Thursday, January 21, 2010
Your "Elevator" Speech
As the spring semester begins, and fraternity and sorority students around the country prepare for membership recruitment and intake processes, my mind wanders to all of those young men and women joining our chapters. I also think about all of those individuals who never joined, or will never join, based on the picture we paint of our organizations and our values. What image do you portray? How are your values evident in your everyday words and actions? What is your "elevator speech"?
I feel like I always pick on fraternity men, but unfortunately, they keep giving me material. (Feel free to stop anytime...) Recently, I overheard an elevator conversation about hazing. Members of an organization were filling a crowded elevator as we descended floors in a hotel, and one young man suggested that we ask the associate members of this group to step off and allow the initiated members to fill the elevator first. Someone else suggested that this was a constructive form of hazing. (For the record, he thought an "un-constructive" form of hazing would be to ask "pledges" to eat 12 Krispy Kreme doughnuts.)
Now, in their defense, these young men had no idea who I was until I spoke up, however, that almost makes it worse. At least I have some knowledge of the fraternal community, and did not form my opinion of fraternities based on this interaction. But what if someone else had been in the elevator? What if a family with teenage children going off to college soon overheard this conversation? What if your University President overheard this conversation? What other conversations do we have, even in fun, that can be interpreted the wrong way by those who have no working knowledge of what we do?
What is your "elevator speech?" How do you positively portray the values and ideals of your organization in your daily interactions with those around you? What might be misinterpreted by those who have no clue about anything other than the stereotypes we fight on a daily basis? How can you step up your game as the new semester begins?