ManKind Project USA – The Door

Safe Space, Brave Space, and Unsafe Space

MKP USA’s goal is to provide fundamentally safe activities and environments while challenging our internal and external boundaries. MKP USA is aware of the paradox of our core values. The need for Authenticity, Integrity, Accountability, and the need for Compassion, Generosity, Multicultural Awareness and Respect are all relevant to the work we do. The New Warrior stands in the fullness of paradox and acts appropriately.

Safe Space

  • There is no such thing as a 100% safe environment.
  • There are environments that are safe enough and safer than outside norms.

Brave Space

  • Honors and allows the expression of differences
  • Encourages people to take a risk, share, grow and learn how to better speak their truth so they can be in better relationship with themselves and others
  • Encourages all to be responsible for the intended and unintended and consequences of actions and inactions.
  • Everyone is responsible for both their personal safety needs and the safety needs of the circle/activity.
  • Everything is a learning opportunity. A place to explore the impacts, intentions, and differences.
  • Willingness to create agreements as needed to meet the reasonable safety needs of the circle/activity and its participants.

Unsafe Space

  • An environment where people are not welcomed to share how they are being impacted.
  • when a person shares he has been negatively impacted and the response from the group is dismissive or disrespectful.
  • There is no agreement about the ability to call a timeout when something is unsafe.
  • There is an unspoken agreement that hurting someone for fun is OK.

Different Circles and activities have different safety needs and agreements around communication. The work we do in our I-Groups and circles is different than an email list, community council, or public event.  There may be a need for different agreements depending on the activity or function.

Developing policies and best practices for safer circles and communities indicate a commitment by MKP USA to create a welcoming environment by having a list of expectations for behavior that consider the community’s well-being first and foremost.

Disruptive Behavior may impact the perceived safety of our circles and activities, the disruption of community activities, and the diminishment of the potential and existing membership. When any person’s physical and/or emotional well-being or ability to safely express his or her opinions is threatened, action must be taken.  The guidelines provided by these policies mean that all are held to a set of standards. This policy provides a process that leaves less room for singling out a person based on cultural stereotyping or personality conflicts.

Disruptive and Unsafe Behavior can be summarized as one or more of the following

  • Dangerous: is the individual the source of a threat or perceived threat to persons or property?
  • Ethical: is a person with relative power taking advantage of those that are vulnerable?
  • Disruptive: what is the level of interference with the circle’s activities?
  • Offensive: is the behavior likely to drive existing members and visitors away?

Common Patterns in Circles and Communities

Circles and Communities that tolerate too many inappropriate behaviors often have these system-wide habits:

  • Excusing those who behave badly. The most common phrase is: “Well, that’s just Chris. He has been like that for years.” Just because the behavior has been tolerated in the past doesn’t make it right.
  • Freezing up when somebody acts out. People may complain later – out in the parking lot, by email, or on the phone with a friend – but they don’t hold one another accountable to any standard of behavior.
  • Relying too much on a leader to deal with issues. Leaders should not let themselves become behavior police for the Circles and Communities. Not only is this guaranteed to burn them out, but the risk is also that they will wind up too far out on a limb all alone. And too often, instead of supporting the leader, some people will try to cut the limb off.
  • Circles and Communities that tolerate bad behavior are often not mission-driven but instead are consumer-oriented. They have created a social club where people are not being led and challenged to grow in their journey.

Is It Rude, Mean, or Bullying Behavior?

There is a real need to draw a distinction between behavior that is rude, behavior that is mean, and behavior that is characteristic of bullying.

  • Rude = Inadvertently saying or doing something that hurts someone else. Incidents of rudeness are usually spontaneous, unplanned inconsideration, based on thoughtlessness, poor manners, or narcissism, but not meant to actually hurt someone.
  • Mean = Purposefully saying or doing something to hurt someone once (or maybe twice). The main distinction between “rude” and “mean” behavior has to do with intention; while rudeness is often unintentional, mean behavior very much aims to hurt someone. Sometimes mean comes in the form of “humor.”
  • Bullying = Intentionally aggressive behavior, that may be repeated over time, and may  involve an imbalance of power.  Bullying may be physical, verbal, relational, or carried out via technology. An imbalance of power can be as simple as being a member of the majority, being with a group of supportive friends, against someone who is not in the majority or is alone. Community Leaders and staff are not immune to bullying or being bullied.

Bullying Behavior

Most of us have experienced it. Bullying on our Counsels, community meetings or gatherings, and even between leaders and staff (in either direction).

