Article: Understanding Entry Into A Polling Order
By Duchess Willow de Wisp, OP, OR, OL
Rapport. Many of you look at me and see someone who has lots of awards and this is true. What you might not know I was in the SCA 12 years before I got a single award and from the time I changed my Laurel to a Pelican it took me another 12 years to get my Laurel.
I had reached a stage of total frustration. Nothing I did was good enough so I fussed to my Husband. Duke Jonathan and he gave me the same advice we give his students. “Look better, Produce more and gain Rapport.” This sent me on circuit.
I needed to gain rapport. I discovered that while I have known most of these people for all of their SCA careers I did not know them as Peers. I had thought of them as juniors and tended to be too familiar with them. I did not treat them as Peers of Ansteorra and I did not listen to them as my peers.
Now, my case is not like yours but there are similarities. Often the people in the polling Circles you aspire too are your friends and you treat them as friends. Often, in public, you don’t use their title. They are from your cohort and you don’t see any need to be formal with them. This is a grave mistake.
Once someone enters the rank of Grant or above they are an “active” part of the Court of Ansteorra. People look to them and the people around them to set the stage of the “great game” and to make the “magic” of the Medieval World. They are supposed to be role models of how people should behave. People look to them and their students to set the stage. If they are doing a conscientious job they really making their student do everything right. Here you come and break the “magic” by being all informal and mundane.
I say “mundane” because people in period paid a lot of attention to rank and were formal when talking to people of a higher rank. They handled it as a form of speech. It came natural to them and didn’t interfere with their relationships with these people.
You are their friend and when you break the mood they do not know what to do. People around the two of you just see you as discourteous. Your friend doesn’t what to correct you because that would hurt your friendship. People tend to just ignore you and forget that you exist. Everyone believes that you know better, but you just do not want to change. If you ask someone about the problem they often say “Don’t worry about it. It is your right to be yourself.” What they don’t add “it is also the right of the important people to not consider you for advancement.”
So you need to be able to talk to people as your equals while maintaining the public view of medieval interaction.
The essence of every polling order is to advise the Crown about candidates. It is important that the circles work together to come to a consensus of what the circle and the populace perceive as important factors in the evaluations of candidates. That means the people in the circle must be able to listen and understand what each other are saying. They must have rapport. The only way to assure rapport in the circle is to have it before you promote the candidate.
In the way I am using rapport it only means you can talk about something it doesn’t mean you agree on everything. It does mean that you listen and understand others points of view. Building rapport means that you talk to people in the Circle and understand what they think the images the circle promotes and what is expected of its member. You should also look at what the Crown expects and what the Populace expects. You need to look at the public image of the order and look at the public images of new members.
In my case my costuming was a problem. So I changed it to the level that they would accept. Do remember if you talk to members of a polling order and they make suggestions of changes and you make the changes you have entered into a contact with them and it is bad policy to go back to your old ways.
Why is it a bad policy? Once you are in a circle you will want to function as a member. You will not be able to function if the circle is mad at you. They will apply pressure to make you change and you will fight back. They will not listen to your opinions.
The grant and above polling orders might insist that their members behave in a certain is the values of the populaces. Every rank carries with it certain standards that are put in place by the populace. The circles have learned that the people will be very disappointed if the candidate doesn’t display a certain level in behavior and skills. Candidates who do not make the standard for the circles are exposed to constant criticisms from the populace. This often leads to the person quitting. The older circles have learned to make sure that the people respect the candidate. They have lost many people that they respected by not following this wisdom.
Rapport will allow you to find out why the members of a polling order think the way they do. Sometimes Individuals can not follow the standards of the order. Sometimes they think order sets their expectation too high and sometimes they think orders set their standards to low. There is no problem in setting your own standards very high, but you need to keep the standards of the polling order in mind when you advise the Crown.
By talking to the members of the order about standards and expectations you might find they just don’t fit you. Some Respect and Prestige comes from awards but most comes from the people because of your actives and abilities. Trying to live to the highest standards of the SCA will do you no harm, but if it something you have to do it can take the fun out of the SCA. Entering into any grant or above polling order is a responsibly and a job. If you cannot do the job think twice about entering the order.
Rapport is your ability to interact with members of an order as a peer and still give them respect. You need to have Rapport with the members of circle before you can tell if can work with them and if you would enjoy taking on the responsibilities of that circle. Rapports mean that the members can talk to you and that you can understand their points of view. Rapport is not brown nosing. You must be true to yourself and if you change you must keep the change after you get the award.