Friday, July 28, 2006

Is it appropriate for angels to dance on the head of a...pinhead?

Another off line entry:

Dear Wanda,

I am in a dance group of 6 girls. We have an out of town performance tomorrow. Yesterday one of the girls said she isn't going because she has an old boyfriend there who gives her a hard time. The thing is she is 21 with the attitude of a high school kid. She has known this was coming up all summer.....why didn't she say something sooner? Our dances are of course on all different counts we all have different moves. Now there is no time to change anything and the rest of us can't back out on this commitment. I am ready to grab her by the neck and have a straight come to Jesus talk with her but I know it wouldn't do any good. The other girls are ticked about it too. I would like to ban her from any other performances but this is our last one!! What would you do? Other than this I like the girl ok but she needs to grow up.

Martha Graham

Dear Martha,

I want to address your thinking that a "come to Jesus" talk wouldn't do any good. Au contraire! I think it would do a lot of good. It might not change the outcome (i.e., she still might not keep her commitment), but it will do you and the other girls a lot of good on many levels:

1) It will prevent you (and maybe your dance mates) from developing a grudge and carrying your intense reaction into other situations, making it easier to stick up for yourself the next time someone backs out on you.

2) Coming together to have a talk with her might develop more cohesion in the troupe and it could turn into a conversation that allows you to figure out another solution.

3) Since she is a "high school kid" who needs to grow up, this could be an opportunity to teach her that her behavior is a problem and is unacceptable, at the same time modeling more adult behavior.

My guess is that she didn't speak up before this because she was scared. First of all, she was scared about the ex. Then she was scared to say anything to the rest of you. If she acts like a kid, she probably feels like a kid and it might be intimidating to speak up to the rest of you if she sees you as adults. In the final analysis, she was more afraid of the ex and since this is the last performance, she can cut and run. Chicken? Yes. So talking to her about it makes her face her choices.

First of all, I would recommend that all five of you have a meeting with her. Choose a spokesperson who can be direct and not overly angry or accusing. Write up a script beforehand so that the spokesperson knows what to say and the others know what the spokesperson will say. When you come together, be as calm as possible, yet straightforward about what this means. Say something like this (in your own words, of course):

"We need to talk to you about tomorrow's performance. By deciding not to go, you have let all of us down and put us in a very bad position. We are angry and more than that, we are disappointed and feel betrayed. You have known all summer that this performance was coming and that your ex will be there. It would have been helpful if you either would have told us that you weren't going so we could re-work the numbers without you, or we could have talked about how to make it work for you to go.

"It is too late now to work you out of the numbers and your not going will really hurt the quality of our performance. We can, however, talk about how to make it work so that you can go and figure out a way to keep your ex away from you.

"It is still your choice. We want you to know that your decision affects us in a big way and that we are willing to help find a solution."

You might also go on to say that if she decides not to go, she won't be invited to be part of the troupe next year (if that is even an option).

I am a great believer of taking the high road. So while part of you may want to rip her face off and another part of you may want to ignore the whole thing and fume, the better response would be to have a conversation ASAP and see if there is a way to make it work.

Even if she still decides not to go, you have modeled more adult behavior--something she is clearly lacking--and you have stood up for yourselves in a way that is adult and appropriate not mean and vindictive. It can make you feel so good for sticking up for yourself and speaking your truth.

Good luck...and let me know how it goes.


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