Some More Thoughts on Peer/Dependent Relationships

And now it’s time for Peerage Thoughts, with Andreas Blacwode.

Disclaimer — this is not about any of my Dependents, who are all exemplars in their own way, we’re all fine. It’s also not specifically about any of my past relationships with my Peers, although it’s certainly applicable to some of them. Lastly, this is my opinion, I don’t speak for my order or my kingdom, but only myself, blah blah blah.

Now that that’s out of the way:

There are two main aspects to Peerage in the SCA: the official, defined duties (the What), and the unofficial work that’s not regulated by Corpora or Kingdom law (the How). Each Kingdom is slightly different, but since Peers are Peers of the Society, not a Kingdom, the basics are the same:

Advise the Crown,
Increase our labors Nobly,
Instruct (of which there are a variety of methods) our Dependents (and anyone else who wants it).

Advising the Crown varies from Kingdom to Kingdom, but every Kingdom has polls, so there’s that.

Increasing our labors Nobly is just a fancy way of saying “keep doing what you’re doing”, which, you know, makes me want to go KABOOM, but it’s tradition, the same way drunken slap-fights at the Holiday Party between the CTO and CFO at my last company were — not everyone likes it, but it’s inevitably going to happen, so let’s just hope to get through it without anyone going to the pokey, so… whatever.

Instructing and teaching, though, is in my opinion, the least defined — and in some ways the most important — duty of a Peer. Every Peer does it a little bit differently; but in most cases, the relationship is defined as an agreement between a Peer and Dependent where the Peer is a teacher and advisor to the Dependent.

As a professional Coach and Mentor, it’s my job to help my clients see the path, the gaps and the potential issues they face as they work to progress towards their intended goals. That requires a level of trust between both parties — trust on my part that my clients are going to try to listen to me and not react defensively, and trust on the part of my clients that I’m going to provide helpful, actionable advice and be with them, every step of the way, as they work on following that advice.

It doesn’t matter if my client is twice my age, or a CEO, or if they’re 18 years old, or if they do a minimum wage job. Our mundane “ranks” have nothing to do with the specific relationship that we’re in; I’m the coach, they’re the student. Without both of us buying in to that framework, the engagement will be non-functional, and it’s very likely that it will fail.

It is the same with Peer/Dependent relationships in the SCA.

Now, while I’m not a fan of Peers being dependents of other Peers, it happens, just like Landed Baronages are sometimes dependents of Peers, or even Royalty. And while any pre-existing Fealty is set aside when becoming Royalty or Baronage (and possibly when being recognized as a Peer, since not every Peer swears fealty), the teaching relationship that both Peer and Dependent have agreed to must continue to be respected, either as is, amended to reflect the new station of the Dependent, or set aside entirely. The Peer is the mentor, the Dependent is the student. The relative ranks outside of that relationship don’t matter. And if you cannot respect the pre-existing framework, your relationship is going to fail — and it’s going to be your fault, no matter what you tell yourself, or anybody else.

This is one of the reasons why I have very specific, written agreements with my Dependents, with well defined progress review processes and conflict resolution parameters. I’ve been through more than one failed Peer/Dependent relationship, and it sucks on ice. I didn’t like going through it as a Dependent, and I don’t want to go through it as a Peer.

And none of this is to say that my clients — or my Dependents, for that matter — don’t have opportunities to push back. They’re all free to say “I don’t like that” or “This doesn’t work for me,” and then we can discuss it, and my Dependents even get to have a private group session where they review my performance.

But these discussions happen within the context of our framework, and there are moments where I will say (essentially) “I insist.”

That’s not “I’m your peer and I think I know best” — although in this case, I AM their peer and I DO think I know best. It’s “we are in this relationship where I am your mentor, and it’s my job, on rare occasions, to pull you up short and shake your worldview.”

When this happens, it’s the job of the Dependent to work very hard indeed to not respond defensively. It’s REALLY hard. IT’S REALLY REALLY HARD. It requires trust, it requires self-awareness, it requires humility, it requires honesty, not just with your Peer but also with yourself.

But it’s also worth it, because if your Peer is right (and they won’t always be), and if you trust them, when the dust settles, you’ll have taken a huge leap. The leap may be so large that all the furniture is in a different place, and you’ll have to take some time to learn how to navigate again, or it may be just small enough that you’re still in the same zip-code as before, but wow, these houses are nicer — but it will be a leap either way.

And if you can’t trust your peer, and you’re not self-aware, and you’re not humble, and you’re not honest with yourself… you’re probably not getting anything out of the relationship anyway. And that helps no one, especially yourself.

If you decide that this is where you are — you aren’t comfortable with these kinds of discussions with your Peer — then it’s on YOU to have that conversation with your Peer. Do not pass go, do not collect your Pennsic Medallion. Do not wait. Do not quibble. Go take care of business, eat your Wheaties, take your lumps, and get on with your life. Most of all, do not air your grievances publicly. (Nota Bene: I am not talking about things like bigotry, prejudice, or criminal behavior; I am talking about interpersonal difficulties that stem from disagreements over how to do things in the SCA. If you encounter these kinds of behaviors, go straight to the appropriate authorities.)

Because otherwise, all you’re doing is creating gossip, and the Order is gonna Take Note. And if I think you’re all toast and no peanut butter, my counsel to the Crown and the Order will reflect that.

This has been Peerage Thoughts, with Andreas Blacwode.

You Don’t Owe Them

Originally published May 8, 2019, but re-posted here today.

No photo description available.

My friends: this is one of the best things I’ve seen on any social media platform. We ALL would benefit from this. ESPECIALLY ME. So I will try to do it if you will try as well!

