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.