Rotarians' Secrets

Rotary has no "secret handshake" nor any "secret password." But, it does hold a much more important set of secrets … secrets which are right out there in plain sight … if you can only perceive them.

Rotarians have two principles which underlie our service work. We are both non-political and non-denominational. Our service projects go smoothly through the service work of Rotarians of many religions, or perhaps of no religion, who are variously conservatives or progressives. But, are these two basic principles the whole secret of Rotary? No, there's so much more.

Mutual Respect and Effective Communication
Successful service work does not just avoid political or religious conflicts; it overcomes and moves beyond those issues through mutual respect and effective communication. When we work on a service project and see the service-above-self dedication of our colleagues, how can we not respect them for what we see them do … even when we may, for example, disagree with their politics? But, how can and do Rotarians manage to cooperate even in view of fundamental disagreements? Effective communication is the next secret.

There are simple and useful ways to accomplish effective communication; both in our private lives and in Rotary service. The first is simply to truly listen to the viewpoints of others. True listening requires a sincere effort to focus and pay attention with open mind. From time to time, we may be inwardly focused – more concerned about how others perceive us. But, as my mother used to say, "Don't worry about what others think of you. They're mostly worried about how they look themselves!" So, when we come out of an inward focus and relate to others through true listening, we can create positive communications. Click here for a valuable five-minute presentation:

Dealing with Disagreements: 5:23 min:


When People Disagree With You
Consider this: when people disagree with you, they are giving you the benefit of their point of view. A key to better communication is to respond with respect. When your first and automatic response to another Rotarian's idea or viewpoint is, "My, that's stupid," or "That's ridiculous," it completely halts and blocks further communication. The key is to remain open and respond positively with without rejecting the person. When you want to disagree with the message, don't reject the messenger! Instead disagree with respect, welcome and truly listen to the other viewpoint.

Discovery of other viewpoints creates a far more energizing conversation then the use of persuasion. When you resist another's point of view there is no learning, just arguing. Next, please watch this short video to learn how to use Open Ended Questions; how to Engage Using Body Language; Avoid Mind-Reading Assumptions; and Avoid Antagonistic Responses. Click here for a worthwhile four minute presentation: (skip ad)

How To Have Better Communication Skills: 4:23 min:


How Often Do You Say, "No"?
The worst responses in conversations begin with either, "No, …." or "But, …." because both of those words totally reject what you just heard, and thus reject the person as well. The best responses start with, "Yes, …" or "And, …" Try those out from time to time, and you might be amazed at the improvement in the level of communication and fellowship that results. Perhaps we could all practice such responses as, "Thank you, and I see it differently; so, let me explain what I think."

Clearly, Rotarians care about others or they wouldn't be doing service work. So, when you truly care about your service work, it follows that improved communication with your fellow Rotarians will improve your success. Plus, who knows what you might learn from viewpoints you would otherwise ignore?

Do You Worry About "Being Wrong"?
Most people worry about being wrong. We all hate to "be wrong." So, by opening up communication and not "making someone wrong" – by rejecting what you think to be an incorrect viewpoint – you can avoid a kind of "wrongness trap." Once sprung by disrespect, that trap will hold you apart from that other Rotarian, hindering your success.

Provide Effective Feedback
When you communicate you also provide "feedback" both verbally and nonverbally. How do we do that? We do evaluative feedback, either positive or negative. Using a positive voice tone and positive words, such as "good," leads to worthwhile feedback. When we do non-evaluative feedback, we seek more information without rejection. Being empathic while listening is very helpful to avoid shutdown of communication. For example, maintain eye contact, and shake your head, "yes," while you can. And, repeat back to the person what they have said, but in your own words. That is, "What I just heard you say is …. etc." Empathic listening includes sensing the other persons feelings. Watch this easy-to-listen-to video:

Feedback in Interpersonal Communication. Part 1 of 3: 9:51 min:


CONCLUSION – The Secrets Rotarians Hold in Plain Sight
So just what are the secrets which Rotarians hold in plain sight? First, they include our principles of being non-denominational and non-political; principles which get our service work well started. The second secret, and perhaps more important, is simply our openness and acceptance of others with respect. (Frankly, this is an advantage we have over many other groups, where non-group-members are automatically suspect or just plain wrong, no matter what.) Finally, success increases when we communicate well and don't reject our fellow Rotarians through inconsiderate responses.

And if we would but make a small effort, we could leverage those same improved communication skills to become even more successful in our careers and lives by consciously practicing sincere listening and respectful positive responses in all our communication, even in our disagreements.


Website Sponsors