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What Language Are You Speaking?
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8/26/2019 at 8:09:55 PM GMT
Posts: 23
What Language Are You Speaking?

I was thinking recently about the challenge many organizations like ours face; members not renewing at rates that exceed their ability to recruit new members, the result being a steady decline in overall membership. This is the reality for organizations across the country.

Recently, I found myself giving counsel to some members. The concern was the subject matter and tone of the casual conversations during meetings. I’m a believer that, in this world where we say we control nothing, we actually control a great deal more than we like to acknowledge. And who doesn’t want to control their membership numbers?

I’m one of those people who gets excited about the things I like to talk about, and I can easily misinterpret people’s silence in conversations to mean that they agree. But with age comes a certain amount of wisdom, or at least experience, and I’ve learned that people remaining silent does not mean they agree. Sometimes, it means the opposite. They may simply not want a debate.

Sometimes, taking a strong position can cause others to feel ‘run over’ and the preferred course of action is a quick escape out the back door at their earliest opportunity! When faced with a ‘fight or flee’ instinct, some of us choose to stand our ground, but others are going to flee to avoid confrontation.

Could it be that this is part of the problem with the declining membership associations are facing? What message are we sending to our members in the conversations we have, when we’re at our most relaxed, when our guard is down, when we’re with those we trust? When we meet at the local or council level, are our conversations focused on building up members, their careers, their success, their advancement?

It’s important to recognize that not all members speak their minds. Many hold their tongues, keep their own counsel, and quickly remove themselves from environments that do not reflect the positivity and professionalism they expect. It becomes easy for us, especially those of us who are more opinionated than others, to think that we’re stating obvious truths, with which everybody agrees; when in fact the opposite is true. Many who hear negativity, judgments, or harsh critiques may perceive us to be unkind or unwelcoming. If we fail to support one another, other members are likely to wonder if we will be there to support them. Do not underestimate how powerful our words and our actions can be!

The next time you’re at a meeting, listen carefully to what’s being communicated. Is the dialog positive, supportive, and tolerant of others, or could it use some work? Are you building relationships or undermining them? Do you want to allow negativity or carelessness to open up that back door to less-confrontational members if they begin to feel uncomfortable with the messages they’re hearing or the conduct they’re observing?

Don’t be ashamed if you find that you need to ‘up’ the professionalism a notch or two – it’s something we all need to pay attention to. When we get too comfortable, we sometimes need to buckle down and start paying attention again to set ourselves back on track. If we all focus on creating an environment that’s accepting and supportive, and commit to building up our entire membership, we will enjoy a healthy, refreshing and diverse community for generations to come!

Cindy J. Prud'homme, AINS, CPIA, CIIP, CLP
International President 2019-2020
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Cell: 810-282-7089

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