Have you ever observed a real tornado? Maybe you saw a movie where a cow was sent flying across the road. The destructive force of a tornado occurs because of its tremendous energy that has a powerful vacuum-cleaner effect wreaking havoc on everything in its path.
A person or group operating Below the Line or in the midst of negative thoughts can produce a Tornado. Their negative energy can draw an innocent by-stander into the negative experience. In other words, when someone is below, she can bring someone else below.
A dynamic of personal or group influence is that:
- A positive person or group tends to influence others in positive ways.
- A negative person or group tends to influence others in negative ways.
A Tornado is the invisible, awesome power of social influence towards negativity.
How Tornadoes Are Formed
Our communication with other people is often an attempt to influence them or get their agreement or support. When we are communicating Below the Line, our negativity becomes instantly contagious. As a second person is drawn into the conversation, a Tornado is spawned. The Tornado’s negative energy now has the power to pull in a third or fourth unsuspecting victim. As it gets more and more intense, it tends to dominate the culture of the group.
A common response to someone’s complaining is to express our understanding of what is being shared by adding our own complaining. This response may come from our need to connect, belong, or be accepted ourselves.
|Example: Roger comes to lunch Above the Line. That morning he got an A on a Social Studies quiz and received a favorable response when he asked Cindy to go with him to the dance next weekend. As he joins Jake and Stan in the lunchroom, Jake has begun to rip on Mr. Larson, his science teacher. Roger can sense the negative energy even before he sits down.Jake continues his complaint: “Larson wouldn’t accept my late homework assignment. What a jerk. And he gave me detention for being late for class.”
The emotional drama in what Jake is saying draws Stan’s response: “You think that’s bad. I have Mrs. Simpson first period. She hates the boys in class. She moved me to the front of the room just because I was asking Larry for a pencil. I can’t stand the woman. If there was any way of getting out of her class, I would.”
“I hate school,” Jake replies. “The only thing worse than school is home. My folks won’t even let me use the phone after 10:00. I can’t wait to get out on my own.”
“I pretty much am on my own,” adds Stan. “Since my dad left three years ago, my mom is working evenings. So I have to watch my brother and sister and help them with their homework. It’s terrible.”
The conversation between Jake and Stan has taken on the nature of a spewing contest where each participant “upchucks” negative energy onto the other. Top 20s immediately recognize this as a Tornado. The Bottom 80s tend to get pulled in and add their own negative energy to the mix.
Jake and Stan would love to have more people “sing along” with them. As Roger sits down he has two choices: sing along or sing a different tune. We’ll show you later how Roger can handle this like a Top 20.
Remember that you, too, can actually be a Tornado starter. You can have the reputation among friends as someone who rips on others. If so, people come to expect that of you. It becomes part of your identity within the group. Although you gain status by entertaining the group in this way, this is not in your Best Interest.Protection from Tornadoes
Just like on the Weather Channel, it’s important that you pay attention to Tornado watches, warnings and touchdowns.
|Tornado Watch: Know where conditions are right for producing tornadoes. Become aware of where Tornado watches occur in your life: school lunchroom, the locker room after a loss, late night three-way internet chat rooms, the family’s kitchen table.Tornado Warning: A funnel cloud has actually been sighted. The first sign of an actual Tornado almost always occurs when someone who is not present is mentioned in a negative way or a negative general statement is made (“I hate Mindy.” or “I hate school”). This “Dishonoring of the Absent” is a very common, very destructive element of almost every group or organization.
Tornado Touchdown: The twister has hit the ground. Before you know it, you have been pulled in and affected in a negative way.
We might like to carry a magic wand to wave over Tornado starters to get them to stop. Unfortunately, such magic wands have not yet been developed. Although we can’t tell you how you can stop Tornadoes, we can certainly tell you what you can do for yourself.
1. Identify the Tornado as such.
If you are approaching a group where a Tornado is being spawned, identify it as such: “Oh, sounds like there’s a Tornado going on here.” Awareness is curative.
2. Listen without taking it to heart.
Learn the difference between listening to what someone is saying and taking what they are saying to heart. As soon as you take what they are saying to heart, you will emotionally go where they are.
3. Respond by saying, “I hear you.”
When Roger joins Jake and Stan, they expect him to rip on somebody. Roger feels the pressure and anticipates the social punishment that will come his way if he doesn’t play along. What he would really like to share with his buddies is his good news: “Hey, guys, I ‘ve got a date for the dance Saturday night.” But he knows that doing that will only direct Stan and Jake’s wrath towards him.
Instead, Top 20 Roger simply responds with, “Yeah, I hear you. Home and school can be tough sometimes.”
Such a response by Roger acknowledges what his friends are experiencing without adding more negative energy to the Tornado. Furthermore, it prevents Roger from being drawn into the Tornado himself. He observes the Tornado but is not damaged by it. He observes his friends’ situation but is neither victimized by it nor victimizes others.4. Leave the Tornado scene.
“I hear you” is a very effective response to a Tornado. However, if the Tornado persists with its “seek and destroy” mission, you may need to repeat “I hear you” a second time or just get up and walk away.
Time for Action
Become aware of your own tendencies to start Tornadoes and bring these under control before they cause damage to yourself and others.
Where are you likely to experience Tornadoes? As you come upon these situations,