Expect, Discuss, and Compromise

I’ve been with my guild for 3 days [a month, a year] and I don’t like the direction of our raiding policy [guild chat discussions, loot distribution].  I’m thinking of leaving my guild, but I really like this group.

How often have you had a discussion like this with a fellow guild member?  Have you been a guild master and seen something like this in a goodbye post and been befuddled because this is the first time you’re seeing it?

This post isn’t for GM’s or officers, it is for members of guild of any bent or persuasion who feel like they are not being heard.  We are all masters of our own destiny in and out of the game, and it is possible to effect and shape your guild’s function and policy, even if you are not a member of the acknowledged power structure.

Attitude

The first thing to do is consider how you communicate with your guild-mates.  While you may be an excellent communicator outside the game, within gaming circles, you are at an immediate disadvantage to your normal communication because no one can see your face/body. While you are rapidly slashing through the 10 worst problems in your guild in text, no one can see that little vertical line of stress and worry on your forehead, or the way you are hunching forward in a sincere wish to help be part of the solution.  All people see is the slash and drive of the rapier of your words.

  • Declarative statements exhibit strength.  If you haven’t learned this in your talk-a-day experiences, be sure to note it now.  You do not want to appear to be asking permission to state your own point of view.
  • Stating “you do X” or “the officers don’t care about Y” is a position of blame.  If you want to have the person you’re speaking to listen, you must censor these type of statements.  “I” statements are the best way to communicate about problems that you see. “I have noticed that we not start on time.”  “I am unclear about how our loot is distributed because the guidelines say X and Y received this upgrade over Z.”
  • Be polite. Not just to the person you’re talking to, but also about any person that you bring into the conversation.  Name-calling in particular places you in a position of weakness.  “I have a problem with Sephira because she keeps talking about her sexual experiences in the chat channel when the officers aren’t online.”
  • Begin and end the conversation on a positive, guild-focused note, even if it’s about a personal problem you’re having with the guild.  “Can I talk to you about an issue I’m having with guild policy?”  “I’m really glad you took the time to speak to me about this.  I want to continue to enjoy my time with the guild.” (Or anything equally smarmy about how much you enjoy the guild.  Don’t worry, it won’t seem smarmy if you mean whatever you say.)

Now, these tips may be useful in both text and vent communications.  However, there are some specific things for text and voice that can really help you keep your conversation about the issue, and not about your being upset about the issue.

Text

  • Open  your conversation with a question about availability to talk.  Once that has been established indicate the length of your next statement. If you need to write a wall of text to get everything covered, that is perfectly ok.  However, let the other party know so they’re not attempting to respond to you whenever you are busy typing up your next section of text.  This will keep communication much clearer, and allow the other party to fully absorb your entire issue.
  • Be patient.  You may have been running around Azeroth for the last month tailoring how you wanted to broach the subject, but this is likely the first time that the person you’re talking to has even considered these issues since they wrote the guild charter.  Give them time to read, absorb, and formulate a response.
  • Do not apologize.  Yes, you are bringing up a problem.  Yes, it is inconvenient.  However, you are not the problem.  The issue is the problem, and you pointing it out does not make you in any way responsible.  Just don’t do it.
  • Try to sprinkle some emotive statements in your conversation, particularly about things you do like.  The problem with text communication, especially when it comes in blocks of “I don’t like this because…” tend to put your reader on the defensive.  If you respect your GM or officer, say so.  If you really like the guild, say that too.  This lets the reader know that you’re an honestly concerned guild-member, not a reprobate on the verge of clearing out the guild bank.

Voice

  • Tone of voice.  When I speak about things I’m passionate about, it sounds like it.  When I’m happy, I sound happy.  When I’m pissed, I sound pissed.  If you are going to sound like an irate elephant denied a pack of peanuts, notify your listeners it is frustration at the situation, and not at them.
  • Don’t interrupt.  You may be passionate about making sure your point-of-view is correctly understood and assimilated by your listeners, but the worst thing you can do is interrupt what they are saying.  It makes you seem boorish and rude, and possibly, someone they do not wish to keep in their guild, no matter the legitimacy of your issue.
  • Take notes.  In text-based communication you can always scroll up and re-read what someone said if you missed it the first time.  However, in chat there’s no ongoing record of what anyone said.  Taking notes will keep you from incorrectly “filling in the blanks” of a response, and tend to keep your conversation more on track.
  • Don’t talk to fill the space.  Sometimes, there will be distinct and long pauses as one party or the other attempts to digest what has just been said.  Do not fill the pauses.  Give yourself time to reflect and think on your discussion, or go read a blog post.  Silence can be conducive to calming a rough conversation, and everyone needs time to think.

Expectations

When you open the discussion with your guild, in your cynical heart of hearts, have the expectation that:

  • The guild cares about your opinion and involvement.
  • You will be listened to with respect.
  • Your concern is legitimate.
  • The issue will be resolved in a satisfactory manner.

