Facilitating Tough Crowds and Understanding Outrage

Most public sector facilitators will tell you that this work is getting tougher. I suggest that the trend of finding increasingly angry people at public meetings started a couple of decades ago, but the rancor is clearly ramping up. If you want to accelerate hate, nothing beats social media, and bad, anonymous online behavior has now moved into face-to-face encounters. Those of us who work with live human beings need to learn to manage these cantankerous events, and ourselves.

I’m sure you’re familiar with ‘outrage du jour’ – the high-profile, major-media-covered scandal and reactions of the moment. The fact is that most of just don’t have the energy to keep our outrage focused for prolonged periods of time when there are so many things to be angry about. So high profile perpetrators of outrageous behavior have learned to just ride it out, ’cause they know by tomorrow we’ll be distracted and mad about something different.

It’s easy to think that you’re facing a unique problem and an angry crowd. While it’s true that no two situations are ever exactly alike, the problem exists everywhere. Not just in New York, Chicago or L.A., but also in Toad Suck, Arkansas and out where I come from.

If you’re curious enough to take a deep dive into this subject, carve out a little time for this lengthy autopsy on outrage produced a few years ago by Slate.