power dynamics

barn-burning:

Nonviolent Communication can hurt people

foxship:

agent-hardass:

realsocialskills:

People who struggle interpersonally, who seem unhappy, or who get into a lot of conflicts are often advised to adopt the approach of Nonviolent Communication.

This is often not a good idea. Nonviolent Communication is an approach…

I DO agree with this and found it a useful critique, but no, AFAIK NVC is not primarily taught to the mentally ill, nor is it commonly used as an anti-abuse strategy. Rather, I’ve seen it used mostly in situations like the one described way above: relationship counselling, family therapy and as an advanced tool for people who have trouble with impulse control. It’s also a communication strategy in group therapy to create safe environments. It’s not meant to be a fix-all for every situation and I have not yet met any therapists who treat it as such.

realsocialskills said:

You may not have encountered any, but a lot of people who reblogged this post have. They exist.

Or even when it’s not treated as a fix-all, it’s often treated as a moral imperative for the absolute last people who should be adopting it.

People with mental illnesses get read as “people who have trouble with impulse control” and who need to be taught to use NVC, a lot. The fact that you haven’t encountered it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Also, in couples counseling, it’s not uncommon for one partner to be abusive. In groups, it’s not uncommon for some of the group members to be abusive. In groups that contain abusive members, adopting NVC ground rules makes the group *less* safe, because they make it impossible to respond to abusive behavior with appropriate judgements.

NVC can also cause problems if no one is being abusive if there’s a power dynamic in the group that some members find it painful to acknowledge. They can end up using their pain as a shield to prevent having to acknowledge it. This is particularly likely if the less powerful people have been conditioned to believe that they have to take care of the emotions of powerful people.

I statements and reserving judgement can be powerful tools. But when they’re seen as overriding moral imperatives, bad things happen.

Disability and power

A group of people with disabilities is not always a group in which everyone has equal power. 

Some examples (by no means an exhaustive list, and not all of these examples apply all the time):

People who are better at asserting power can have more power.

People who speak more easily can have more power.

People who think more quickly can have more power.

People with the most common disability in the group can have more power.

People used to being ok with their disability can have more power.

Power dynamics in a group always need to be monitored and taken seriously.

Restricting the group membership to people with disabilities can be part of the solution, (because it can eliminate the part of the problem involving nondisabled allies and parents taking over), but it can never be the whole solution. Power dynamics exist in all groups, even with members of the same marginalized group.

How much respect do you owe someone you’re being forced into a relationship with, who you don’t trust, but who hasn’t hurt you yet? (in this case, a therapist)
realsocialskills said:
 
First and foremost: I’m not sure that it’s actually true that they haven’t hurt you yet. They’re agreeing to be your therapist against your will. That’s already something they’re doing to you, in itself. Therapy is an emotionally intimate relationship, and intimacy requires consent. 
   
Beyond that, I think in this particular situation, it might be more helpful to talk about what you don’t owe them:
 
You don’t owe them deference or even cooperation. Your mind is yours, and your life is yours, and you don’t have to take their opinions into account unless you decide that you value them.
 
You don’t owe them respect for their professional opinion. That’s something they earn, and it’s a judgment that you get to make. Their degree does not entitle them to have you regard them as an expert in your life, mind, or mental condition.
 
You don’t owe them intimacy. You don’t owe them personal information about yourself. You don’t owe them answers to their questions.
 
You don’t owe them the truth. 
 
You don’t owe them any trust, at all. Trust is earned, and something you have to give freely. They are not entitled to your trust or intimacy just because someone made you sit in a room and talk to them. 
 
You don’t owe them politeness, although for the sake of your safety, I would advise you to be as polite as you can stomach. It’s safer.
 
You don’t have to wait for them to hurt further you before you decide not to trust them. Trusting them, or not, is your call. Trust has to be earned and freely given, and you can revoke it at any time. Even in therapy that you enter into voluntarily and really want, trust in a therapeutic relationship has to be built over time. It’s never automatic or instant. It’s ok not to go in trusting. You are not wronging them in any way by being reluctant to discuss deeply intimate things with a stranger you’re coerced into spending time with.
 
This is all still true even if it turns out that they are a good therapist, or if they’ve successfully helped other people. They may be an amazing therapist for people who are consenting. They may be genuinely trying to help you. They may have helped many other people. They might be able to help you if you let them. Even if all of that is true, you still have every right to decide for yourself whether or not you want a therapeutic relationship with them. (Much as even if you’re lonely and there are all kinds of reasons that a particular person might be an amazing partner, it’s still ok to decide not to date that person.)
 
tl;dr: I’m sorry that you’re in this situation. I’m sorry you’re facing whatever led to this, too. You don’t owe this therapist trust or intimacy. If you decide you want a therapeutic relationship with them, that’s your choice to make, but it’s not something you owe them. I hope you’re ok. 

sorenandjoey:

Nonviolent Communication can be emotionally violent

realsocialskills:

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) culture facilitates abuse in part because NVC culture has very little regard for consent. They call it nonviolent, but it is often a coercive and emotional violent kind of interaction.