If you are unable to accept these four tenets when dealing with your guild leadership, you may have already passed the point wherein you are a good guild member.  If you can accept these things, then the chances for your success are almost guaranteed.

Discuss

Ever had this happen?

Me- I have serious concerns about X, Y, and Z.

Authority – We’ll take care of that.

::crickets::

Guess what?  If this is the response, I can almost guarantee that you will not have your issue resolved, OR that the same issue will continue to crop up time and time again because it was dealt with at an individual vs. policy level.

Discussion is an important part of making sure that the person you are communicating with understands the full spectrum of your problem.  Also, the person who brings up the problem is often an Ace in the Hole for an officer for resolving the problem, because they’ve already considered ways to fix it.

When you bring up an issue, expect discussion.  Your officer is not questioning the validity of your claim, but is seeking clarification and assistance with solving the problem.  If you bring up issues and receive no discussion time after time then you’ll have to accept that your guild likely has poor management.  Sometimes, discussion isn’t needed because your officers have noted the same problem, but this is rare in my experience.

Compromise

You have an issue.  You’ve discussed it fully with an officer.  They may or may not need to go back to the rest of the core to offer a solution, or reach a compromise.  If this is the case, make sure you get a firm deadline on when a response will be pending.

  • Expect that all of your solutions will not be used, and if you made requests, that they will not all be met.  If they are ::breaks open the champagne:: enjoy some bubbly.
  • If they’re not, don’t be upset or surprised, but make sure that you are getting the priority issues resolved.  If the priority issues are resolved, then consider yourself well vested with your guild.  They understand the importance of adapting to problems that arise.
  • Your leadership may come back with an alternate strategy or long-term solution to keeping the problem from arising again without actively doing what you wanted right now. This may or may not be ok depending on the immediacy and disruptive nature of the issue.  If it does not curtail the primary issue that is affecting you now, ask for an explanation of the reasoning.  For example, let’s say raiding times are not being enforced, but there will be a policy implemented at X date that late-comers cannot raid for the night. You’re always on time and ready to go and wasting an hour every night watching the storm-clouds of ICC.  The guild feels that if strictly enforced time slots were required now, they would be unable to form raids.  Forming raids > timeliness.  Reasonable, and when they’re full, they plan to enforce the policy.  You may still be unhappy, but at least you have a clear direction from your leadership.  This would be something worth compromising on for me.
  • However, if the priority issues are not being resolved, and only some minor annoyances, do not acquiesce to poor solutions.  You may have to start all over.  Maybe your priorities were confused in the translation.  However, if the issue is bothering you enough to bring it up at all, and the best response you get is “we’re changing raiding from Friday to Saturday” when your issue was that raids don’t start on time, you may have a problem.  If your leadership representative cannot explain how this addresses your need, then explain your puzzlement.  Offer an alternative solution.  Make it clear, that this is a priority issue that needs to be met because you love your guild, and this is a major stress-point.

Solving the problems of the world may be hard, but solving in-game issues in your guild can often be as simple as speaking up. Your officers cannot discern your wants and wishes from a few catty comments or by your lack of interest or log-in time to the game. They require information that only you can provide.  However, to ensure that your problem is addressed, and not your poor attitude, make sure that you treat everyone you speak to with respect as well as a healthy dose of positive feedback on the reasons you enjoy your guild life.

Master your destiny.  Make your guild a better place.  Be a happier guild member.

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5 thoughts on “Expect, Discuss, and Compromise

  1. Nice post. This is a topic that almost seems to big to talk about… it's just something that everyone tries to pick up. And yet there is poor communication everywhere in guild forums and so much unrest behind the scenes.

    And yes I've read so many "this was the last straw!" type posts on the forums that seem to come out of the blue.

    Officers need to read this too. I'm currently amazed at the responses in policy change our guild officers have announced – clearly in response to the complaining from one or two guild members. The announcements have come across as severe and strict (over very small issues) and, in my opinion, don't explain how the policy changes are meant to fix big picture problems.

    Diplomacy in writing is an important skill and a rare one it seems.

    • Most of these are hard-won lessons from a person who has been labeled "intimidating." Apparently, those declarative sentences look really scary in a big ol' block of text. Followed by "Well?"

      I'm just hoping something in here helps someone from making that leap from a guild they love into the mire because they were not willing to raise their hand and say "I see a problem here." As an officer, I hated finding out 3rd and 4th hand that people had issues, and as a regular member, I have seen the power that can be won in a guild without a leadership position simply by communicating effectively with an officer core.

  2. I like this post. Gave me something to think about in addressing a (minor) issue in my current guild…and your points about how to express yourself in text without being either apologetic or overbearing are always useful. I tend toward the doormat side of the spectrum…so thanks 😉

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