December 22, 2011
A Myrtle Moment
How to hear
what everyone is saying in a few simple steps
Submitted by Myrtle Macdonald
many organizations motions and voting have been replaced by consensus. In my
sad experience in a variety of settings, it takes much longer to get real
agreement that way. A few participants talk at length and often. As a result
not everyone gets a chance to have their say.
Some when speaking hesitate between words so others start talking before
they are finished sharing what they mean.
Sometimes others assume
that they have heard before what they have to say, so interrupt
before the new aspect is heard. The sad result is that some members
go away feeling they were not heard, and that the decision made was
faulty. Some stop attending because they feel left out.
If there is a negative vote the chair person should ask "Do you want
your negative vote recorded? If that is not done the person
disagreed cannot say later I did not agree with the decision.
I remember once many years ago in a Field Council Meeting in India I
voted no to a decision. The members were startled and decided to
discuss the matter further. In they end they unanimously changed the
decision. Years later they were still glad about those sober second
The role of the President or Chair Person is difficult, and not well
Here are a few more guidelines that can make it easier and at the
same time enable all present to feel heard and valued:
It is very important
to have a Secretary, in both regular and committee meetings. It
is impossible for the Chair person to prepare accurate complete
minutes while paying attention to everyone in the room.
The minutes should be
in the words of the speakers, not reworded.
Vice-Chair/Vice-President should be alert to notice every person
in the room and signal the Chair when someone is trying to say
something but is not noticed.
The Minutes prepared
ahead by the Secretary and checked by the Chair Person are
posted or e-mailed, and copies are placed at each place in the
room. To check the accuracy of minutes, sometimes it is helpful
to have the assistance also of the Vice-Chair.
The Agenda prepared
ahead by the Secretary and the Chair Person is placed at each
seat in the room.
Representatives and others should be short and in writing if
possible. If people start leaving before Representatives have
their turn to share concerns, they feel frustrated and and may
away from the Agenda, which use up time.
1. The meeting is called
to order. If there are visitors present they are introduced briefly.
Then everyone in the circle gives their name and whom they
represent, very briefly.
2. Minutes from the previous meeting. Time is given for them to read
silently or orally. After errors and omissions are recorded they are
moved, seconded and voted on. Anything unfinished is not discussed
here, but added to the Agenda, to be discussed later.
3. The Agenda is considered and items of concern are added, to be
4. Correspondence briefly. If discussion is needed it is added to
either Unfinished or New business.
5. Unfinished Business (sometimes called Old Business)
5.1. Treasurer's Report and business arising discussed here.
5.2. Feed back from individuals who had agreed to tasks
5.3. Reports of subcommittees
6. New Business
6.1. Reports by Representatives of other organizations - new
6.2. Planning - long range
The date, time and place of the next meeting
Macdonald, M.Sc.Applied (in Nursing Research and Education), McGill
University. She works tirelessly in the community to advocate for
the rights, safety and well-being of those in the community
suffering with mental health issues. She worked in India as a nurse
and a street nurse in Montreal for many years.