NVC has very different boundaries than are typical in…

sorenandjoey said:

Chilling is right, another response I’ve noticed that seems to be standard to any critique of NVC is the whole “oh well that was a misapplication of NVC, if you’d been doing it correctly that never would have happened”.

It’s been incredibly refreshing to see these posts and then reading the comments even though it’s sad to see how many people have been hurt by it, just being able to know I’m not the only person in the universe who rejects NVC has been so helpful, it’s just like my god, finally.

realsocialskills said:

NVC advocates say that to me a lot. Every single one of them who has ever said that has also quickly done the exact things I say are pervasive and awful in NVC culture.

They also often do a thing where, no matter what you say, they interpret it as though you have said something they agree with. NVC people can make it impossible to express disagreement with them and be heard. That is also an act of emotional violence.

00goddess:

Nonviolent Communication can hurt people

loriadorable:

agent-hardass:

realsocialskills:

People who struggle interpersonally, who seem unhappy, or who get into a lot of conflicts are often advised to adopt the approach of Nonviolent Communication.

This is often not a good idea. Nonviolent Communication is an approach based on refraining…

agent-hardass said:

Holy shit thank you. Someone finally said it.

00goddess said:

Dear God yes.

When I was in foster care as a teen, we were given therapy and “boundaries” and “communication rules” that (I eventually learned, as an adult) were based on NVC. There was a huge focus on “I statements.” We were literally forbidden to speak in any other way, and punished if we did so.

What no one told any of us, all foster kids with histories of abuse, neglect, or both, was that “I statements” don’t mean a damn thing or have any effect at all when the other party is either not reasonable, or downright abusive. No, they just trained us with what the author at realsocialskills very aptly calls “anti-skills” and tossed us out into the world.

NVC *crippled* me emotionally and socially. It made me even more vulnerable to abusive situations. Why? Because I had been trained, indoctrinated even, for more than two years to not ever hold anyone responsible for their bad behavior or call them out on it. So when I found myself in abusive situations, I would step right up and use my “I statements” and then when this was not effective, I would do that same thing again, and again. I was not taught any other relationship skills. NVC taught me that in any conflict, I had to figure out what *I* was doing wrong and fix that somehow. It never taught me that some people don’t respond to “I statements” by changing their bad behavior because they don’t actually care if they are hurting you, or they might even like it. It never taught me that I didn’t actually have to stick around when someone was being abusive.

In the very abusive group home and foster org in which I was placed, NVC functioned as a tool that staff used to marginalize, manipulate, gaslight, and control us. NVC did not teach us how to spot those things when they were happening, of course, because the org and the staff had an interest in keeping us marginalized, rather than in raising us to be empowered.

A problem in discussing feminist issues

I don’t know a solution to this. I think it’s a serious problem, but I don’t know how to talk about it in a good way.

Feminist issues can get really, really hard to talk about.

There are a lot of forms of abuse that play out in a gendered way fueled by misogyny, that have some of these attributes:

  • They’re usually done to women by men (eg: rape; stalking; sexual harassment at work)
  • Almost all of the people directly affected by them are women or girls (eg: the overwhelming majority of people who need to have abortions are women or girls)
  • They are almost always motivated by misogyny 
  • There’s a pattern of misogyny that enables them to happen
  • Most of the culture is dedicated to denying this
  • People really, really pressure everyone to pretend this isn’t a misogynistic pattern

But, for all of these things, there’s also this:

  • Some of the abusers are women (eg: there are female rapists and stalkers)
  • The same thing, or a similar thing, happens to men (there are male rape and stalking victims)
  • Some people who are affected by the things aren’t women (eg: intersex folks who can get pregnant also need access to contraception and abortion and reproductive healthcare, so do trans men and nonbinary folks who can get pregnant)
  • Some people are taught they have no right to say no for reasons other than gender (for instance, this routinely happens to both boys and girls with disabilities)

That creates a complicated problem. Here’s one aspect of it:

  • People who are harmed by these things other than as a form of male-on-female abuse tend to be erased
  • And often even don’t realize that the things that happened to them actually happened, or that it’s ok to take them seriously
  • And often the only things that they have access to are things that implicitly or even emphatically describe this as something that ONLY happens to women and is ONLY done by men
  • For instance, most of the books about learning to have boundaries are women’s self-help books written in a way that suggests that being taught not to have boundaries is always mostly the result of growing up socially perceived as female a misogynistic culture
  • And it can be hard for trans people of any gender to get anatomically appropriate medical care without facing unbearable hostility to their gender identity
  • Or for female victims of female abusers to find supportive spaces, since many women’s spaces assume that men are dangerous and women are safe
  • This can be awful situations to be in, and exposure to some kinds of feminist discourse can make it worse for people who experience this pattern of abuse in a way that doesn’t fit this model

