This is war: when all is not well in your world

This is war POST


I’m currently involved in a committee that is being torn apart by hostility, warring factions (some of them imaginary), and divisive behaviour. The irony is that everyone is actually working towards a common goal – so it’s been sad to see the committee dissolve into a sea of accusations and unnecessary in-fighting when everyone actually wants the same outcome.

I’ve been trying to keep the peace with skills I learnt from my very diplomatic friend Carol, who is adept at pulling fragmented committees together. The crux of many issues boils down to effective communication. This saga has been going on for some time now. If you’re going through a similar scenario here are my tips. I’d love to hear yours.

1. Emails sent in anger are a waste of time
It’s totally fine to be angry. But if you fire off an email when you’re angry, you may not take the time to see if you actually make sense. So instead of communicating your anger and the reasons why you feel this way, you may end up sounding like a crazy lunatic. This doesn’t do you any favours and your (otherwise valid) message gets clouded. Sure, maintain your rage if you want. But calm yourself down enough to write a coherent email.

2. Clarity is king
Misunderstandings often occur when there is a lack of clarity in communication. Never make assumptions that people know what you do, what you’re responsible for, or what you’ve achieved. Take the time to explain things to people in a calm and clear manner.

3. Pick your battles
Some things are worth fighting for (poverty, child abuse, animal cruelty); some are not. So pick your battles. Consider whether what you’re battling about is worth making enemies out of people who you’re going to have to see in the corridors or by the photocopier every day. I see too many people fight for the sake of winning. When you do this, you are the only one that loses.

I’m not suggesting that you back down if you feel strongly about a particular issue. I’m suggesting making an effort to work towards that goal without having to go to war. I admire people who can do that.

Whether you’re in a mothers’ group, office committee or community lobby group, what are your tips for working with warring committees?

About Valerie Khoo

Valerie Khoo is founder and national director of the Australian Writers' Centre, the country's leading centre for writing courses. She is a journalist, blogger and author. Her latest book is "Power Stories: The 8 stories you MUST tell to build an epic business" (Wiley). Valerie is a keynote speaker, small business commentator, and investor and mentor to startups and businesses in Australia.
  • Marija

    HI Valerie, it must be really tiring!

    Here are some tips:

    * Step back from the situation – try to take a second person perspective. Ask yourself, “What might the other person be thinking, feeling, which is making them respond in a certain way?” Also, “How might the other person be perceiving my actions – what do they think I’m thinking and feeling?”

    Then step back from this again, and look at the overall committee; how is this interaction in support of, or not in support of the committee’s goals?

    * Keep in mind – Behind every behaviour is a positive intention (even though the consequences for the committee and others might be negative)

    * Remind yourself that people are more than their actions, words, emotions, roles etc.

    * Do not personalise things that happen or that are said.

    * Give sensory specific feedback, using language like, “I saw…” “I heard…” e.g. When you didn’t action what you said you would, I felt… or When you stood up and pointed your finger, I felt intimidated etc

    * “The meaning of communication is the response you get” – For example, if you’ve asked a committee member to do something, ask them straight afterwards to check in that they understood the task.

    I hope the communication gets better :)

    • valeriekhoo

      Great tips Marija. Has anyone told you that you’d make an awesome life coach? :) Hope the business is going well!

      • Marija

        You are adorable Valerie! I’m loving it, thank you :) I have your book, and look forward to reading it! Congratulations on your success with it!

  • Easy Peasy Kids

    Working with behaviour my tips are breath and count to 10, look at the bigger picture, everyone has a story we can’t see. Fab post x

    • valeriekhoo

      With this committee, if I counted to 10 all the time, I’d go blue!