We all move through life in the middle of a blob. As we do, people enter our blob. Most of them pass right out of the blob in a few minutes. Sometimes they hang out in the blob for a while. And sometimes, they stay forever.

The people who stay in your blob are our lasting relationships. But not all relationships are good, even if that person stays in your blob for a really long time. So if you’ve got someone in your blob you don’t like, you don’t have to interact with them! Maybe you can get them to leave your blob, maybe you don’t, but YOU DO NOT OWE THEM ANYTHING.

And the thing you owe them the least is residence in your head. Sure, you can’t stop them from talking bout again YOU DO NOT OWE THEM ANYTHING — especially your attention.

If they’re not someone who’s opinion you respect enough to ask for it? They’re not someone who’s unsolicited opinion you need to listen to. Give ’em the boot! Banish them to the fringes of your blob! It’s YOUR blob, not theirs!

Happy blobbing, friends!

(h/t Davius for the meme and inspiration)

Do Better, Be Better

Originally published on May 1, 2019, but it remains 100% relevant today, especially as a peer.

Today’s morning thought:

It’s not enough to – want – to do better. Most people – want – to do better. I used to tell people I – wanted – to better. I would have an interaction, and then I would have an epiphany (or someone would shove one in my face hole).

I would apologize, even PROMISE to do better, and then within weeks even days, I’d be back to old behaviors. Old behaviors are easy. They’re comfortable. They’re painless and smooth

You have to BE better. You have to actually change your behavior.

And wow, that’s hard. It hurts, not just because you’re retraining your brain, but because as you do, you discover all the hurt and pain you’ve caused in the past to people who you either didn’t care about, didn’t know, or didn’t recognize.

Epiphanies mean nothing if you don’t act on them. Wanting is great as a motivator. You have to DO it.


On Peer/Dependent Relationships

Originally published on May 5, 2019, but I decided to push it out today instead of backdating it so it would get some more views. Reading this now, over a year later and having been elevated, I’m not sure if I have changed my mind or not, honestly.

I’ve been thinking about peer-dependent relationships lately, and how they work and don’t work and the ways we regard them in the SCA. This has informed some conversations I’ve had and my view of some recent events that I’ve seen happen adjacent to me.

Firstly, I have come to the realization that I wish, fairly seriously, that we did not use a pseudo-official signifier to indicate that someone is a dependent. I understand why we do it, but in many ways, the position of dependent has come to almost indicate a status or rank that I think damages the SCA. I’m not entirely sure what to replace it with, but people could do household badges or livery on clothes or favors, and that would suffice nearly as well. It would be harder to say “I have a job for a protege/fight for a squire/project for an apprentice” and immediately pick one out of a crowd, but I’m not sure that would necessarily be a bad thing either; it would probably push people to communicate more than just look for a colored belt.

The other, larger issue is that it seems to me that a lot of peers and dependents have no idea how to resolve internal conflict. There’s no structure or process built in to their relationship to address what happens when there’s a serious disagreement, a crisis, a misunderstanding, whatever, and when it happens, all hell breaks loose.

A lot of people like to to do the “year-and-a-day” thing with new dependents, and I think that’s great, especially when the peer and dependent are initiating a new relationship. But I’m a project manager, and I believe in iterative processes. I think that peers and dependents should talk about their relationship early and often. There should a structured, yearly review, and that review should go in both directions.

I think that most people have been lucky enough to not have a peer-dependent relationship go sour on them; my experience of having that happen three times (twice with the same peer, no less) is pretty unique. I own my own mistakes and actions in those matters, and I’m not terribly interested in debating what happened; the insights I took away from those failures are that they, in many ways, stem from a lack of preparation. Add that to how we amplify these relationships as I talked about above, and you can often have a recipe for disaster.

I don’t go to a lot of vigils, but when I do, my advice to vigilants is always “have a plan for when a relationship with a dependent goes wrong”. Have someone you can turn to as a mediator. Understand your process for dissolving the relationship with as little pain as possible for all involved. Failed peer-dependent relationships don’t have to end friendships, they don’t have to destroy households, and they don’t have to end SCA careers.

Sunday Scrum

I am called to preach the gospel of preparedness and the liturgy of organization!

Let us pray.

Our organizer, who art in the stand up,
Recognized as Employee of the Month be your name

Your Kanban come, your requirements be done,
In Waterfall as it is in Agile

Let us not stray into unfinished status reports,
As we do not call out those who have failed to report unto us.

For thine is the dashboard,
The roll up,
And the Executive Committee Meeting,
Every Monday at 9 am,


Evaluate Yourself

It’s important to realize that [people in the majority] benefit from several racist and sexist constructs of society by no direct action of your own. No one wants to blame you for the actions of others, or those of your ancestors. We just want things to get better for those who have been harmed by those same constructs.

White folks: if it’s not about you, then don’t sweat it. If someone says “white men are trash” and you know that you’re not a trash white man, it ain’t about you, let it go. If someone says “all white women clutch their pearls” but you know you don’t do that, it ain’t about you, let it go.

Our egos are literally the least important thing to be thinking about right now.

Being an ally doesn’t mean you’re perfect, but it DOES mean that when you screw up, you should be willing to listen to members of the affected minority that you’ve impacted and change your behavior to do better.

Being an ally specifically means that you’re going to work to learn from your mistakes and change how you act.

Being an ally DOES NOT MEAN saying “hey be nice to this other person who has done bad things to you and your people, because they’re a potential good ally and you don’t want to alienate them.”

That is not allyship. Allies don’t speak for other people. They support them in speaking for themselves.

This is an amalgamation of this post, this post, and this post.

Rouse You at the Name of Crispian!

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’