Common traits of people who bully others in Circles and Communities:

  1. They do not recognize themselves as potential bullies. On the contrary, they see themselves as necessary heroes sent to save the Circles and Communities from itself.
  2. They have personal and self-serving agendas. They have determined what “their” Circles and Communities should look like. Any difference that is contrary to their perceived ideal Circles and Communities must be eliminated.
  3. They are famous for saying “people are saying.” They love to gather tidbits of information and shape it to their own agendas.
  4. They find their greatest opportunities in low-expectation Circles and Communities. Many of the members have an entitlement view of Circles and Communities, and the Circles and Communities require little of them for inclusion. (Low expectation Circles and Communities are those that have few limits on behavior and that have low bars for involvement and inclusion.)
  5. They seek to get their own needs and preferences fulfilled. They, therefore, won’t trouble themselves to look at the impact of their behavior and modify it if it is negatively impacting others.
  6. They are allowed to bully because members do not address their behavior. Members of groups who have been attacked by bullies report that, while the bully brings them great pain, they have even greater hurt because most of the community members stood silent and let it happen.
  7. They create chaos and wreak havoc. A bully always has their next mission. While they may take a brief break from one bullying mission to the next, they are not content unless they are exerting the full force of their manipulative behavior.
  8. They often move from one organization, community or circle to another after they have done their damage. Whether they are forced out or simply get bored, they will move to other places with the same bullying mission. Some bullies have wreaked havoc in three or more communities.

Adapted from the work of Thom Rainer.  

Dealing With Disruptive Behavior

Our Circles and Communities strive to be inclusive, affirming our differences in beliefs, opinions, and life experiences. In some cases, concern for the safety and well-being of the Circle or Community as a whole must be given priority over the privileges and inclusion of an individual. To the degree that disruptive behavior compromises the health of the Circle and or Community, as New Warriors our actions must reflect our commitment to maintaining both safety and beloved community.

Disruptive behavior may involve actions that create concern for the physical or emotional safety of anyone involved adults, staff, members, and visitors. A baby crying at a community event does not threaten the physical or emotional safety of the Circle or Community. It may be distracting, but it is not disruptive. However, someone standing and yelling racial epithets during a community event does indeed threaten the physical or emotional safety of those in attendance.

Disruptive behavior may involve actions that disturb activities or weaken the Circle and Communities ability to serve current and future members and friends. These incidents can occur at community events such as a homecoming or gathering, during an I-Group, or via email and social media.

Not all conflict is disruptive. We hope that most conflicts can and will be resolved by effort on the part of individuals. This includes directly approaching the individual with whom they are having a conflict or consulting directly with a leader or appropriate team member for support and guidance. However, when behaviors are seen to be dangerous (creating concern for the physical and emotional safety of community members), disruptive (disturbing or interfering with essential activities), or image tarnishing (weakening a Circle or Community’s ability to serve current and future members), additional steps may be necessary.

Steps for Addressing Disruptive Behavior

  • Step 1: Does the situation call for an immediate response? – Take appropriate action, say safety or time out or immediately inform a Leader, Elder, Staff, etc.
  • Step 2: Try to work it out informally at the level it is occurring – Timing is important. Whenever possible it is best practice to resolve a conflict immediately. It is far better for men or a group try to resolve differences instead of escalating the issue to another level. Even worse is taking it to a listserve or email list. This can be simply two men working together to resolve what happened, by inquiring what could be better, and/or negotiating agreements and boundaries in a spirit of harmonious cooperation. At a group level, it could be a discussion of a need for a new agreement. When attempts to resolve a conflict fail seeking outside trusted and neutral men to assist is always a good idea.
  • Step 3: Some situation may need attention at an Area/Community level – This usually involves a need to clarify, review, or enforce an Area/Community expectation or agreement. Sometimes this may involve an Area/Community needing to create a new expectation or agreement. When this occurs it is best practice for the Area/Community to convene an appropriate group to respond to the matter. Sometimes this is called a Response Team and is appointed by the Council or Community Leaders. NOTE – allowing ongoing conflicts to occur through email lists and or council meetings often makes matters worse. The idea is to create the best team to facilitate a successful resolution. See Best Practices for Response Teams.
  • Step 4: File an MKPUSA Formal Concern.  If the incident cannot be worked out through steps 1-3 or if the situation is one that needs to go to the National level one can use the MKPUSA Formal Concern Process to file a formal complaint.