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Sage Advice for the New Member

By Marilyn MacKensie and Gail Moore
From The Group Member's Handbook

1. Listen, listen, listen. Find out what people think, where they would like the committee to be, their dreams and demons.

2. Ask clarifying questions:

  • What do these initials mean?
  • What is the usual practice in receipting donations?
  • How did you become interested in this agency?

Notice there is no implied criticism of how things were done a certain way. Consider yourself in the DATA GATHERING phase, with no evaluation or judgment at this time.

3. Demonstrate respect for past efforts and especially the people who have led the organization or your committee in the past.

4. Support suggestions of others when you feel they are sound. Identify one or two things you like about the suggestion, clearly crediting the development of the proposal to the other person.

"I think Bob has a great idea. I especially like the inclusion of spouses for our appreciation dinner."

"I'd like to speak in support of Jennifer's motion. We need to be seen at local events more often. The increased community profile makes a lot of sense."

5. When you are evaluating the comments offered by an established committee member, practise the itemized response technique.

Before you level any criticism of another's viewpoint, identify two specific things you like about the proposal. That done, identify one aspect you might change. Be careful how that item is presented - instead of being negative or critical, try to focus on your wish for the outcome.

Not this:

"This idea needs a lot of work. The title is wrong, I've got my doubts about a Saturday/Sunday thing and the mailing list is incomplete."


"I'm excited about the location of the Bingo and the partnership with the Lion's Club, but my wish would be for a non-smoking event."

"I love the idea of new uniforms for the Little League teams, especially from this supplier. My hope is that we can share the costs with the parents through fundraising projects."

"I think the format and design layout for the Amateur Theatre Night brochure is right on. I'd love to see a bright, show-stopping colour added to the text."

Your purpose here is to have your ideas heard. In acknowledging specifically what you like, you build allies who view the world as you do. You clarify your points of agreement and introduce a single point of departure as a wish thatthe listener may choose to consider. Such a placement and wording invites a positive response.

6. Present ideas as questions or tentative proposals rather than should-do's or must act.

Not this:

"When I was with Girl Guides, we did it this way and it worked very well." (Invites the response "But this isn't Girl Guides...")

But rather:

"What would happen if we increased the fees to $75.00 per person? What fall-out do you anticipate?"

"How would the public respond if we change the picnic site to a national park instead of the private site?" (Invites the response "Let us together consider this option.")

7. Identify your unique contribution to the proceedings. Be prepared to offer that to the full group.

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