manipulative behavior?

have i inadvertently used my friendships as a place to practice community organizing (c.o.) principles rather than the place to develop…well, friendships?

let me clarify a few things first.
1.) i hardly consider myself a c.o.. my knowledge of the real world comes through the mtv show (and more specifically my favorite season in new orleans); my knowledge of government similarly comes through the west wing; and the word ‘organized’ usually means the ability to leave my apartment for the day without forgetting anything.

a bit of exaggeration, perhaps. but aaron sorkin deserves some credit.

2.) the timing of my question is worth noting. the intersection of a coffee date resurgence at the crossroads with recent musings on power has me currently holding the proverbial roadmap of life wondering where and if i made a wrong turn.

a brief word on said coffee dates and then power. when i say ‘coffee date’ i’m not talking about the half-assed attempt guys–many of whom have found a nesting place at fuller–make to dip their feet into the wading pool of a potential dating relationship. instead, i’m talking about friends and acquaintances getting together over a vienna breve or tea latte for conversation (two great drinks, by the way. worth a try–the vienna at jb). a “get to know you outside group dynamics” kind of thing. no expectations, no ulterior motive; just your caffeinated beverage of choice and chatting.
and power. the ability to do things or get things done, according to a recent class discussion. based on recent readings, the key to corporate transformation when focused toward building power relationally. in short, governance.

the convergence of these two ideas was actually quite harmless, but it has left me with a few more questions than answers. apparently the key to building the aforementioned relational power is found in the “one-on-one,” or sometimes known as “individual meetings,” or “relational meetings.” wait, isn’t that simply c.o. jargon for coffee dates?

this is no simple issue of semantics, mind you. one-on-ones are intentional, with guidelines for their implementation and integral to the formation of public relationships. at a very fundamental level, these ‘relational meetings’ amount to a well-planned power analysis.

power analysis?! i thought coffee dates were a chance to grab a ceramic mug and catch up on last week’s episode of glee? a chance to realize that we are truly unique…just like everyone else. to adapt lewis’ popular quotation on friendship, coffee dates provide the space for that pleasant surprise when i realize i am not the only one who watches the goonies on a rainy day. an opportunity to discover nuanced personality traits that may be lost in a group setting.

but now i’m worried that the coffee date is secret coding for m-a-n-i-p-u-l-a-t-i-o-n. that is, when i say i want to talk about that last episode in glee, what i’m actually doing is inadvertently working through a power analysis to determine if the friend across the table is a mover and shaker in the community. there is an intentionality in these coffee dates. i like to ask questions, listen, perhaps ask of any prayer requests…and i like to follow up later. am i being a friend, or simply practicing c.o. principles? the former, i hope.

at the end of the day (and it is the end of the day), i’d like to think that i draw clear lines between my friends and ‘everyone else.’ i need to flesh this out a little bit more…


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