Tonight our church community group meets, and I'm looking forward to it. Our church is informally divided by neighborhoods to make small groups that meet during the week and kind of support each other. Like if someone needs help with yard work, we pitch in; if someone needs someone to get the mail while on vacation, we volunteer; if someone needs dinner after a baby, we cook. That stuff.
David and I are group leaders, and in the space of a month we've gone from dreading the meetings to enjoying them. Why? Well, when we became group leaders we inherited a problem. It was a couple who were:
And just all-around bad "group" members: they didn't share talking time, they'd stay so late at the hosts house that everyone else went home and they were still there, they never contributed snacks or insight, they gossiped about other members, etc. Basically, awful people.
So what happened? Naturally, our membership began to decline. I remember the husband of the couple insulting another member's career choice just horrendously, and that girl stopped coming. Then he spoke incredibly callously to a woman whose daughter had survived cancer, but was facing her five-year brain scan. The mom never came back. The wife cut off another member's sad story about his rough time at work to inform him, "No one hear works as hard as me, ever" - and he actually shrugged, got up, and left the room!
Around this time, David and I were made leaders of our group, and we knew we had to face this problem. So, since we're more like facilitators than actual leaders (in a sense of having any authority), we brought the problem up to our church leaders (leaving out names). Of course, they instantly knew who the problem was! And they never discussed the solution, but I think someone talked to these two. Things got a little better, but we still kept having awkward conversations in which I was forced to referee and make sure no feelings were hurt. It was stressful, our group was getting smaller, and everyone was afraid to say anything. We never socialized anymore. It was terrible!
Then? Oh joy! A month ago, the couple moved! And there was an instant change. Our group started to have fun again. We started enjoying each others' company. Five new people joined us. We like each other. Things are great again. And I have no idea why I'm writing this down, except to say that I finally understand what people mean when they refer to "toxic" people. These two were basically poisoning the group, and the difference since they left is marked. I just can't believe how much the overall feeling or vibe from the group changed.
I'm sure, looking back, that David and I could have handled this better, but I have never been in that situation before, so I didn't really know what to do. Work conflict when you are the boss is easy. Social conflict when you are all peers is not easy!
Ever met someone like this? Or been in a similar situation? How did you handle it?