This is a tough topic. A clown club can be like families and granola — full of NUTS!
We try to bring together a diverse group of creative people and then wonder why we do not always see eye to eye. Hmm…small wonder!
Let’s examine the most common problem clown clubs have, and how to work with it. I am not sure that I have lot to offer. But I will try.
Many times I have heard that clown clubs have had a falling out and people have left the group.
Why does this happen?
In reality when we have a problem within our families as well as our clown group we have problems expressing ourselves. After all, who wants to be the one to complain? No one wants to be the “bad guy”.
Usually it goes something like this:
- Step #1 – Someone has an idea they are excited about. It might be a good idea, but has some rough edges.
- Step #2 – Someone else has a different idea. Or there is the person who plays the devil’s advocate and brings up points that shoots holes in the idea.
- Step #3 – Tempers flare, people blurt out thoughts that maybe should have been left thoughts, and there are misunderstandings.
- Step #4 – Someone who wasn’t even at the meeting gets the wrong information, or hears rumors, or gets left out of the decision-making process.
Whoops! Before you know it people are mad, hurt, and have left the club.
What to do? Obviously we need to keep the lines of communication open. But how?
Most of us do not have someone with the professional training needed to negotiate through something this sticky.
The best defense is a good offense
Prepare for this sort of thing ahead of time. Have ground rules in place to avoid this kind of problem, and what to do when they arise (and they will).
Have a frank discussion with the entire clown club about misunderstandings. They are going to occur, so why not get ahead of the game?
Here are some ideas:
- “Issues and Ideas Box”: Have a box out at every meeting where folks can write down and submit their concerns. Make it clear that this is not a dump box. Comments need to be signed and include contact information so there can be a follow-up. Have a small committee of 3 who will be responsible for reading and dealing with all the issues. These people have to be chosen carefully, with the understanding that the issue will be dealt with privately within the month, preferably before the next meeting.
- Open Forum: Save time in your meetings for an open forum to discuss items not on the agenda. This is like opening a can of worms or biting into a chocolate without knowing what is inside. Sure, it can be uncomfortable, but letting folks air grievances is important. Kind of like baked on cheese, the sooner you get to it the better! Agree to disagree. You don’t always have to agree with someone, but you do need to respect their right to a difference of opinion. This doesn’t replace the “Issues and ideas box”.
- When discussing ideas that involve spending large sums of money (anything over $100.00 or repeated purchases that will total up to $100.000) consider having a special meeting just to discuss only that topic. You might want to buy a sound system, back drop, or some props. This really needs more than a few minutes during a monthly club meeting to discuss the idea. Be sure to gather needed information ahead of time. Schedule a special meeting. Have a vote.
- Do NOT send important notices by email alone. Before the time of electronic mail, people called on the telephone, remember? This is important. Some of us get dozens of emails a day that can add up to over 100 in one week. Go on vacation or have a computer problem, and suddenly you are buried in emails. You could miss an important email easily. Do not assume a club member got your email! Set up a calling tree to let folks know important decisions are going to be made.
- Be above-board in everything. It is worth the effort. Some of us may have more difficult personalities, it is true. But that is NEVER go behind someone’s back in order to “get something done”. It always backfires and causes more trouble than it is worth. No time is ever saved. Feelings are hurt. It fosters a sense of distrust among the entire alley. i.e. “If they treat her that way, then what will they do to me if I…?”
Did someone quit the club?
If you feel there had been a miscommunication, then have someone call and invite them back. Don’t let too much time pass before reaching out to them.
“I’m sorry you feel that way, but we would like you to come back” can mean a lot. Try to smooth things over. This should come from the acting president.
If they choose not to come back that is okay. Leave the door open. Sometimes folks just need some time to cool off. Clowns come and go. If they decide being in a club does not work for them, that is okay too. Group activities are not for everyone.
Are there re-occurring problems?
You might want to examine your clown club structure to find a better way to communicate within the group. Take some time each year to see if changes need to be made. January is the perfect time to step back and take a fresh look at things.
Are your rules and regulations too strict? You might need to loosen up a bit.
On the other hand if you don’t have enough guidelines, things can run amok.
Is it a clash of strong personalities? The SAME personalities, over and over? Call a truce. It’s time for a cozy heart-to-heart talk with the president.
Are YOU thinking of calling it quits?
If you are reading this now and YOU are the one who is considering leaving the clown club, why?
Was it a misunderstanding? Hurt feelings? Personality conflict?
Don’t walk away without attempting to have an open dialogue. Your friends may be confused why you are leaving; let them know why. Be honest. Leave out the theatrics. Don’t be passive aggressive.
This may be the perfect opportunity to bring about positive change in the group.
Why are we a clown club?
Let’s not lose sight of why we are clowns and gather together in the first place.
It is to have fun! …right? Right!
Groucho Marx said it best: “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member!”
Or my favorite: “The problem with clubs is they have people in them!”
We all need to develop a thicker skin, deflate our ego, cut each other some slack, and remember to have fun!
We are clowns, after all.
My sister Lyn introduced me to a very important quote:
“Be kinder than necessary, because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”
I remember difficult times in my life; not everyone knew what I was dealing with. I was depressed and frustrated. I was not always my best self even when I tried to put on a good face. I didn’t always make the best decisions.
Looking back I am so very grateful for those in my life who extended this kindness to me.
I want to hear from you!
Are you in a clown club?
How has your club resolved communication problems?
How did you bring members back who have left the club?
Post a comment below and let us know!
Mooseburger Clown Arts Education has been running one of the world’s most well-rounded clown schools since 1996. Performers from all over the globe travel to Minnesota each summer for a fun and intensive clown training program. Each aspect of our clown camp is designed to meet your needs and boost your confidence as an entertainer.
Whether you want to join the circus, visit nursing homes, run your own birthday party business, paint faces, or twist balloons, there is something just for you at Mooseburger Clown Arts Camp.
Or call me toll-free to discuss your education and see if Mooseburger is the right fit for you: 800-973-6277
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