She often would steer a board meeting in an unproductive direction, infecting all of us with her reactivity. I was one of those who got swept up.I knew she was harming the work of the board and reducing my effectiveness, yet I didn’t know what to do about it. I came up with a mind game that set me free. Every time “Nancy” got up a head of steam, I would envision her as a steam engine building momentum as she went down the rails. I cast the board members as train cars being pulled along behind her; I was the last car in the train. I would visualize reaching out and pulling the pin connecting me to the train. I would then in my mind watch the board roar down the track pulled by “Nancy.” I would roll to a stop as the train steamed out of sight. This did not stop the board, but at least I was not going on the journey of reactivity with them.
One day the chair of the board and I were talking about a recent meeting, and he expressed frustration about the dynamics of the group. I shared with him the mind game I played. At that point it occurred to me that he, as chair, was the first car in the train. If he could disconnect from the engine, perhaps the whole train might roll to a stop with him, sending “Nancy” down the track alone.
When the chair and I freed ourselves from “Nancy’s” reactivity, we were in a better position to free others and salvage the meeting.To this day when I feel I am being carried away by someone’s reactivity, I envision myself pulling the pin. I go on fewer unplanned trips that way.
Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of New York State