Here’s another aspect of the problem:

  • The pattern of misogyny that creates the male-on-female forms of the abuse is very much a real thing
  • And a lot of people don’t want it to be talked about, ever (eg: MRAs, people who want to say that women are just imagining everything and that really men have it just as bad if not worse, etc)
  • And some of them use other kinds of victims as pawns. And use them to say that it’s wrong to talk about women’s issues or patterns of misogyny, because there are exceptions
  • And that’s a seriously messed up form of derailing, because misogyny is real and so are the patterns feminism describes. Gendered patterns are real, and important to talk about, even though similar things happen in ways that don’t fit those patterns
  • And, more often than not, the people saying these things don’t actually care about victims who don’t fit the patterns – they often don’t ever talk about them except to derail feminist conversations

And another aspect:

  • Sometimes people who talk about lack of representation are totally sincere
  • They often get accused of derailing when they’re not remotely doing so
  • They’re interpreted this way by people who want to derail the conversation *and* by people who want to prevent it from being derailed
  • This can make it hard for these people to ever have any space to talk about their experiences
  • Or things that contributed to them
  • Or patterns of ways they happen
  • Or ways to fight these patterns and protect people

The result ends up being that there’s some people who tend to get overlooked or shouted down by just about everyone. I don’t know a good solution to this. I think noticing the pattern might be a starting place. I wish I knew more to do about it.

A feminist dynamic

Sometimes feminists, especially white feminists, attribute everything to patriarchy and ignore other power dynamics.

This can cause a lot of problems. One problem is that white feminists sometimes ignore racism and do racist things. I don’t know as much about that as I should, so I can’t yet write about it at length. But I do know about another issue more extensively:

Some feminists teach girls that sexism is the issue when it isn’t. For instance, this happens a lot to girls with disabilities. Girls will disabilities get discriminated against in ways that most women do not, but as they reach puberty they’re often taught that everything they are experiencing is about sexism.

That can be crushing. It can also cause problems for disabled boys, who are discriminated against in ways that most women are not. (Or ways that are similar to what women experience, but not normally experienced by boys without disabilities). Sometimes they are taught that they can’t possibly be experiencing real discrimination because they are boys. This is especially common when women who feel powerless have a lot of power over boys with disabilities. (Especially developmentally disabled boys who are going through puberty and starting to have sexual feelings.)

Sexism and patriarchy are very real things that destroy lives and hurt people in all kinds of other ways. There are also other power relationships that hurt people. Being aware of patriarchy is not enough.

Some thoughts on clinical social work assessments

Your blog is a great resource. I have a question and was hoping you’d give me some insight. I’m a clinical social worker. In most places I’ve worked, I’ve had to do assessments. Even with the most neutrally-worded assessments, clients often become offended or embarrassed by at least one of the questions, with topics ranging from sexuality to family to criminal history. It pains me to ask people invasive questions, but sometimes they’re necessary. Any tips for breaking through this?

realsocialskills said:

I don’t have a good answer to this - assessments definitely create a lot of problems for pretty much everyone who has to do them. I have some theories, but they’re very tentative at this point:

Don’t see the assessment as an end in itself:
  • Some people believe in assessments with an almost religious fervor
  • But your work isn’t about doing assessments, it’s about serving your clients
  • The assessments are a means to an end, and keeping that in mind helps
Think about the purpose the assessment is serving (I can’t tell you in detail what to do with your conclusions, but keeping the purpose in mind can be helpful):
Is it giving you information that you or others on your team need to have in order to serve this particular person?
  • eg: In a medical office, team members need to know if someone has a latex allergy.
  • And in most contexts, people need to know if someone is a minor
  • It can also be important or helpful to know family members or emergency contacts.
Do you need the information for specific reasons, or is it about generally rounding out the picture of who this person is?
  • For instance, you might routinely ask someone where they grew up in order to get a sense of their background
  • But you might not actually need to know that for a particular purpose
  • These might be the kinds of questions that you stop asking if someone isn’t receptive to them, even if they’re often helpful with other people
Is it for the purpose of assessing demographic uses of your services?
  • For instance, an agency keeping data on equity in its services might want to ask people about race, sex, gender, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation in order to assess whether they’re providing services in an equitable way
  • These are all things that in *some* social work contexts can be important to know about individual clients, but in other contexts they’re not pieces of important information
  • For instance, a food pantry might want to keep data on race in order to determine whether people of all races have good access to their services, but they don’t need to know the race of a specific person in order to serve them
  • These, too, might be questions you don’t press sometimes
Does it serve some other research purpose?
  • For instance, if your agency trying to determine whether using one kind of consent form works better than another?
  • There are a lot of rules for research
  • I don’t know them well
  • But I think it’s important to notice when what you’re doing is research, even when it’s undeclared research (which shouldn’t happen but does)
Is it information you’re required to gather even though having the information serves no actual purpose?
  • It is very common for agency assessment forms to have questions or even whole sections that serve no purpose as far as anyone on the team can tell
  • It’s ok not to take these sections very seriously
  • You don’t have to pretend things are important when they’re not
  • That said, things can be important even when most people in power don’t take them seriously
  • So know for yourself which things you consider importance
Is it a matter of creating a paper trail for the purposes of legal compliance?
  • It’s important that paperwork comply with the law
  • But things done for the purposes of legal compliance do not necessarily need to be treated the same way as things done because you actually need the information
  • It depends on the situation

Are you trying to determine eligibility for services?

