What drives my husband crazy? (Besides Roberto Luongo letting a weak one in the net?) Being interrupted. And rightfully so! Cutting off a flow of ideas is not just rude, it is undemocratic. As more of us live in closer quarters, it becomes more vital to respect each other’s voice, even when their ideas are ridiculous. That is part of living in a democratic collective.
The need to listen to all sides of an issue is particularly imperative in meetings, especially where decisions that affect your life are being made. But it works both ways. You must listen attentively to each party and they must listen to you. Insist on this.
In his humanity-changing book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey instructs us to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”. Think about that during your next contentious discussion. First try to understand fully the point of view of the other side. Then insist that your relevant ideas be heard.
Ideally all information and ideas are put forth and then a wise and carefully considered decision is made. I know, you think this sounds like a nice theory but it will never work for your gang. But you should insist. The more these skills are tried, the better your group’s habits become. It will make your meetings more efficient and more harmonious.
Every member has a right to speak once to a motion. Depending on the size and formality of your group, during discussion members raise their hands to speak. A member must be recognized by the chair before speaking. If there are several people wishing to speak to an issue, the chair selects one and notes who should be next.
What if your council will not hear your ideas? What can you do? A good chair will make sure that all sides of the issue are vetted before a decision is made. And what if your chair, um, needs help? You can help her/him.
If you or another member is being cut off, rise on a point of order. Say, “Mister/Madam chair, point of order”. The chair must then recognize you immediately. Depending on the problem you could say something like, “Please do not allow Billy Bully to interrupt while Minnie Mouse has the floor.” Stay calm and collected. You do not want to inflame the situation. Others will follow your manner.
If you use your meeting skills to help all members participate equally and fully in the decision-making process, you are helping to improve democracy in your community and our world.
The Egyptian citizens insisted that their voice be heard and they advanced their government. Gandhi insisted on his voice being heard and he advanced the order of the world. You can insist on your voice being heard and advance your strata …or at least your sense of involvement.
And no interrupting!
Fred Francis, Peg Francis
Ninth edition, 2010
80pp, soft cover
Cool Heads Publishing