The illustration
covers about forty-five minutes on a Sunday morning. Imagine the chances to experience
other agitators had you stayed around for a day or a week.


The illustration
shows the stock-and-trade of the agitator. It is having information – being in
the know, without a high level of importance placed on accuracy or relevance.


For example, you
can imagine one of the gossips asking, “Do you know what was going around
about him last year?”


Curiosity may have
killed the cat, but it is the main bait of the agitator. Not many can resist
responding, “No, what?”


Now the player can
tell all, with little if any concern for truth or relevance. Anyway, the player
never says it is true. It is just something that was going around – and is now
going around again, thanks to the player.


The ambitious
player learns to embellish and shape the information to increase its
importance. An effective way of doing this comes from Melvin. “I don’t
think we should just brush this off as a minor problem.” Melvin is
exceptional. Carolyn says something to one child. Consequently, the church
itself is at risk. With the church at risk, Melvin has no difficulty getting
almost anyone to listen and take him seriously.


Along with the
ability to amplify the information, the successful player has a real knack for
turning any conversation in negative and problematic directions. The way the
church member talks about the board meetings is an instructive example of
agitating. It is easy to miss the smooth way the player chains several
techniques.


First, the player
represents Rev. O’Connor as an example of something undesirable, someone who
tells people not to gossip and then does that very thing at his board meetings.


If that is not
enough, the preacher is dishonest and pulls the wool over everyone’s eyes
except the player’s. He does this at his so-called board meetings. “So-called”
is the key to the ploy. They are not proper board meetings at all. The agitator
exposes the fraud.


Now comes the
closer. “If I were in charge. . .” Of course the player is
not and will never be in charge. The long and short of what the player says is,
“I am more competent than the preacher.” This is why others should
listen to him and listen they do.


The chief element
in the play is this. As the player talks to his buddies, the message is that
they too are more competent than the preacher. The player takes the high status
role and offers similar roles to his friends. Most all behavior that drives you
up the wall reduces to the acquisition and distribution of power and influence.
People are trying to gain or protect power or perceived power.


The teacher in the
illustration gives you an especially cruel example of the method. Her clever
gambit comes when she splits her play into two parts. First comes, “It was
all right but the new ones in the class just add to my problems.” After
the young mother sets down her coffee cup and rushes away, the agitator asks,
“What got into her?”


Suppose another
member of the group suggests that the teacher upset the woman. The teacher acts
shocked and says, “I have no idea what you are talking about. I was not
talking about her and her children.” It matters little anyway. The mother
and her children likely will not be back so the player will never have to deal
with the outcome of her behavior. It is a variation of the hit-and-run play,
except here it is hit and the other person runs.


There is yet
another agitator getting in her two cents worth whether anyone wants to hear it
or not. “I do not want any bad feelings and would not upset anyone for the
world. I just have to say this.” Of course, she knows there will be bad
feelings and someone will get upset. The trick is to deny any intent although
the player well-knows what is going to happen. It is like saying, “I would
not hurt you for anything,” and then punching the person in the nose.


Having given a
disclaimer of any malicious intent, the player says, “I just have to say
this.” She does not want to but has to say it. Maybe the devil is making
her do it.


What if someone
interrupts and says, “No, you do not have to say anything.”


The player then
says, “I’m sorry but I do have to say it. It has to be said.” Only
the totally unsocialized refuse to back off and let her say her piece. Sooner
or later the agitator takes center stage with a receptive audience.


There is one last
complex gambit. It starts with, “I think you better talk with Carolyn. . .
. I think she has a right to hear it to her face.” This opens the
interchange on just the right note for the agitator. The preacher is
immediately on the defensive and the player is ready for the assault. The stage
is set.


The preacher tries
to put it off but the agitator has none of that. “I think we should settle
this now.”


The player presses
on in spite of the preacher’s efforts to calm the troubled waters. “You
are not going to let him put you off, are you?” If Carolyn says,
“Yes,” she is a patsy and someone who lets others kick her around. If
she says, “No,” the confrontation is inevitable. Most people do the
face-saving thing and say, “No, I will not be put off like that.” It
is human nature that helps the player succeed.


The closer for the
gambit is when the real stroke of genius comes. “I can see this is getting
a little personal. . . . I will be headed home.” The player creates the
scene, encourages the participants, and sets the stage for the confrontation.
Her work is done. On cue, she exits and lets the scene play itself. Her motto
is Why don’t the two of you go fight?


This agitator is
an experienced player. How can you tell? Players with less experience usually
stay to watch. With experience, they learn that the risk of watching is that
the combatants may join forces and turn on the player, if he is still there.
The trick is to set the stage and then get as far away as possible.