It’s that, um, yeah, you know : Bringing up (and keeping up) a delicate topic

I like to read guild management blogs (because as my guildies put it, I’m a weirdo) and I see a lot of “these are things you have to confront guildies about” guides. However, I don’t recall ever seeing advice that went beyond: “you need to address these issues for the good of the guild, it’ll be hard but you need to do it”.

As I’ve already pointed out, I’m a weirdo. I enjoy talking to people about delicate topics such as performance improvement or mild disciplinary issues (you know, the type that don’t warrant a /gkick, but need to be addressed with more than a “stop that”). Maybe its because I don’t view it as “being a jerk” or maybe its because these kinds of conversations create somewhat of a bond between myself and the person I’m speaking with. Regardless, I see too many people around me struggle with bringing up and discussing delicate subjects. So here’s one easy way to do it:

Disclaimer:
I would like to note that I’m used to a more “casual raiding” environment, where some level of performance and behavior is expected, but we also have a high level of tolerance. A guild with more demanding requirements in these fields may have varying need to resort to “diplomacy”, but this procedure can still be applied for all those things that require attention but not a gkick.

1- Do you homework
Know what it is you’re addressing, why you feel it needs to be addressed, what you’re going to suggest and what outcome you expect from the exchange. In disciplinary issues, it means having guild policies concerning the topic on hand as well as any “evidence” that would justify the exchange. When it comes to performance improvement, pull up the character you’re addressing on the armory (I like to pull them up on Rawr as well, as it concentrates a lot of information in one spot), do some research on their class if needed, know what suggestions to make. When you come prepared, you’ll be able to make better suggestions, you’ll sound more secure, you’ll be way more credible and you’re far more likely to be listened to.

2- Have a plan
Have a list, in preferred order, of everything you want to say. Again, you’ll sound more secure, you’ll be more likely to stay on topic plus you won’t risk forgetting something important. The more often you have to bring up a topic because you forgot a point last time, the more likely you’ll become annoying.

3- Pick your confrontation moment wisely.
Don’t bother someone when they’re in an instance, unless they’re soloing a lowbie instance. If someone only logs 10 minutes before a raid, make an appointment. I’ll get in to how do that on my next point. Equally, pick a moment when you’re alert and able to focus. NEVER try to get into this sort of conversation in the middle of the raid, unless its an utmost emergency.

4- Whisper them, state your purpose and ask if now is a good time to chat
My opening statement of choice for performance issues is: “I was looking at your stats and I can think of a few suggestions for you to get more out of your character, is now a good time to chat?”. When it comes to disciplinary issues: “I’m/we’re a bit concerned about *insert problem here* and I’d like to chat a bit about it, is now a good time?” You want them to know why you’re whispering them because it’s nerve-wrecking to hear nothing but “We need to talk”. Asking if now is a good time shows you value their time and whatever it is they’re currently doing. It also makes it hard for them to push you away because if they answer “no, this isn’t a good time to talk”, you can counter with “when would be a good time?” and don’t let them go until they have an appointment set with you. Back to our friend who only logs in for raids, use the same lines as above but swap “is now a good time?” with “when would be a good time?”. It’ll be VERY hard for them to blow you off without sounding like an asshole. Also, note the “I’m/we’re” when dealing with discipline problems. Use “I” when you’re acting on your own, based on a problem you, yourself, noticed. Use “we’re” when you’re confronting someone based on a problem your officer team (or other group of players) noticed. Be honest about it. Don’t make someone believe they’re bothering several people if you’re the only person bothered. (Note, if the conversation is going to be short, “is this a good time?” takes on the meaning of “are you at the computer right now?”)

5- When you have their undivided attention, ask them if they would prefer typing or vent
In order for this person to respect you and listen to what you have to say, you have to win them over. Let them choose and confront them on their grounds. In my experience, everyone picks vent anyway so asking is just a question of showing you respect the person you’re speaking with. (If the conversation is going to be short, you can obviously skip this step.)

