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As I mentioned
earlier, the committee meeting is more of an animated cartoon than a serious
deliberation. The problem is this. Any meeting and the behavior of the
participants take on importance in proportion to the purpose of the meeting and
the topics discussed. The perceived status of the participants is also an
element. If important people are meeting to discuss important things, the meeting
is important. For you, this conditioned perception has to stop. There are ample
opportunities for players to drive you up the wall at any meeting from trivial
to critical, from mundane to the summit.

Looking at the
FFSI committee meeting is instructive. While doing this, it helps to supplement
that examination with parallels to what may be more familiar situations. This
is in no way intended to diminish the importance of the committee meeting.

Committee players
who are into “Not Me” have to stay away from positions of
responsibility or circumstances where they might be expected to have a strong
opinion. Their game plan calls for tagging onto the plans and decisions of
others and riding them to power and influence. They are very good coattail

“It may be
that we might want possibly to consider” is a classic in the archives of
behavior that can drive you up the wall. The attempt is to introduce “Not
Me” as a recognized method. Mark Brown not only manages to introduce the
idea, he gave the members an example of the method. If anyone objects, Mark can
simply say, “As you could tell, I was a little uncomfortable bringing it
up. I told someone back home I would at least raise the idea. I told him I was
not sure it would fly.”

Suppose another
committee member says, “I like the idea. Some of my best friends are what
you might call the “Not Me” type.”

Mark can then say,
“It may be worth considering after all. I know a Not Me type or so
myself.” If a third member says, “I think the idea stinks.” Mark
can then say, “I see the two of you have some thoughts about this. I will
appreciate the opportunity to listen to your discussion.”

At that point,
Mark sits back to listen, waffling back and forth a little, depending on who
seems to be winning the debate. If one debater comes away a clear winner, Mark
joins the victor. He tries to placate the loser with, “I would like to go
along with you on this one. I am a little inclined away from your position.
We’ll get together on the next one, though.”

Instead of the
committee in the illustration, suppose Mark Brown is in a sales meeting at the
insurance agency where he works. Dean Tylor approaches Mark for support for a
plan to pitch a new policy to a company in town. Dean presses for support and
gets what he thinks is Mark’s commitment. At the sales meeting, the boss leans
a little away from Dean and toward another salesman. The moment of truth has

Dean asks,
“What do you think Mark? We would all value your thoughts, especially
given your experience in the community.”

Sorry Dean, kiss
that deal goodbye. Never think a player like Mark does not know which side of
the fence to sit on.

Mark takes a long,
thoughtful breath and says, “I could come down on either side of this one.
I am not saying I couldn’t be persuaded.”

Steve from the
illustration is not a piker in the “Not Me” department either. Notice
how he and Mark from the above insurance example could be twins. In the
illustration, Steve says, ” . . . it is easy to see both sides. . . . I am
not saying I could not be persuaded.” Along with some question about what
it is he is not saying, what he is saying is similarly unclear. The key to
Steve’s success as a player is that he does not say anything. He leaves things
open for any decision, including no decision. He can wait until a decision
comes along and then use that one, acting as if it were his position all along.
In the meantime, he appears to be an active participant in the decision

Put Steve in a
different context. The City Commission is meeting. Steve is the chairman. A
member of the audience joins the Commission’s discussion in violation of the
rules. Steve tries to get the intruder to stay out of the discussion.

The speaker says,
“What kind of town is this where a common citizen cannot talk? Are you
telling me I cannot have a say in the government of my city?”

It is easy to
imagine Steve’s saying, “I would never say anything like that. It is only
that there may be a better place and time for this. It is still important that
the Commission hears the views of everyone who wants to talk. I am only saying
there is a time and place for things like this. There is a lot on our agenda
tonight. It is always important to keep an open mind, though. I want you to
know I’m ready to talk with anyone, anywhere, at any time. I hope this
clarifies things for us here tonight.”

The odds are about
80/20 that the intruder sits down and stays quiet. Most people are polite.
Steve is counting on it. If the citizen gets pushy, Steve is counting on
another member of the Commission – any other member – to help him deal with the
problem. He lets someone else argue with the common citizen. Steve says,
“Just Not Me.”

In the
illustration, Sharon shows the fuzzy boundary between “Not Me”
players and the apple polishers. “I’m going to hang with Brad on this one,
unless someone has a better idea.” In one short sentence, she manages to
cozy up to Brad. She disclaims any responsibility for the idea. Additionally,
she puts everyone on notice that she will jump ship if a better or safer
opportunity comes along. Sharon is in a great position to polish the first
apple presenting itself to her. For the true aficionado, Sharon uses a very
strong mix of techniques.

Put Sharon in a
different setting, and the full power of her play comes to the forefront. Keep
in mind the extra touch. Sharon is chronically cheerful and usually down right
perky. She shows enthusiasm in endless supply for almost anything and virtually
never gets upset unless it is to her advantage. She is a very skilled committee

Sharon is at the
final meeting of the selection committee where the new chairman of the English
Department will be chosen. There are three finalists for the position. Each has
two supporters on the seven member committee. Sharon is in the position to cast
the determining vote: not an inviable place for a committee player.

Sharon has the
full attention of the other six members. They are waiting for her to vote. With
a smile and even more energy in her voice, she says, “This is super! This
is what the process is all about, isn’t it? What we have here are three fine
candidates, any one of whom will serve this great institution admirably. It is
a banner day for us. The important thing is for us to all be happy with the
decision we make. Being happy with our choice is the most important part
of what we are all about. What I am going to do right here and now is set aside
any selfish interests or motivations. I make this commitment to each of you. I
commit myself to staying here as long as it takes for us to make a choice that
is comfortable for all. Can we do this? Can we each commit to hang in
there for the good of our school and for our students?”

If a committee
member says, “Get off it, Sharon. It’s your turn to vote, so vote.”
Sharon takes on a shocked and hurt expression and says, “You disappoint
me. I cannot believe you want to sacrifice the department and our students just
to save a little time by rushing a decision as important as this.”

It makes no
difference what happens next. Sharon has moved the issue at hand away from
selecting a new chairman to matters of school spirit and loyalty. It reduces to
who cares the most and Sharon wins hands down.

The players in the
illustration modeled an additional method worth noting. Along with the Not Me
players and apple polishers, the committee on methods gives a glimpse at some
“poor me” techniques. The key to “poor me” success comes
through getting others to feel sorry for or excuse the player. Let it suffice
to highlight an example from the committee.

“Not me, I
would like to help; but I have some stuff here I had to bring along to work on.
. . . You know how it goes.” The socially correct response is, “Sure,
I know how it goes.” Ted, from Ohio, is counting on people giving him this
response. The result is that the committee excuses him from helping.

Suppose some
social incompetent says, “I don’t know how it goes at all. It just looks
like you’re trying to get out of helping. You are no busier than the rest of
us.” Speaking up probably feels good but does not work. Ted simply says,
“Good for you. It’s nice everyone doesn’t have to go through this. I hope
you keep your charmed life. A dog should not have to work this hard. Maybe I will
have a small reprieve and have time the next time you need some help. I always
like to pitch in when I can.”

Ted’s maneuver
speaks for itself.

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