If you’ve ever served in a leadership position, you’ve likely received both positive and negative feedback about your ideas or decisions. Think back to the first time you proposed a new idea to the chapter, and instead of welcoming it with open arms and excitement all you got was an endless barrage of questions and comments as to why it wouldn’t work.
Perhaps you took those questions personally or you felt frustrated by them. It makes sense that you would, you are human after all. But what you need to keep in mind is that without questions, we stop making progress.
How did you come up with your brilliant new idea to better the chapter? You questioned what the chapter was doing and looked at how it could be improved. Your sisters are simply doing the same thing you did, and those questions help refine your ideas.
It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you’re looking at a new way of doing things. You’ve considered the positive outcomes and maybe not the different ways it could go wrong. Accepting the questions of others will help your idea become something that you’re not only proud of, but is less of a risk.
On the other side of the equation, if you’re not in a position of leadership it can be hard to question the decisions of others. Maybe you feel like you’re stepping on toes and belittling the ideas that clearly have a lot of thought put into them. Here are four healthy ways you can ask questions and give feedback.
Be respectful. Your sisters have likely put a lot of time and thought into the idea they’re proposing. They’re excited about it and hope you will be too. Consider asking permission to begin the dialogue such as, “Can I share some feedback with you that I hope will be helpful?” or “I have a few thoughts about your idea, would you be open to talking with me about them?” This is a great way to enter in a conversation in a respectful way.
Question the effectiveness of the idea, not the idea itself. Ask questions about how it will be implemented, why they think it will better the chapter and what specific things will change. Experts suggest taking the time to get clear about why you want to give someone feedback and how doing so will provide a genuine service to them.
Be willing to talk one-on-one. If you’re really concerned about the impact their idea will have, wait until you’re alone and present your concerns. They’ll be less likely to get defensive when they aren’t in front of a large group.
Offer suggestions, not just criticism. If you see a problem with their plan, think about how it could be improved and let them know. Showing that you’ve put time and thought into your questions goes a long way in demonstrating how much you care.
Having your ideas questioned can be hard, but so is asking the questions in the first place. However, nothing will help develop the chapter like questioning the status quo and being willing to make changes. After all, you joined the sorority because you want to see it grow. Don’t let your ego get in the way of that!
By Emily Mullins (Wichita State)
Emily Mullins is a senior studying Strategic Communications at Wichita State University. Since joining Gamma Phi Beta, she has served as administrative vice president and president, and has loved experiencing the many opportunities the Sorority has given her. She's excited to be involved in new ways during her last semester! On any given day Emily can be found drinking coffee like a Gilmore, checking out an armful of books from the library or finding a new recipe on Pinterest.