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?