  • That tends to involve uncomfortable or even illegitimate questions
  • Which you tend to have to ask anyway
  • I think it’s important to know when questions are and are not necessary for this purpose
Is it information that is actually needed to protect the safety of clients?
  • For instance, if you’re trying to detect red flags for abuse, those might be questions to push more
  • Or if you need to know about drug use for safety reasons (eg: if a drug commonly recommended to treat an issue interacts with a commonly used illegal drug, knowing that person’s drug history might be important)
  • Or if a treatment can be harmful to a fetus or dangerous to a pregnant person, it’s important to know if that person is pregnant or likely to become pregnant
Be honest with the person you’re working with. If you need the information, tell them why. If they don’t have to answer the questions, tell them.

When you’re asking sensitive questions, it might help to be explicit about the fact that you have to ask everyone:

  • Because otherwise people will think that you are asking because you suspect something about them
  • This is particularly important if the thing you’re asking about is stereotypically associated with their group
  • (As it is likely that the stereotype has been used to belittle them or justify violence or denial of important services; hearing this question from a social worker can be really loaded even if you have the best of intentions. They can’t read your mind, and you might sound just like people who do not mean well when you ask that)
  • But don’t mock the idea that it might apply to them. Because it might, and you don’t want to prevent them from giving you that information, or to imply that it is shameful 
Respect the people you’re working with, and take the power dynamic involved seriously:
  • By the time someone gets to a clinical social worker, they’ve probably already lost a lot of autonomy and power
  • And they’ve probably been dealing with people they can’t say no to
  • And all kind of people invading their privacy on all kinds of levels
  • If they can say no, *make that clear*.
  • If you have to ask but they don’t have to answer, *tell them it’s ok not to answer your questions*.
  • It might be worth acknowledging that it’s uncomfortable and invasive
 Keep in mind that people have the right to be offended:
  • Don’t try to get them to tell you it’s ok
  • It might not be ok
  • And they’re allowed to be angry that a stranger is asking them a lot of invasive personal questions
  • It might not be your fault, but it’s not their fault either
  • Part of your job is to accept that some people you work with are going to be legitimately angry or offended
  • The skills for dealing with that can be hard to aquire
  • But it’s not ok to evade it by putting pressure on people to tell you it’s ok when they think it isn’t
  • This is something all social workers and people in related fields are at risk of falling into (particularly if you are at the bottom of your professional hierarchy and feel powerless because you are forced to follow policies you disagree with)
  • Even if you feel powerless in your work, it’s important to remember that you are exercising tremendous power over other people
  • At the end of the day, you get to go home and have a life outside of any social services involvment
  • People who depend on services don’t
  • Don’t forget that, and don’t pressure them into making you feel better. Your self-image is not their problem.

Does any of that help?

And do any of y'all with experience in either asking questions as a social worker or being asked questions by a social worker have thoughts?

Treating people well is a skill

Sometimes, people go into various fields thinking that they are inherently safe people because they know certain things from experience. For instance, people with disabilities go into the field of service provision thinking that they will know how to avoid abuse of power. Or people who have had bad experiences in school and think that they would never use their power in ways that hurt kids.

Sometimes people think that they are safe people because of their political values, or other values. For instance, people sometimes think that reading a lot of disability rights theory makes them ideal staff. Men sometimes think that reading a lot of feminist theory means that they’re immune to gendered power dynamics. White people often think that reading things about diversity and tolerance makes them immune to white supremacist attitudes and hurting people of color with their privilege. But it doesn’t actually work that way.

Your politics do not make you a safe person. Treating people well is a skill, and it goes far beyond knowing what’s at stake. It also goes far beyond knowing the right words and being able to deploy them. It also goes beyond being angry at the world or objecting when other people do blatantly awful things. There is a component of action, too. You also have to know how to act right towards others, and this is something you have to work on continually. No amount of radical conceptual knowledge will replace the need to work on the actual skills involved in treating people well.

And to state it somewhat more simply - knowing that there are power dynamics doesn’t make you immune from abusing power. Neither does identifying them when you see them. Having spent a lot of time thinking about it doesn’t make you immune, either. No one is immune. You have to constantly watch yourself, listen to feedback from people you have power over, and work continuously to improve your ability to treat people right and use your power the right way.

