The Phi Sigma Pi National Staff has rounded up the most Frequently Asked Questions we receive. Throughout the summer you will see some of these FAQ’s and answers on the Phi Sigma Pi Blog to gear you up for the next school year.
Today’s question: How do we best manage and communicate differences of opinion within the Chapter?
Disagreement is a part of life. When you’re working with people who come from different backgrounds and experiences, everyone is going to have various ways to approach issues within the Chapter. However, what DOES matter is how you handle conflict as a Brotherhood. Yelling, finger-pointing, calling out specific Members and belittling others directly and negatively affects the fellowship you work so hard to build. Additionally, it prohibits the Members of your Chapter from getting work done and achieving your yearly goals. So what are some ways to handle conflict productively?
If You’re Angry and You Know It, Take a Sec
When something frustrating happens, it is easy to react with anger. It might be cliche, but when an issue arises, take a moment to breathe! Knowing the difference between responding and reacting is an important step in dealing with conflict communication respectfully and efficiently. When a Member comes to you with an issue they are having, work through it step by step:
- Take a breath
- Ask them to explain the facts, not the emotion, of the situation.
- Once you have gathered the facts, consider who else may need to be brought into the situation
- If the situation or discussion is getting heated, determine if you need to bring in a campus administrator or Chapter Advisor
Different Situations, Different Communication
- Using Leadership to Mediate
If you’re on E-Board or E-Council, chances are you’ve dealt with a conflict from a leadership standpoint. It’s easy to want to jump to disciplinary action; that’s why it’s in your Bylaws, right? In reality, due process truly focuses on allowing all sides a chance to speak, making sure you’ve thoroughly communicated with the people involved, organizing a plan of action if the conflict is still present and communicating the plan of action (i.e. censure/warning, probation, suspension, expulsion) with everyone involved. Sometimes, disciplinary action isn’t needed at all – if it’s a conflict outside of Phi Sigma Pi that’s being brought into Brotherhood business, perhaps you just need to remind Members to keep personal issues outside of the Chapter. Finally, remember that there are always resources available to remind Members how to handle conflict; one great resource is a new Leadership in Action Module: Conflict Management – Defusing Explosive Situations. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to set it up today!
- Pro/Con Debate vs. Arguments
The purpose of Pro/Con debate is to use facts to determine if a decision, amendment, individual or change is what is best for the Fraternity. Although debate should remain fact-based, unbiased and level-headed, sometimes pro/con can get heated. If an argument happens in the middle of debate, you have a few options:
- First, the role of the Parliamentarian is there to keep debate in check. Don’t be afraid to call something out of order (nicely!)
- Second, it always helps to walk away, so call a time-out. Encourage Members to use the bathroom, grab something to drink from a vending machine or go walk it out.
- Finally, set a time for debate or end debate entirely, particularly if Members are repeating the same pros and cons. Come back to it another day if you can!
- Gossip Fuels Feuds
Gossip is one of the worst ways a Chapter can lose productivity. Gossip can be false, fabricated or even downright cruel. There is no place for gossip in an effective Phi Sigma Pi Chapter. It encourages Members to hide their opinions and prohibits effective communication in the Chapter. Stopping the gossip train can be difficult, but quashing it can be the difference between a happy Chapter and a conflict-ridden one! Since gossip spreads through continued conversation and allows a conflict to fester within a Chapter, take the first step and don’t allow it to continue. Change the subject, walk away or tell the other person, “I don’t think this conversation is helping anything.” Be the first to make a change!
Use Your Resources
As a Member, you have an abundance of amazing resources at your fingertips! You can check out our resource center on the website. The Due Process Flow Chart is a great resource that will help the Chapter work systematically through a conflict. Members can also seek out the University’s Counseling Services and the Office of Student Activities. Between these two University resources, you will find trained graduate students and faculty that are well-equipped in dealing with conflict and providing resources to the Chapter. Finally, Members can utilize the Chapter’s Member(s) at Large and the Faculty Advisor. With proper training and transition, a Member at Large can be a wonderful resource in dealing with conflict. If you find the situation to be more than what the Member at Large is equipped to handle, don’t panic! Your Faculty Advisor or Alumni Advisor can assist the Chapter in working through the conflict.