. For us to learn about the blind areas of our lives, we must be willing to have others speak into our lives and evaluate the consequences. Only then does the “unknown” pane of our lives begin to become more clear as well.

How does this relate to Friendly Fire? Let me illustrate. In one small group in our fellowship, we had a young woman who when she would begin sharing a prayer request would get quieter and quieter and eventually could not be heard at all. She was the classic “low talker”. It was not due to shyness or shame. It was all designed to draw more and more attention to herself as others had to strain to hear her. It would cause the entire group to come crashing to an emotional halt. People in that group however felt it was wrong to confront her, so they kept silent and allowed her to keep controlling the group like that. She eventually found something not to like about that group and went to another one. That same pattern happened again, so she left that group and went to another one.

In a group leaders meeting, they started to talk about the devastating effect she was having. After leaving each group, the group dynamics had altered enough that people were no longer sharing as intimately or helpfully as before. In fact, two groups mentioned that many people stopped attending altogether while she was part of them. But no one had confronted her. So I decided to invite her to a group I was leading. When she laid the “low talk” on us the first time, I asked her to speak up. She looked warily at me and continued at the same volume. After the meeting, I informed her that I knew what she was doing. She was manipulating the group through her low talk. She feigned deep hurt, but I continued on and told her if she did it again, we would move on past her and I would publicly rebuke her and explain what she was doing to the entire group.

The next week, she showed up again and proceeded to do the same thing again. I knew she could talk louder because I had heard her get very boisterous in a public meeting on several occasions. So in this small group meeting, I rebuked her and told her we were moving on. I explained to the group what we were doing. You could see the peace and satisfaction come upon the other group members. They were waiting for someone to do what I had done. They were feeling the same thing all the other groups had felt. In their minds revolved the same three questions:

1. What is she doing?

2. Can we do anything about it?

3. Who will do anything about it?

This is the form of friendly fire we ignore: The kind that comes from wounded people who have never been confronted and challenged in their damaging behavior. For some it is their constant lateness. Others hit us with their braggadocio. Still others foist their opinionated blather at everyone. This low-talking woman left our group in a huff, but returned the next week chagrined, but no longer sharing at a low volume. Of course, we didn’t solve her problem. She found a reason to leave us a few weeks later. But no group was ever inflicted with her manipulation again. We had raised the ‘cone of silence’ and helped her take a glance into the blind window in her life. It also ended the friendly fire shots others were taking.



  1. We have dealt with wounded people making noise in our fellowship of late. When times are tough, they can make a lot of noise.

  2. Vince, true dat. And if no one challenges the shots they take at others, we let the healthy people ( or relatively healthy) become living targets all the time.

  3. What about the overly opined? I’m assuming they too fall into this category?

  4. Even those who are “opining for the fjords” I would suspect. Yes, even the overly opined. Fortunately, Aaron, you and I don’t know anyone like that huh?

  5. Interesting, Mike. I have always believed it’s best to lay your heart and soul on the table, ask questions, and get personal. Granted, there are some tactfulness issues to observe, but I’m not a politically correct sort. That being said, it surprises me when people ask me not to behave a certain way (“don’t ask Andy how she’s feeling today…she just got a poor diagnosis and I don’t want her to feel worse). Um, what if Andy WANTS to to talk about it? I don’t get it. I mean, don’t get me wrong–I am always polite, courteous, and kind. But like I posted on my blog recently, I’ll confront someone if the issue is important to me. And with a fellowship group, it’s important to be honest. I don’t know if she was actually manipulating–it may just be habit, it may be unconscious. But regardless, she needed to be told, especially if it was distracting and tense. But how do people get comfortable with one another if they’re not open and honest? The only way to get close to people is to risk being hurt, and also to risk offending. I always say that I hold those close to me who are willing to be honest even if it will hurt my feelings, because I know I can trust them. The ones who dance around on the surface…not so much.
    I would email you back if your email addy was enabled on blogger. It comes up on my notification w/o an email address. I noticed on your blogger profile that you have read The Thirteenth Tale–I loved that book (did I tell you this already? I have a review of it on my book blog). And Hinds Feet on High Places, whoa, that brings back memories. I had a high school friend who wrote a song about that. I still have a cassette somewhere with a recording of her singing it.

  6. Barb, from your desire to “lay your heart and soul on the table, ask questions, and get personal” you will indeed find revelations into yourself that cannot come any other way. You are also correct that we hesitate from talking about what ought to be talked about and therefore we do a disservice to both the person who needs help and those who have to endure their unhealthiness. The healthiest thing to do is to talk to someone privately first (which I did with the woman in my article) and then if they won’t comply or acknowledge the situation, to use the next group meeting as a test case for group honesty and opennness. That particular group remained very healthy because they knew we weren’t going to allow one person to derail the entire group.

    I love The Thirteenth Tale and I loved your review of it which is why I started to read your blogs. My email is mikeinsac@sbcglobal.net

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