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Making Friends, Not Enemies: Effective Interpersonal Communication in Model UN

The trope of the notorious so-called “power delegate” is tainted with a decidedly negative connotation in the Model UN community: these delegates are widely disliked for being overly cutthroat and for prioritizing personal gain over the greater productivity of committee. What cannot be denied, however, is their effectiveness: power delegates do win awards, if they execute the strategy properly. The question remains, then, at what cost? 


Power delegates eventually develop a reputation, and will be known throughout their respective circuit for behavior that is looked down on. It is also only a matter of time until a more cooperative delegate sees through their backhanded antics and outsmarts them, placing above the power delegate award decisions come around. This common occurrence, in which the well-liked, equally intelligent, equally strategic delegate beats the power delegate, happens because of one central truth: likeability matters in Model UN. The social component of this activity simply cannot be ignored.


Delegates who choose to make enemies rather than friends, using dishonorable strategies to try and end up on top, inevitably miss out on the quintessential experience of communicating and collaborating with others to create cohesive and creative solutions. The meaningful friendships built with fellow committee members is a critical part of all that constitutes participation in any conference.

The importance of collaboration transcends any cheesy plea to make lifelong friendships at conferences: it is just as strategic as it is social. 


Model UN is a difficult, but highly applicable activity precisely because of this collaborative component: in the real world, solutions require advocacy. There is no winning on technicality. A real leader must be able to work with others and convince others of their ideas. 


Unlike most other debate-oriented academic activities, Model UN does not exist in a vacuum: it involves the variable of interpersonal communication.

For those trying to improve their capacity for collaboration, making a strategy shift can seem intangible. Fortunately, there are several quantifiable ways to embrace the interpersonal aspect of Model UN. 


The Underrated Art of Note-Passing in Model UN

Passing notes is the single most efficient and easy means of communication in Model UN. When passing notes, there’s no need to wait to be called on by the dais, no time limit for what you need to say, and no pressure to be overly formal. Passing notes have several strategic benefits when it comes to building your likeability in committee: your ideas will become better understood, you can build critical alliances with countries of similar positions, and you will boost your own recognizability by establishing a relationship and line of communication with as many delegates as possible around the room. 


You must keep in mind that your notes will convey who you are as a delegate and as a person to the recipient. Sending a note is a more intimate means of communication, just because it is one-on-one, which is rare in Model UN. Take advantage of this intimacy and establish a friendly, yet professional relationship. You should be more casual in your notes than during speeches to the entire committee. Balance casual language with focused writing in order to convey friendliness and “realness” while also demonstrating that you are serious about producing strong solutions to the topic of debate. 


Your goal is to gain both their respect and friendship. 


Keep your notes fairly simple to not confuse delegates and keep your notes organized on your desk so you don’t accidentally forget to return a note and give off the wrong impression. Lastly, and most importantly, do not only use your notes to share your own thoughts and ideas, but also use them to show you have been listening to others. Express agreement, understanding, and curiosity to other delegates based on what they are saying in their speeches. Some of the easiest notes to write are those that ask questions: “what do you think about…, have you considered…., would you agree that…” etc. Writing notes, speaking, and listening simultaneously can be difficult multitasking, but it comes easier with practice. The best delegates are those who can do all three in a balanced manner. 


Mastering The Collective Writing Process

With all of the different components and secondary tasks in Model UN, it is easy to lose focus of what’s really important: resolutions. In the end, your goal is to write and pass a quality resolution. The writing process is not something that should, or can, be undergone alone. At massive, college-run conferences, these resolutions can often span well-beyond twenty five pages, with over thirty something clauses. Any delegate who attempts to produce a resolution alone will undeniably be at a disadvantage to those who embrace collaboration and approach the writing process from a collectivist standpoint. The delegates who make enemies rather than friends will sometimes choose to pre-write resolutions before even entering the committee, or will refuse to compromise, instead insisting on solely including their own ideas in the paper. To be clear, this approach is not strategically intelligent. Working with others is hands down the best and most efficient approach to resolution-writing, though it can be more frustrating at times. 


When writing a resolution, the best approach is to divide and conquer.


Delegate different clauses to different delegates in order to speed up the writing process. So long as your circle back and be sure to read everything before the resolution is submitted to the dias, splitting up the work is the most efficient approach. To establish yourself as the leader, take charge of delegating tasks, and be knowledgeable on the topic such that other bloc members will ask for your input and feedback on their parts of the resolution. The strongest and most stable blocs are those composed of people that can work collaboratively with each other instead of beneath the wrath of one power delegate. Embrace the collectivism, and your bloc will be stronger as a result. Collaboration is strategic. 


Actions Outside of Committee Matter

Committee sessions are only a few hours at a time, but conferences also include opening and closing ceremonies, guest speakers/workshops, meal breaks, and other designated time in the conference hotel. These parts of the conference may seem irrelevant since they are not debate focused and don’t directly affect awards, but actions outside of committee are possibly just as important as those in committee. Getting to know delegates and being friendly will change the whole dynamic of your committee in a positive way, making for a more enjoyable experience for everyone. By working with others outside of the committee room, you can build a positive and focused reputation for yourself. It will be much easier and more fun to work with people that you’ve spoken to on a more personal level rather than a purely professional level.


Embracing collaboration has two central categories of benefits: social and strategic. Socially speaking, working with others will earn you more friends and a more wholesome conference experience. The strategic benefits are even more convincing: you will build a stronger bloc, a higher quality resolution, and a better reputation among fellow delegates and the chair.

Related Article: Being Friendly Will Put You Ahead in Committee

Related Article: Teamwork: The Underrated Central Piece of Model UN Conferences

Up Your MUN Game this Summer
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