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Pushers and Leaders, Part 3: When to Be a Power Delegate

by KFC on November 19, 2010

I recently received an e-mail from one Best Delegate reader who asked the following question about my posts on how to handle power delegates (part 1 and part 2):

I’m notorious for shutting down ideas, being too serious, and not playing nice. How can I become that delegate everyone loves in a committee?

Other readers might have the same question, so I wanted to share my response below.

Before you try to change your style from assertive to diplomatic, think about the advantages of being a power delegate in the right situations.

Here are a few examples where being aggressive would be advantageous:

Representing an assertive country. An aggressive delegate style might be expected if you represent the P5 and “rogue” countries. This is especially true if the conference values accurate role-playing and policy.

Representing a very small country. You have to be assertive, especially at the early stages of committee, to stand out and send a message to larger countries that you’re going to be a major player in committee.

Conferences that value aggression. If your chairs tend to be aggressive when they attend other conferences, they will most likely award delegates who use a similar style. Read Ryan’s article on Favoritism and Philosophy.

Shutting down other blocs. Sometimes you need to work with caucus blocs that are led by power delegates — if your chair asks the committee to merge resolutions, for example. In that case, you may have to become more aggressive yourself and shut down competing ideas.

Too many power delegates. In a room full of power delegates, such as the Security Council or a crisis committee, you’re not going to win anyone over by being highly diplomatic. In order to compete, you have to be aggressive and assertive also.

Keep in mind that being aggressive does not mean being a jerk. Whether or not you’re a power delegate, you want other delegates to respect you — and you need to show respect, too. Other delegates may not like your aggressive style, but you want them to respect you for knowing your stuff, being able to work with others, and pushing the committee towards a good solution. Try these tips:

Use assertive cushioning statements to contest ideas. Example: “Good point, but…” Delegates respect that you at least listened to their idea, even if you didn’t agree with it. See my article on cushioning statements.

Mention other countries or their ideas in your speeches and comments. Again, this acknowledges that you recognize others’ contributions but that you just disagree with them and have better ideas.

Do you think it’s ever necessary to be a power delegate? Let us know in the comments!

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