Help GTA ham radio operators play well together and not be “little clowns”


Joining a new repeater playgroup or setting one up? Think about what policies you’d like to set for handling inevitable issues. Having repeater playgroups agree on these strategies alleviates tension and creates consistency for each ham. It’s hard to make good decisions when feelings are high, and the repeater playgroups tend to blame each other for bad hams “off track” behavior. If you have discussed and agreed on policies, then you and the other repeater playgroups involved have the chance to support each other more fully when upsets arise.

Today we’ll look at common “trouble spots,” and offer calm solutions for handling them. When you are joining a repeater playgroup or getting together with other hams, think about these situations:

  • Separation Issues
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Withdrawn behavior
  • Squabbles over possession

Here are some suggestions about policies on these issues, and the reasoning behind them.


Incidents like someone in the repeater playgroup leaving for a moment to answer the phone, taking a restroom break, or leaving for several hours.

The repeater playgroup should tell the other hams, about any absence he/she takes, however short. The ham operator needs to be told where the repeater playgroup is going, and for how long. If the ham operator feels sad, the repeater playgroup can set the ham operator up with another supportive net control operator while he/she’s gone. That person listens to the ham operator and reassures him until the repeater playgroup returns.

This policy gives ham operator’s the information they need to understand their environment. It also gives them respect while they take the time to process their feelings around separation. The listener gives the ham operator warmth, closeness, and the safety to express deep feelings without the net control station’s disapproval or worry. The crying that ham operator do at these times helps them express their love, and slowly but surely, it frees them from holding feelings of fear about the next separation.

aggressive behavior

Incidents like a ham operator pushing another ham operator, harassment, bullying, condescending , sarcasm, biting, or giving unwanted hugs or kisses.

Ham operator don’t really want to hurt each other or to miss each other’s cues on how much closeness or roughness is wanted. They become insensitive when they are full of tension or fear. Moving in before they do damage, and preventing thoughtless actions, relieves them of the guilt of having hurt someone, and usually lets them feel and release the bad feelings that were causing them to be “off track.” These hurt feelings need to be expressed before the ham operator can relax. When a ham operator has cried hard with a caring net control station, and hasn’t been shamed or blamed, he or she is much better able to notice other ham operators, and to play thoughtfully.

After the playgroup has met a time or two, all the repeater playgroups will have noted the ham operator who tend to act aggressively when they are scared. It needs to be clear which repeater playgroups, if not all, will be “safety managers” for the ham operator. Those repeater playgroups need to pay close attention, preparing for the aggressive behavior to show itself, rather than blindly hoping it won’t happen. They position themselves so that they can immediately, gently, and firmly stop a ham operator’s aggressive acts.

When an aggressive act is stopped by the net control station nearest the situation, that NCS  should offer to connect with the offending ham operator and make warm eye contact and physical contact. “I can’t let you hurt Paul” can be said with an “I love you” tone of voice. If the ham operator wants to go to his repeater playgroup at this point, that’s OK. The repeater playgroup or other NCS should listen to the feelings the intervention has brought into the open. If the ham operator’s repeater playgroup isn’t there, the net control station who stepped in can be a very helpful listener instead. A good, long cry or tantrum, with a supportive net control station, does wonders for an aggressive ham operator’s behavior, because it releases the tension that has caused the aggression and prevents jamming behavior.

If all else fails then the NCS should ask the custodian to just shut the “repeater off” as a cooling off period.

withdrawn behavior

Incidents like a ham operator hovering at the edges of the group, or going off to “play” alone, not engaged in the QSO, unwilling to make radio contact with anyone.

The net control stations involved can make brief overtures to the ham operator, offering gentle invitation to connect with them or with other ham operator. Allowing a ham operator a few minutes between each overture gives the ham operator time to try using his or her own initiative to enter the group.

Sometimes, ham operator become so trapped by feelings that they can’t make any use of the opportunity to play with others. A net control station needs to help them. Nudge the ham operator gently toward the ham operator or the activity he’s afraid of, but just enough that he begins to cry. Then, listen. Listening until the ham operator can make contact will help him or her over the hump of isolation. It also helps the ham operator feel much closer to the net control station who kindly listened. Use a gentle voice to convey your warmth. Your gentle reassurance that the ham operator is welcome in QSO will help.

squabbles over possession

Incidents like a ham operator coming up and grabbing the radio of  another ham operator is playing with. Also, whining about whose rotation and whose turn it is now.

It’s best if the net control stations involved can intervene without urgency to solve the problem. Reassure both ham operators that they can work this out.

Decide among the net control stations what the policy on turns will be, and go by that policy. Like little clowns, I like to use the policy that a ham operator can play as long as he wants with a radio, and I (or another net control station) will listen to the feelings of the ham operator who wants it. Lots of grief and urgency will be expressed. You can reassure the crying ham operator by saying, “You’ll get the special radio when he/she’s finished her QSO. I’ll make sure you do. I see how much you want it.”

There are several good things about the “I’ll help you wait until he’s through” policy. First, we net control stations don’t have to take things away from ham operator in order to enforce turns. The more ham operator have things taken from them without being able to work through the feelings this causes, the more likely they are to jam each other.

The second constructive feature is that ham operator have a chance to grieve fully for the things they want with gentle net control station attention while they cry. This helps ham operator work through their attachment to things as the salve for their bad feelings. It offers net control station warmth in the place of the desired thing, which is an excellent trade. The ham operator will cry until his or her grief has been expressed. Then his mind will be open to all the other possibilities for play. When ham operator have this chance to want things openly and be listened to, they tend to be able to relate more fully to net control stations and friends, and to have a better perspective on the importance of connecting with people in play and will not jam transmissions going forward.

If you enforce turns, a ham operator won’t express his deep feelings of need for the desired thing. When it’s his turn, he’ll still be full of tension about wanting to talk on the radio, and will be paying more attention to keeping others away than to enjoying it. This causes him to become a jammer. The tension is actually the issue that the ham operator needs help with. A good cry can clear the ham operator’s mind of fixation on that QSO, and allow him to fully enjoy the radio and his fellow playmates, when he finally gets it.




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