Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Real Talk with Rachel: Political Infighting; Blasting Your Neighbors Away

By Rachel Kurzius

Dear Rachel,

I am very involved in a political group in DC.  There are about twelve of us who attend the weekly meetings and take on additional responsibilities like organizing rallies, actions and outreach. I dedicate a lot of time, energy and passion to this group.

Because of the time we spend together and shared interests, many of us have become close friends. However, there is one guy in the group I cannot stand. He is full of ideas but short on execution. He is also quick to criticize the efforts of others. I think constructive criticism and open dialogue are important, but I don’t think he adds anything to the conversation.

Others in the group share my perspective on this guy, but some key members seem enchanted by him. What should I do?

Political Infighting

Dear Political Infighting,

What intrigue! A political group gains a new member, only to learn that he is a warlock. Perhaps he can use some of his magic for political ends, instead of just to ingratiate himself with some of your crew?

In all seriousness, this guy is charismatic enough to have charmed his way into the fold. Charisma in itself can be a powerful tool, and you might find his wiles useful for your group, even if it’s grating for you.

Because let’s face it -– this all comes back to your political group, right? You’re asking me whether you can justify kicking this guy to the curb because he is distracting your group from the work you all want to be doing. The big question for me is whether I can believe that this guy is tearing your group apart, or whether he merely happens to be someone you don’t like.

If this guy is making everyone feel bad, I would imagine that he burns a new bridge every meeting. Are people being open with him about how he makes it harder to get things done? Maybe he just doesn’t know that his flip attitude has a negative effect on others. Make him aware. If he keeps hurting feelings and people keep calling him out on it, he might tire of coming to meetings.

If the group is irritated that he keeps taking on tasks and then doesn’t follow through, then stop giving him important jobs to do. If he asks why he’s being marginalized, then you can all explain that he needs to prove he’s dependable before you all start depending on him.

You’ll notice that all this advice involves action from more members of the group than just you. This way, your group can come to a more
consensus-based decision or the guy will leave of his own volition, rather than have you stage a great schism based on personal enmity.

You never know what kind of skills, connections or ideas this person might have beyond his charisma. Best not to create an enemy for your group or cause; if you’re working on a controversial issue, you’ll have enough without creating more.



Dear Rachel,

I live in a rowhouse, so there are neighbors on the other side of my
roommates and my living room wall. No one in my house has a relationship with our neighbors. While we nod or wave when we see each other, I’m not even really sure who lives there, let alone their names.

I tell you this because I just got a new, very loud pair of speakers. I want to listen to music or even a movie at full blast. But I worry about these neighbors. They’ve gotten angry when we’ve thrown parties that have gone late into the night, but I wonder if I can utilize my new speakers at all without being inconsiderate.

Trying to Live at Full Volume

Dear Trying to Live at Full Volume,

General rule of thumb: if you have to ask if you’re being inconsiderate, you are probably being inconsiderate, at least to some people.

But your question gets to the heart of what it is to live in a community: how much must you limit your own wants for the benefit of people with whom you have little interaction?

While I have never asked my neighbors for the clichéd cup of sugar, largely because I don’t bake, I would like to think they would let me use their phones in an emergency situation, or call the police if they see something awry when I’m away. To ensure this, I try to play it a little safe.

To me, that means extending very general courtesies -– no littering or having pets poop in their yard, no heckling, scant loud parties (and advance warning of said parties, if possible), etc.

Where does blasting speakers fall on that list? Depends how long, when and what’s coming out of the speakers. Try out those speakers at full volume during the day for a song or two, but don’t overdo it. And don’t expect a cup of sugar any time soon.



Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a reporter at a financial trade publication. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv,, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel at advice (at) .

1 comment:

  1. There are noise regulations in DC. If they aren't adhered to, one could have a visit from a city official and accompanying fine. So, it's not just about being courteous, it's also about obeying the LAW! Read all about the noise regs here: