by Matt Farrell
When did you first feel your fraternity?
I’m not talking about when you first saw or heard about it. That’s usually the research you did, or the guy you already knew, or the bid that somehow ended up in front of you.
I’m not talking about the first close friend you met either. Even if that’s a big part of why you joined, that’s just one guy. I’m not even talking about the first time you were around your new member class or full chapter. After all, there’s plenty of other groups on campus that promised to make you close friends.
What I’m asking is when you realized this “fraternity” thing wasn’t just a social club. That your challenge and self-development would lie far beyond one semester. When did the connection with those around you transcend anything you could’ve imagined? What’s the story?
When did you first feel it?
For many men it takes at least a few weeks. Perhaps big brother night, an impactful bonding event, or a deep conversation with an older brother. Sometimes a few months – initiation, landing an internship, getting a little brother of your own. Some take years and some never feel it at all (remember the cool guys in your chapter who stopped showing up?)
All of the above are becoming increasingly terrifying to me for one major reason: they go against everything this generation of college student is searching for.
College students’ time matters more than ever. The rising cost of college places further pressure on maximizing the entire experience. Technology continues to offer fun and interesting distractions for the remaining free time. With endless options that can be difficult to compare, “what’s in it for me?” is the logical way to decide any time commitment.
Gen Z wants an edge.
Fraternities offer a great one, but we cost more. And they can get a lot of our benefits elsewhere on campus for free. At least it seems that way on the surface.
Over the past few years, IFC recruitment is becoming increasingly formal for all sorts of reasons. Whether you love it, hate it, or don’t care – there’s one thing very hard to deny:
We’ve never had a better opportunity to help hundreds of strangers feel fraternity together.
I’ve been traveling to orientations across the country these past few weeks and meeting our future potential members. They’re all in one spot. Waiting in the auditorium, or the classroom, or wherever that opening event is held. But what are they waiting for?
Hard to say. It could be a bunch of rules, or scheduling stuff that they can just look up afterwards. Or perhaps it’s simply something to sit through before they begin their “audition” of showing strangers why they should be chosen ahead of others next to them. On the outside they’re trying to act cool, on the inside they’re scared out of their mind. They have no idea what they’re actually waiting for.
We get to decide.
Are we putting on a meaningful experience, or are we just reading PowerPoints? How is the increased pressure on logistics, organization, and format impacting the real goal of recruitment?
There’s no doubt it’s a challenge. But formal IFC recruitment presents a chance to feel fraternity faster. And PNMs are craving it. Many of them suspect fraternity could give them the edge that they’re seeking. But they’re also crippled with the pressure to perform in every aspect: classes, resume, relationships, and social relevance to name a few. Above all, our research (and others’) points to the sense of belonging they need to handle the pressure cooker of college.
Belonging is not a new message. But in watching several formal recruitments these past few weeks, it’s striking to see fraternity men that do it well. Freshmen are lucky to receive positive messages about belonging from orientation leaders and advisors. But there’s something special when the sense of true belonging is fostered by an average fraternity dude. The guy who isn’t “supposed” to act that way.
The most critical factor in any relationship is what Dr. John Gottman refers to in his book The Relationship Cure as a “bid” (ironically enough). He considers bids to be a “question, a gesture, a look, a touch—any single expression that says, ‘I want to feel connected to you.’” Gottman’s research showed bids are more important than any content within the relationships itself, and that it’s the easiest way to accelerate a quality relationship. Makes sense right? Most of your conversations with significant others, closest brothers, or even family are still about the same “boring stuff” you discuss with people you’re less close with. They just make it more meaningful and more fun. They care more.
Belonging is not something guys can really hear. We have to show them what it’s like. Thousands of friendships between men are there for the taking, regardless of recruitment structure. Fraternity men just have to focus on this new type of bid, instead of the piece of paper PNMs are mentally fixed on. We have to show them they belong instead of telling them.
When did you first feel your fraternity? How can we ensure our newest members feel it before you did?
Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can help your recruitment kickoff plans or make some future tweaks.
by Abby Ford
Earlier this summer I had the opportunity to cross something off my bucket list: snorkeling for the first time. While getting our gear on and listening to safety instructions, the instructors asked how confident we all were in our swimming abilities. I grew up in Florida and spent countless hours in a pool, so I’d say I’m pretty confident in knowing how to swim. The instructors then began to hand out noodles, and I decided to take one as my security blanket, “just in case” I started to struggle. I felt silly taking a noodle, but something just felt right about having it with me. I was completely calm, cool and collected…until that moment when I had to jump off the boat into the dense blue water that was below me.
Normally, we breathe through our noses and our mouths, but when you’re snorkeling, you can only breathe through your mouth into the tube that sits above the water. Let me tell you, this is actually one of the hardest things to get the hang of, and I was feeling #blessed I had my noodle to keep me afloat while I tried to calm myself down. I definitely didn’t think about how I was going to breathe before jumping into the water, so naturally I began to panic after my cannonball.
In those panicked moments, I was surrounded by tons of other people on the snorkeling adventure, but I felt like I was in a scene from one of the shows they have on during the middle of Shark Week. The sea water was a very dark blue, not the blue that you can see through easily, and I started to freak out that something was going to come up and get me at any moment. It wasn’t until I took a few deep breaths and let myself look underwater (with my nifty goggles) that I felt at peace. I looked down and saw a puffer-fish, beautiful coral reefs, and different kinds of fish. It was as if the setting from Finding Nemo was happening right in front of me and I was in complete awe.
This entire experience reminded me a lot of the feelings that we might have when going through change or new transitions. When we take on new roles, we often times feel like we are jumping into a big sea of unknown waters, which can be intimidating and uncomfortable. Whether its council or chapter executive board transitions, or just simply changing the way we complete a task, transitions can be tough and present big learning curves. We want to make sure that we do a good job in this new role or experience, but also don’t even really know what we’re supposed to be doing either.
Having recently gone through a transition myself by finishing graduate school and starting a full-time role at Phired Up, I’ve learned a few different tips and tricks that can be helpful when experiencing newness:
1. Ask Questions. We often hear that “no question is a dumb question” and yet still feel dumb asking questions. Don’t let that feeling get in the way of your curiosity – you need to gather all of the information you can and need to be successful. This is extremely helpful when we actually sit down and have intentional meetings (yes, more than one) with your predecessor. If we want to enact change, we need to be informed about things that have happened previously.
2. Observe Your Surroundings. Take the time to sit and be present in the experience, and fully embrace the newness that surrounds you. Tune into the way that others interact with one another and with you – take note and aim to adjust your communication style so that you can effectively communicate with everyone on the team. The more you know about your peers and surroundings, the better off you will be. Understand the environment you are working in, and challenge yourself to think about how YOU can make it better for everyone.
3. Listening is Key. Taking the time to listen, and truly listen, can be one of the most powerful tools in our toolbox. The largest communication breakdowns and barriers tend to be a result of a lack of listening. Ask yourself, am I listening to understand or am I just listening to reply? Am I invested and present in the conversation I am having? Being open to new ideas and ways of operating are super important when experiencing transitions. We need to take all of the information and advice in, and then figure out what is best for us moving forward.
4. Try to “Fly By the Seat of Your Pants.” Stay with me here. When transitioning into new roles or experiences, we often times feel like a fish out of water and are just trying to grasp at everything we can. When taking on new things, we have to learn to be okay with things not going exactly how we planned, or hitting roadblocks we never could’ve imagined. Remember, everyone is also experiencing newness just like you, so why not have some fun with it together?
Change and transitions can be hard, but I think it is so important that we embrace it. Change often leads to us learning so much more about ourselves and others. Sometimes we just need the extra push to embrace the unknown by grabbing a noodle and jumping right in.