6- Start with open ended questions
Open ended questions are questions that can’t be answered by yes/no. Your goal here is to get a feel for how the person perceives their situation, what they already know and what solutions (if any) they’ve already tried. You might find some useful tidbits here, for example, you might have to get creative with your solutions if you find out the person you’re talking to has trouble hitting buttons due to their arthritis. Giving them a chance to talk will also put you both at easy and make it easier for them to pay attention to the information you’re about to bombard them with. The questions vary depending on the topic to be addressed but here some examples:
– how are you enjoying the raids these days? (what about them do you enjoy/what about them don’t you like)
– what do you like about your class?
– what’s bothering you?
– what kind of rotation to you use?
– what stats/kind of gear are you looking for? (this is a good one to ease into a loot issue talk)
Again, this is mostly targeted at longer conversations, although you may still uncover some interesting stuff if you try this step.

7- Insert your message(s)
Say what it is you have to say. If the talk will be long and informative (such as performance talks), crack a joke once in awhile to prevent information overload. Repeat key messages. Follow your plan loosely, don’t leave out important topics, but let conversation flow naturally.

8- Test for feedback
See if they got your message. In discipline-oriented talks, feel them out to see if they’re offended, relieved, annoyed and if they got the message. In those information bombardments, have them repeat stuff back to you to make sure they understood and remembered. If you can’t make it sound natural, just say: “just to make sure I said it properly/didn’t leave anything out, could you repeat *insert point here*?” Also frequently check if they have any questions. The more interactive the conversation, the more enjoyable it will be for both of you and the more efficient you’ll be.

9- Make them apply what you tell them, if applicable
This is probably more for performance-type talks, although I can think of a few behavioral situations where it can be used (resolving a conflict, for example). Make them apply any suggestion you gave them and watch while they do it. For me, this can mean walking someone through a respec, browsing the AH with them as they buy gems, having my mage do their enchants, smacking the test dummies with them, running some BGs together, etc.

10- Follow up
After a performance talk, I like to send people a cheat sheet via game mail with the points I’d like for them to remember. After any type of talk that was longer than a few lines, I like to drop the person a whisper after 3-4 days asking them how they’re doing. It’ll strengthen your connection, see if there are any other or new problems and give them the opportunity to ask more questions.

11- Accept that some things are beyond you
This is by far the hardest part for me! No matter how hard you try and how kind, patient and helpful you are, there are things you can’t change. You can’t give a 50-something year old the reflexes of a 20 year old. You’re not going to turn someone with arthritis into a button masher. You’re not going to make a disgruntled person care. You’re not going to change someone’s personality. You’re not going to fix someone’s offline life. You can, however, make sure someone raids with the right gems. You can make sure they have someone they can come to for raiding tips/ in-game stress relief/regular chitchat. You can be a relay between them and the guild management team. There’s plenty of stuff you can do, but leave making miracles to the saints.

Ok, so this is really wordy and detailed. Obviously, shorter, simpler talks need much less structure! But the point many people struggle with is the initial “we need to talk”, which is easily applied to just about every kind of delicate issue. The rest is more teaching methods 101. What is important to remember is that non-gkick warranting “confrontations”, even the most awkward and difficult ones, with guildies can be enjoyable for both parties. If your dislike of these talks stretches beyond the initial awkwardness, then you’re probably not the right person for dealing with delicate issues.

In the end, it is extremely rewarding when someone you worked with improves their performance or feels more at home in your guild. It’s even more rewarding when someone you helped ages ago comes back to you with questions, long after you forgotten everything about their class, or guild issues, long after you resigned as an officer.

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2 Comments on “It’s that, um, yeah, you know : Bringing up (and keeping up) a delicate topic”

  1. sushicookie Says:

    :) Hey. Replied on my blog, but decided to come swing by here too! Vuhdo is like healbot but isn’t as usage heavy. Saves you some virtual memory. I’ve also heard it’s faster to update stuff that’s going on in raid.
    I’ve used grid/clique and loved it, tried healbot. But Vuhdo’s worked out great for me.


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