Movers, Opposers, Followers and Bystanders

   William Isaac, in his brilliant book, Dialogue, the Art of Thinking Together, offers the revelation that a group discussion of any size divides itself up into four categories of participants. In every group there are movers, opposers, followers and bystanders. To learn how to engage each of the four major divisions in the conversation meaningfully is what constitutes the art of thinking together, real dialogue.

   A person may play more than one part in a given conversation, depending on his level of knowledge, personal need and interest in the subject. The same person who is a mover at the start of one conversation may morph into a bystander if the conversation ultimately does not interest him.

   To learn how to identify movers, opposers, followers and bystanders is not that difficult, most of the time. To engage them in the conversation meaningfully is another matter. Bystanders must be attracted to some portion of the discussion where they may gain traction. Followers must be empowered to express their own thoughts rather than run to the loudest voice. Opposers must be opposed, generously, and kept on track. Movers, well, one must understand their motivations before one may help guide their alpha tendencies.

   This is only helpful if you ever have to sit in a meeting where there are three or more people and start or guide the conversation. The most uncomfortable of persons will be the lady who is actually a mover but must, for whatever reason, play the follower or bystander. You can determine her appropriate role by finding the moment when she seems most energized/empowered.

   In our current convention controvesy I find myself in the uncomfortable role of opposer. This is most difficult after so many years as supporter/follower/occassional nominal leader. I could easily just follow, "my convention right or wrong," but that would be most dishonest at this point in history. The convention is not headed the right way. It does not show signs of heading toward anything but more of the same.

   The other choice for many of us is that of bystander. We can watch the foolishness unfold from afar, watch ministries be cut and institutions suffer, shake our heads, grin ruefully and say, "Well, it’s too bad it has to come to this."  I am watching too many come to this decision.

   Opposers can move things. We are not in the prime position of initiation, nor are we likely to get there. The current mess will not see the zephyr without an opposition movement. The extent of cleansing will depend on how diligently we pursue our cause and how much the real movers include us in the conversation.