Dear Ilana and Jess: I’m a junior in college. It’s the middle of the semester, and I’m pretty happy with the clubs and groups I’ve joined, overall. But the sorority sisters pull rank more often than they need to, and it’s starting to get on my nerves. How can I dodge the petty politics? - Taylor
Dear Taylor: We’re glad you’re involved on campus! Participating in college groups will benefit you long after you’ve graduated. Recent studies have even linked participation in college organizations with positive occupational outcomes after college. But, even the best groups come with official, and unofficial, social hierarchies. Here’s a few things you can do to stay diplomatic, when politics get political.
Figure out exactly what you’re dealing with. In your sorority, what are the written and unwritten rules? Figure out not only who’s in charge on paper, but who’s in charge in practice. Determine who goes against the mold, too. Understanding your sorority’s social hierarchy is just as important as understanding its official rules. Once you know how the power is distributed, you can find (or make) your own place.
Find your niche. You’re not in high school anymore, and you may not have a clique, but you’ll still have a niche — a group or subgroup that’s suited to your personality, preferences, and communication style. If you haven’t done so already, identify 2 or 3 club members you click with and stick with them. When you’re going against the grain, it helps to have likeminded friends to go with you.
Work against the negative politics. You know that phrase “kill them with kindness?” If things are getting heated, don’t fan the fire — put out the flames. Rather than returning gossip or criticizing other group members, encourage others and give praise where you can to help change the group culture for the better. Chances are you’ll even change yourself in the process. People learn by example, not by lecture, and petty politics present the perfect opportunity to do things differently.
Know when things are truly toxic. If group interactions or activities pose detriment to your health, safety, or wellbeing, it’s time to part ways. It’s one thing to stick something out and another to self-sabotage. Don’t by a martyr, and know when it’s time to cut ties. Regardless of the school you attend, there will be plenty of groups on campus that offer you opportunities to build community and connection. Good luck!
If your sorority sisters pull rank and they’ve overstepped their bounds –
Say This: “Thank you for that suggestion. Let’s consider a few, different approaches. After we all make our suggestions, we can vote and come to a decision together.”
Not That: “Okay. I guess that’s fine.”
Say This, Not That is based on the work of Cognition Builders: a global, educational company headed by Ilana Kukoff (Founder & CEO) and Jessica Yuppa Huddy (Chief Learning Officer). Everywhere from New York City to California to Shanghai to Zurich, the Cognition Builders team is called upon by A-list entertainers, politicians, CEOs, and CFOs to resolve the conflicts that upend everyday life. When their work is done, the families they serve are stronger than ever. With their new book, Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter Kukoff and Yuppa Huddy have selected the most common conversational mistakes parents make, and fixed them. For more information, please visit: https://cognitionbuilders.com. To purchase Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter visit: http://publishing.andrewsmcmeel.com/books/detail?sku=9781449488055.
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