For clubs to grow and prosper in this tough environment, we must also listen to the quiet.
The “occupy” movement is just about over (thank God) but it illustrates something in human nature that exists in clubs, politics, condos, or any association of people with relatively like-minded interests and opinions.
Given the way media is today, the tendency is to “listen to the loud” and convince ourselves that the noise represents the majority view. In almost all cases, it does not! Yet we act on the voices of a few, rather than the wishes of the whole. Why is this?
First of all, it is human nature to want the noisy, and usually obnoxious, to simply shut up. If we act on their complaints (which is to appease), the noise will go away and the problem will seem to be solved, at least for the short term.
Nothing illustrates this more than the “occupy” movement. It was undisciplined, loud, dirty, and quite frankly insane, yet it occupied the media’s attention for weeks, even months. The pundits analyzed it, made guesses as to its impact, tried to figure out its implications on the elections, and generally acted like this was an important movement. Yet it never involved more than a few hundred at any location; their arguments—when they made them—were incoherent, and over time, their personal habits were disgusting. But we listened (or the press did), for no other reason than they were loud and lent themselves to good visuals for TV cameras.
In one of his books, the writer P. J. O’Rourke made the comment that during a demonstration in Washington in the ‘70s, his companion asked why Republicans and conservatives never demonstrated like the radical left. His reply was instructive: “We don’t because we have jobs, and don’t have the time.” Things are a little different now because the job situation is a lot worse, but the point still rings true. The majority are too busy to pay close attention, and the job of the press is TO pay attention—so the noise is magnified, and we respond to what is a willful minority that is not acting in our interests.
In every club, there is a vocal group of people that wants to maintain the status quo, or sometimes want to radically change it. More often than not, though, maintaining the status quo is what gets most of the noisy attention. Dynamic improvements in facilities often get shouted down by willful minorities who don’t want their dues raised or who like things just the way they are, even though membership and facilities may be declining. And they often win, simply because they try harder to raise their voices—and while listening isn’t a bad thing, acting on minority noise is.
For clubs to grow and prosper in this tough environment, we must not only listen to the loud, we must also listen to the quiet. And if the second group isn’t talking, we must make the effort to find out their true thinking, so we can make decisions that are not only right for the club, but also reflect the true will of the majority of club members, and not just the noisy few.