How to hide your rage so you look like a civilized GM

I once watched this extremely terrible movie called Vertical Limit. At least, I assume it’s terrible because I don’t remember much about it, other than that there was a lot of snow and a bunch of nuts trying to climb a mountain.

I also remember this quote:

Don’t mind her. She’s French-Canadian. Some days she’s Canadian. Can be quite pleasant. Today she’s obviously French.

This stuck with me because of all my mongrel descent, I’m mostly French-Canadian myself. I wouldn’t say I have too many “Canadian” days, but if we’re going to take a stupid quote from a stupid movie and extrapolate a sweeping generalization that French people have short tempers and/or are jerks, then yes, I have a lot of “French” days.

This doesn’t play well with being an officer, let alone the GM. At least, not in a guild where we’re all expected to be more or less nice to each other. And as someone who firmly believes in leading by example, my weaknesses are a nearly constant source of struggle for me. I’ve been commenting a lot lately in general conversations that I have no business being the GM of WWAB because most of the time, I haven’t any damn idea of just what the fuck I’m doing. I have still less business actually writing about anything leadership-related and expecting people to take me or it seriously. But I do! – err, write that is. I have no expectations of being taken the least bit seriously.

But in my struggles as an officer (and a gentleman GM), I have learned a few things that have helped to make me look less like a raging jerk and more like a civilized and semi-rational sort of creature. Here’s some things I have learned that are helpful to me and that might be helpful to others in the same boat.

1. Have a process for responding to your hot points

Few things make me see red as swiftly as seeing other people being blatantly selfish. People who sign up for a raid and then don’t show up are near the top of the list for me. People who want to bring all their alts through our multiple weekly raiding quest runs while ignoring the fact that someone else’s main still needs a shot at getting in are also there. Those who pull stupid shit in raids just so they can top the damage meters make me want to never invite them to another raid ever again. Officers who don’t do anything that looks even remotely like work but who piss and moan that they don’t like the way the guild is heading make me stabby.

My natural first instinct to most of these things is to call the offender(s) names, bitch about them behind their backs and generally fume until I’m so worked up that I finally explode in a sort volcano of seething rage.

What I’ve been trying to do lately is to have a process set up for how I respond to specific situations. Someone doesn’t show up? I replace them with as little fuss as possible and then, when I see them log on (assuming they log on that same night… otherwise I try to send them a note through some channel or other), I ask them why they failed to show up. I find that it’s easier for me to remain calm even when their reason for no-showing was that they fucked up because I’ve gone into the situation without assuming they fucked up. This helps me to not sound accusatory and prompts the person in question to display more remorse and less defensiveness.

2. Have a place or person to whom you can safely rant

I work out a lot of my immediate and latent anger here on this blog. Every rant I have ever written here is based on something that has happened at some point or another in the guild. That might not work for everyone who blogs – it can feel dicey as hell when I do so here since I don’t hide the fact that I do blog from my guildies and I know several of them read this often enough that they would probably know if I wrote something about them. So far, this hasn’t been a problem for me but I acknowledge the risk and the potential consequences and choose to rant anyway.

I also have several people who are my safe havens if I need to verbally vent my frustrations. At gets this dubious honor most often. It explains that twitch in his right eye.

3. Know thyself

Not in that way, you perverts. I mean, know yourself well enough to know when you’re being an irrational freak. From what I gather from listening to other people, this isn’t an easy thing to do, but I figure if I can train some more remote part of my mind to calmly tell the rest of me when I’m behaving like a lunatic and that I am running on emotions and not logic, surely anyone else could do the same. I haven’t quite gotten a good enough grasp on myself to snap out of my overwrought emotional states, but I am pretty good at not acting on them.

4. Have sounding boards

This is very similar to point number two, but it’s with all the ragey emotion stripped from the equation. When I am unsure of something, or feel I am overthinking it, I like to pose short questions to other people. I’m always asking random crap on Twitter. I’ve asked here on the blog. I have a special forum where, if I’m not ready to present something to the officers as a whole, I’ll put it to a very small sub-group to get their advice and feedback.

I think the most important thing about sounding boards though, is to be sure to consult either a wide range of people or have one person who usually disagrees with you until they can understand your entire thought process. I can’t even tell you the number of times a private conversation or two with my sounding board has caused me to take a step back and look at an issue from a completely new angle.

5. When in doubt, shut the hell up and wait

Patience and calmness are the hardest things for me to work on. I tend to spot an issue and want to work it over until I have a solution or can say I fixed it. But since I am often dealing with other people, the solutions are rarely easy. If I went with the first idea I had on how to fix things, sought no feedback and went at it with an emotional rather than logical slant, well, I’d have a guild comprised of myself and maybe At.

Just last week, I was in a state where I could have done something very, very stupid. I could have torn apart the core of the guild, had I moved forward with any of what I was thinking. This is not to say that I don’t still have a change I want to implement, but acting on it last week would have been a disaster since it was all fueled by emotion. It might still be a disaster even after I come at it again without the rage and angst that was ruling last week. I don’t know.

There’s so much I don’t know and again, I realize I am staggering around blindly, making as many mistakes as I make good efforts. But the exercise has shaped me and changed me, which is pretty awesome considering I play the game for fun – not for it to be an interactive self-help tool. Maybe someday I’ll be more Canadian than French.


How to hide your rage so you look like a civilized GM — 13 Comments

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  2. Then with this said, I think you have all the right stuff to be a GM. Generally speaking those of us that don't want a 'leadership' role are usually those that would be good at it. If you take a situation full of emotion and sit on it until you can ration it out logically then you are doing the role as leader and that's my dear is what makes you a good GM.

    Granted we all have shortfalls, we all have a tendency to run with those emotional outbursts but overall you take each one in stride. You have a place to vent verbally, you have several loyal people to bend their ear, support you, or just give you a different perspective. The bottom line here is to align yourself with people that actually give two-shits about the game, two-shits about making a difference and two-shits about supporting the one that leads us into battle. If those people are there, and you start the conversation with, "This is full of emotional trash but I need to voice blah-blah"…then chances are they realize what is going on and will listen first, ask questions, and then go from there.

    You do a good job. Emotions are a part of being human. And unless your vulcan, Ms. Spock, I doubt seriously you'll 'just get over it'. So, keep your head up, stand your ground, get some support, and then…lead on…mistakes will be made and that's fine too.

    Hugs ~Jinx

  3. I agree, as a GL, forcing yourself to keep stuff in is tough, and sometimes I wear my emotions on a sleeve, but know that you are not alone, and all GL's go through these things.

    • Perhaps what we need is a support group? That would certainly be a safe place to come and cry about how frustrating it can be to be responsible. :P

  4. You know, my first instinct just now was to link this post to my own GM *lol* Those are some really good pointers and I think it sounds like you're doing really well. :)

    • Well, thank you! That is highly flattering. And yes, I am managing to keep it together, more or less. This week anyway. We'll see what next week brings.

  5. So she needs to talk to someone that gives 6 shits? sounds like someone might need a diet change…

  6. I think it's not just GMs and officers that can benefit from the suggestions you make. Anyone who cares about their guild and their performance will probably get angry when others are stupid/late/dead from standing in fires. I am having to bite my words back a lot lately so am glad I have a blog to vent on and a semi private channel with sympathetic guildmates ^^

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  8. Somehow that doesn’t shock me.

    Sorry. I couldn’t help myself. I’m French.

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