No one is ever, ever beyond the need to keep working on the practical skills involved in treating people well.

It’s not about what kind of person you are; it is never possible to make yourself into a kind of person who is too good to abuse power. It is possible to continually work to improve your actual actions.

Make sure you’re doing that work. It’s important.

Noticing power

cool-yubari:

realsocialskills:

girljanitor:

realsocialskills:

How do you know if you have power over someone? There are times when it’s obvious, of course, like if you’re someone’s employer or teacher or caretaker. But if you don’t have any power over them in any official capacity, you can still have power over them in other ways that are less obvious. But sometimes I find it hard to tell if someone thinks of themselves as my equal or not, when I don’t have official power over them. Sorry, I know this is probably a stupid question.

realsocialskills said:

This isn’t a stupid question. It’s complicated. There’s no simple way to be sure. Power is something you have to always be noticing.

Some situations in which you have power (not exhaustive; but some things I know about):

  • Someone is financially dependent on you
  • (Including situations in which you’re letting a friend stay with you because they have no other place to go)
  • Someone has been socialized to never say no, and wants to please you
  • Someone you know damaging secrets about, especially if they don’t know any of yours
  • When you’re a senior member of a profession and they’re new
  • You’re interacting with someone who has been socialized not to be able to say no to you
  • You’re much older than the other person, but still young enough to have social power
  • The person you are interacting with lives in a nursing home
  • You are a mental health professional who is likely to be believed if you say someone is suicidal or otherwise in need of coerced treatment (especially if you are that person’s doctor or therapist, but even if you’re not)
  • You’re clergy or have a related kind of religious status
  • You’re bigger and stronger than the other person

girljanitor said

This needs intersectionality and I’m too tired to run it down right now

but yes

it’s very complex

realsocialskills said:

Yes, it absolutely does need intersectionality. All of those things I mentioned always matter as kinds of power, but they’re not always the most significant kinds of power in a given relationships. It gets really, really complicated when there are competing ways in which people have power on one axis and not another.

Every single example I used gets much, much more complicated when it is an interaction between a white person and a person of color. (For instance, this can get *really* complicated when a white disabled person hires a person of color as support staff, particularly if the person they hire is in the country on a work visa they will lose if they are fired).

There are also instances in which something can be simultaneously a source of power and a source of lack of power. For instance, big strong men with intellectual disabilities are far more likely to be institutionalized than smaller and weaker women with the same cognitive abilities. But the power that comes from strength doesn’t completely stop mattering, either.

cool-yubari said

I’d like to make a more exhaustive list but I don’t have the energy right now, so this will be incomplete.

-If you have a skill that the other person admires and lacks (or hasn’t developed), there’s a good chance they feel like you’re above them. This is especially true when said skill is something your culture at large values you for.

-If there’s a well-known stereotype promoting the idea that your demographic is especially savvy or knowledgeable about something. For instance, it’s common that salesmen and IT people will address me and give more weight to what I say when I accompany my parents to do something tech related.

-If people consider you more sensible, trustworthy, or normal than the other person. The quick and dirty test for this is “if our accounts contradicted each other, which would people more readily believe?”

-If the other person feels significantly indebted to you.

Obviously, there are many other subtle power dynamics. The more you look, the more you see.

youneedacat:

Social skills for autonomous people: The word “institution”

crown-of-weeds:

realsocialskills:

In a disability context, “institution” means something like “an organization that keeps disabled folks separate from mainstream society and under the control of others”.

It used to be fairly common practice for families (under great pressure from…

youneedacat said:

I live in such a housing complex. Entirely disabled and elderly, nobody else lives here. Over a hundred residents. Everyone in town thinks we are a nursing home.
We are not a nursing home. And we are not an institution. Not even close.

This is why the building doesn’t make a place an institution.

There are institutions that don’t look like “institutional” buildings.

There are places that look like “institutional” buildings. Including where I live. That are absolutely not institutions. Even when they’re shitty in other ways because subsidized housing often is.

Things that make me shiver and want to throw up: The “hospital without walls” program. Terrifying. Definitely an institution. But each resident lives in their own apartment in separate apartment complexes. They think it’s progress. It’s awful. I’ve seen similar institutions for DD people. I call them “distributed institutions”.

This is why I can’t give an exact time frame for how long I was institutionalized. I spent a total of a year and a half, roughly, in locked mental institutions and residential facilities. But I was also in community institutions and distributed institutions. This messed with my head far worse than being locked up.

That’s why these things are important.

The place I get services from is sometimes institutional and sometimes not depending on what clients they serve. They don’t believe they are institutional at all. This is dangerous.

But my actual apartment building is not an institution and most people here are disabled. (Whether also elderly or not.) And the rest are elderly but not disabled. The building looks institutional inside and out. People think it’s a nursing home. Etc. And it’s a shitty place to live in many ways, and the owners have even endangered residents in ways that resulted in death in at least one occasion. Still not an institution. Can’t explain the difference. And I have very good institution radar.

The word "institution"

crown-of-weeds:

realsocialskills:

In a disability context, “institution” means something like “an organization that keeps disabled folks separate from mainstream society and under the control of others”.

It used to be fairly common practice for families (under great pressure from doctors and state authorities) to send their disabled children to residential institutions and then have no further relationship with them. That’s fallen out of favor in the past couple of decades, but a lot of the underlying power dynamics remain in service providers in other settings.

For instance, group homes are often referred to as being “living in the community” rather than “institutions”, but they also often have identical power dynamics.

Similarly, some places will say that they are not institutions but are rather “intentional communities” or some sort of utopian village because they are farms and cottages rather than big harshly lit buildings. But again, they have the same power dynamics.

The power dynamics can be hard to spot if you don’t know how to look for them, because a lot of institutions will go out of their way to pretend they’re doing something fundamentally different.

crown-of-weeds said:

Some handy ways to spot institutions, for my followers!

If an adult has a bedtime, it’s an institution.

If an adult can’t make a burrito at midnight just because they want to, it’s an institution.

If you can’t fire your staff without losing your home, it’s an institution. (Jargon version: if housing and service provision are linked, it’s an institution.)

If more than six disabled people are living there, dollars to doughnuts it’s an institution.

If everyone says it’s the residents’ choice to live there, but all you can find is quotes from family members, those residents are under guardianship and it’s an institution.

realsocialskills said:

I’ve seen the thing about more than six before, but I’ve also seen it disputed, and I don’t really understand that rubric.

It seems to me that six people is *easily* enough people to have that kind of dynamic. I think four is too. Aren’t there group homes with four adults?

Also, there are things like subsidized housing complexes for elderly and disabled people that don’t link service provision and housing. Do you regard those as institutions? I thought that they often weren’t.

Noticing power

Anonymous asked:
How do you know if you have power over someone? There are times when it’s obvious, of course, like if you’re someone’s employer or teacher or caretaker. But if you don’t have any power over them in any official capacity, you can still have power over them in other ways that are less obvious. But sometimes I find it hard to tell if someone thinks of themselves as my equal or not, when I don’t have official power over them. Sorry, I know this is probably a stupid question.
 

realsocialskills said:

This isn’t a stupid question. It’s complicated. There’s no simple way to be sure. Power is something you have to always be noticing.

Some situations in which you have power (not exhaustive; but some things I know about):

  • Someone is financially dependent on you
  • (Including situations in which you’re letting a friend stay with you because they have no other place to go)
  • Someone has been socialized to never say no, and wants to please you
  • Someone you know damaging secrets about, especially if they don’t know any of yours
  • When you’re a senior member of a profession and they’re new
  • You’re interacting with someone who has been socialized not to be able to say no to you
  • You’re much older than the other person, but still young enough to have social power
  • The person you are interacting with lives in a nursing home
  • You are a mental health professional who is likely to be believed if you say someone is suicidal or otherwise in need of coerced treatment (especially if you are that person’s doctor or therapist, but even if you’re not)
  • You’re clergy or have a related kind of religious status
  • You’re bigger and stronger than the other person

Crucial differences

These things are different:

  • Wanting something to be true
  • Wanting to think something is true
  • Wanting someone else to feel like something is true
  • Wanting reassurance that something is true

An example:

  • Interacting with someone consensually
  • Feeling like your interactions are consensual
  • Having that person think of the interactions as consensual
  • Having that person reassure you that things are consensual.

And another:

  • Not wanting to put someone in danger
  • Wanting to feel like a safe person
  • Wanting someone to feel safe
  • Wanting someone to reassure you that they feel safe

And these:

  • Seeking to avoid abusing anyone
  • Seeking to avoid seeing yourself as an abusive person
  • Wanting others to see you as someone who doesn’t abuse others
  • Wanting others to reassure you that you’re not the kind of person who abuses people

And this too:

  • Respecting someone’s boundaries
  • Feeling like you’re a person who respects boundaries
  • Wanting someone to feel as though their boundaries are being respected
  • Wanting someone to reassure you that you’re not crossing any lines

If you don’t understand the difference, you’re dangerous to people you have power over.

Because feelings and perceptions can be manipulated without changing the underlying reality.

Making people feel safe isn’t enough; you also have to create real safety. Making people tell you that you’re not crossing a line isn’t enough; you have to actually care about their boundaries. Seeing yourself as a non-abusive person isn’t enough; you have to actively pay attention to treating people well.

If you want to do right by people, you have to care about the reality.

