Taking Steps Toward Leadership–Holding your tongue

I found myself in a very awkward position today.  Two of my very good friends almost came to blows!  How could this happen?  They both like me, so they should like each other right?  Isn’t that true?  It isn’t?  Uh Oh.

One is in the midst of finishing a project.  The other finished the same project 6 months ago.  They are very organized self starters.  They are knowledgeable about how to do projects as they have both completed rather in depth and complicated projects before in their work and personal lives.  Both are absolutely correct on what kind of things have to happen to finish this particular project.  They were agreeing at the top of their lungs.  The problem arose because Friend 1 was approaching the project from a different perspective than Friend 2 had when she did the project.  When Friend 2 criticized Friend 1 on her approach, they started getting personal and the fireworks started.  Feelings were hurt.  The project will get done (come heck or high water) on time and will be a quality product.  But it won’t be done according to what Friend 2 thinks is the correct procedure.  Will it be the same as the project Friend 2 did?  Of course not.

This may seem off topic, but it’s not.  As a music instructor, I have many people ask me what the easiest instrument is to learn.  How could there be an easiest instrument?  Each has its own particular set of difficulties to surmount.  Percussionist have to learn 3-4 ways to hold the sticks and master intonation challenges on timpani, playing chords on xylophone/marimba, rudiments on snare drum, and have to learn all the Latin and African and Aboriginal instruments in addition to playing a drum kit which involves 4-5 drums and 3 cymbals (at least 3) to be played with the hands, bass drum with one foot and high-hat cymbal with the other.  Clarinet has 2 sets of fingerings–one for the low register and one for the upper register.  So low C is not played like high C with an octave key, and there’s another C above that that has another unique fingering!  French Hornists can play 9 notes with the same fingering, and with the Bb key, another 9 notes!  Flute and tuba players use more air than any of the other instruments.  Oboe players are often shunned by everyone but bagpipers.  So my reply to that question,  “What is the easiest instrument?” is that there IS no easiest instrument.  And this is key (pun intended):  They’re not easier or harder, they’re all just different.  The point is this:  Both projects will be successful.  There is no “best” way for everyone to approach the project.

In Toastmasters, we have a conference every 6 months.  So every 6 months, we have a new contest chair who builds up a committee in order to have a successful event.  I have been in Toastmasters since April Fool’s Day 2008, and have gone to 19 conferences.  None of them was exactly like the one before.  None of them will be the same as this one coming up.  They are different.  That doesn’t make them more or less successful; they are just different.  Sometimes, the keynote speaker is the most inspiring part of the conference.  Sometimes, the breakout sessions give the best ideas for making the clubs’ meetings more interesting and instructive.  Sometimes, just hanging out at the hospitality room with others in Toastmasters is the most invigorating activity.  Sometimes, it’s the food!

So why am I rambling on about whether the project will be successful or not?  Because both my friends want this project to be successful.  The problem became MY problem because they both made personal attacks on each other, and the issue wasn’t solved.  One got mad and left.  The other kept arguing even after the one left.  Then the one that left lobbed more accusations through an email to the whole group.  This should have been handled privately with a mediator, not in front of the group.  Friend 2 is afraid that the project will not be a quality project, and will not meet the deadline.  Friend 1 is afraid that the project will not meet the deadline and will not be a quality project.  Sounds the same doesn’t it.

There is a great book on how to deal with conflict: “Spotlight on the Art of Grace.”  There is a chapter on Bringing Good Energy, one on the Art of the Apology, and one called Take No Offense.  Had they brought good grace into this situation and held their tongues in the group, it probably would have resulted in fewer hard feelings.  But like I said, the basic points each made were equally valid.  They were agreeing at the top of their voices and didn’t realize it.


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