What’s some good, simple games you could play with a bunch of 14-18 years old special needs teenagers?
That depends entirely on what they like and what their needs are. I can’t really tell you good games without knowing the teenagers in question. All “special needs” tells me is that someone decided that these teenagers should be in a segregated program rather than integrated with non-disabled peers.
You should take into account the very real possibility that kids that age might not be especially interested in playing simple games. A good percentage of teenagers aren’t, and being classed as “special needs” doesn’t necessarily change that.
There are tons of websites that have suggestions for games to play with people of various ages. (Including adults. Don’t ignore suggestions meant for adults). I’d say look those up, see if there are any that seem like the folks you work with might enjoy, and try them. And then, if that doesn’t work, do something else.
But also, ask them. If they’re people who have expressive language, ask them if they know any good games, or what else they’d like to do. If not, make suggestions and see how they react. Respect their communication and preferences.
No one that age should ever have to play a game they don’t want to play.

fourloves:

Social skills for autonomous people: Acknowledging power

realsocialskills:

When you have power over someone, it’s important to acknowledge it. If you don’t acknowledge that you have power, it’s hard to examine your use of it. If you’re not paying attention to how you’re using your power, you will come to abuse it, and you won’t notice.

Sometimes, when people are…

This post made me think, I call my client my boss sometimes (I’m a PA to a profoundly disabled woman). It’s not totally a joke because I do think she should be in charge and her parents encourage me to do what she seems to like. But I know that most people wouldn’t call her my boss so it’s kind of cutesy for me to call her that and also…she can’t directly fire me or even tell me what to do a lot of the time because she can’t talk, write, or use AAC consistently.

I don’t like terms like “caregiver” because that doesn’t include the idea that I should be helping her do what she wants (not just “taking care of her” like you would say about a baby). But this post made me think that calling her my boss is a little much and maybe a little insulting. Not just because it implies things she can’t do but also because it sounds like a joke and makes a joke of the idea that her preferences are important. (It’s better to just say I am her PA/aide/assistant which is a more normal term, but also implies what I want to imply.)

That’s interesting. I get the sense that there’s a lot more to be said and thought about there, but I don’t know enough to say it.

If anyone who does wants to weigh in, that would be most appreciated.

Don't assume marginalized people are safe

trafalgarslaw:

realsocialskills:

Sometimes people who are marginalized assume that other marginalized people are safe by definition. This is really dangerous, and it sets people up for a lot of gaslighting. We need to make sure not to encourage this in activist and otherwise pro-human spaces.

For example, some people do things their stereotypes say they’re incapable of doing:

  • Some women are sexual abusers
  • Some autistic people are manipulative bullies
And also, sometimes people do bad things that are (wrongly) stereotypical of their group. For instance:
  • Some gay people are sexual predators
  • Some members of minority faiths are destructive fundamentalists.
Some people in marginalized groups do stereotypical or anti-stereotypical bad things, and when this happens, it’s important for activist and other pro-human groups to acknowledge it and not tolerate it.

If you know someone else is in a marginalized group, that’s all you know about them. Don’t assume that they know what it’s like to be mistreated, and are thus safe and trustworthy and would never harm another person. *Especially* when their actions have shown otherwise.

I especially hate this when it’s coming from psychologists. A lot of female psychologists and psychiatrists tend to look at me and decided that I have boobs and therefore must be female and therefore must trust them. Immediately, without question.

Because, of course, women have to trust each other, that’s only natural and men aren’t any trustworthy, especially not when it comes to psychotherapy.

And I hate that. I have stopped therapy because of that. Even ignoring the fact that I am not a woman, being a woman doesn’t make anyone trustworthy. And a psychologist or psychiatrist (or medical doctor, at that) who demands that you trust them because your gender identity or primary sex characteristics match theirs is in my eyes more untrustworthy than someone who gives you evidence of their trustworthyness or who simply deals with you not trusting them.

Also, on a semi-related note, it’s perfectly okay to not trust people, regardless of who they are. That doesn’t mean you have to ignore them or go against their advice or anything, but double checking and questioning things you are told is always, always, always something that is permitted and okay and good.

Don’t just trust people because they said so or because they are part of a marginalised or oppressed group. Trust people because they are trustworthy and are willing to proof that and/or willing to deal with you not trusting them until they prove themselves trustworthy.

Trust isn’t something that can ever be owed to anyone and it’s not something that can be demanded from you, no matter who’s doing the demanding.

This. 

unicornismforever:

Social skills for autonomous people: Don’t assume marginalized people are safe

realsocialskills:

youneedacat:

realsocialskills:

Sometimes people who are marginalized assume that other marginalized people are safe by definition. This is really dangerous, and it sets people up for a lot of gaslighting. We need to make sure not to encourage this in activist and otherwise pro-human spaces.

For example, some people do things…

Moreover, don’t assume that someone is safe or that their actions are acceptable just because they are, or appear, or pretend to be, more marginalized or more of a victim than you are.

My primary stalker loves to play on the sympathy she gets as an ultra-marginalized victim in order to do her best to destroy people’s lives. She only gets away with some of the things she has done because she claims to be ultra-marginalized and ultra-victimized and plays on people’s stereotypes to seem always the innocent victim when she actually is the most full-of-hate person I’ve ever met, who goes around finding the easiest targets she can come up with, to express that hate towards. All the way manipulating people’s images and stereotypes of good vs. bad oppressed people to make herself look good and her victims look bad (even when the things she picks on are rather ordinary, she has the capacity to twist them into looking menacing or wrong). It’s very complex and she relies on these stereotypes to get people to hate the people she wants them to hate.

She’d have a much harder time getting away with things if she weren’t able to claim an ultra-marginalized status and get sympathy and absolution that way.

Yes, this. 

This is also why I think the rule that says “If someone from a marginalized group says you did something oppressive, then you did and you should apologize and fix it” is really dangerous.

Because there’s nothing about that rule that prevents it from being used by abusers to attack others.

(And nothing about this rule prevents it from being used by socially powerful people to silence people with far less power, either. Someone being good at manipulating these images is *not* the same as being the most vulnerable person in the room.)

I do a lot of angry about men, but women are dangerous too, and while one would hope we’d keep each other safe, we don’t as we’re socialized to hurt other people as well. Just differently.

Yes, and sometimes the same ways, too.

There isn’t any way of hurting people that is only done by men.

Social skills for autonomous people: Don't assume marginalized people are safe

youneedacat:

realsocialskills:

Sometimes people who are marginalized assume that other marginalized people are safe by definition. This is really dangerous, and it sets people up for a lot of gaslighting. We need to make sure not to encourage this in activist and otherwise pro-human spaces.

For example, some people do things…

Moreover, don’t assume that someone is safe or that their actions are acceptable just because they are, or appear, or pretend to be, more marginalized or more of a victim than you are.

My primary stalker loves to play on the sympathy she gets as an ultra-marginalized victim in order to do her best to destroy people’s lives. She only gets away with some of the things she has done because she claims to be ultra-marginalized and ultra-victimized and plays on people’s stereotypes to seem always the innocent victim when she actually is the most full-of-hate person I’ve ever met, who goes around finding the easiest targets she can come up with, to express that hate towards. All the way manipulating people’s images and stereotypes of good vs. bad oppressed people to make herself look good and her victims look bad (even when the things she picks on are rather ordinary, she has the capacity to twist them into looking menacing or wrong). It’s very complex and she relies on these stereotypes to get people to hate the people she wants them to hate.

She’d have a much harder time getting away with things if she weren’t able to claim an ultra-marginalized status and get sympathy and absolution that way.

Yes, this. 

This is also why I think the rule that says “If someone from a marginalized group says you did something oppressive, then you did and you should apologize and fix it” is really dangerous.

Because there’s nothing about that rule that prevents it from being used by abusers to attack others.

(And nothing about this rule prevents it from being used by socially powerful people to silence people with far less power, either. Someone being good at manipulating these images is *not* the same as being the most vulnerable person in the room.)

Response to a question about coming out

Hey Social Skills, as an INTJ I love your blog since my social interactions are often less than elegant. On your post about coming out - perhaps it would be prudent to add a post about people who ARE gay and socially disabled about when it is okay to come out, when it could be dangerous, etc? I feel that that post may have implied that they should hide it for themselves too, when it is to some extent more acceptable to be open about one’s OWN sexuality. Thanks so much for running this blog :) -H

This depends a lot on context, and I don’t have a general theory of when coming out is a good idea. 

Here’s some things I do know:

Secret relationships are really dangerous, because they isolate people in them from their friends, and they also make it difficult-to-impossible to get help if things go bad. Some predatory people use being closeted as a way to isolate their partners. It’s usually a bad idea to date someone who isn’t out to *anyone*, and it’s also usually a bad sign if all the decisions about how and when to be out are made by one partner. 

Even when nothing on that scale is happening, secret relationships cause problems. Having to pretend to be single is a cost – for example, when your siblings come to family events with partners and everyone wonders why you are still single.

Concealing something that fundamental places sharp limits on how close a friendship can be, and it’s important to take that cost seriously.

It makes life a lot better if you can find friends who it is safe to be out to, and if you can move to an area in which being out is possible.

If you are religious, and you are a member of a faith or faith community in which being gay is stigmatized or demonized, you are not alone and you probably should not try to take this on alone. People are probably trying to tell you that you have to choose between your faith and your sexuality, but there are others within your faith in same-sex relationships who have rejected this and kept their faith. That might not be where you end up, but talking to them is still likely to help you find your way, if for no other reason than that they will know what you are talking about in ways that most secular people will not. And with the internet, it’s possible to find them – there are email lists and there are organizations, and it can help a lot.

And just, generally speaking, the best coming out advice comes from people whose lives are or have been similar to yours. Because it depends heavily on context.

But there’s a lot more to it than that, and I think it’s probable that a good percentage of people following know more than I do about this. Comments anyone?