Learn these lessons from everyday meetings: Part One, Special Interests

While cleaning up the New Year’s Day detritus of dirty plates, glasses, and stomped-on confetti, most people ask themselves what they can do to better themselves (and, sometimes, the world). From losing weight and smashing the state, many feel an urgent need to make the incoming year mean something.

In meetings’ parlance, “special interest” meetings form because a single common cause gathers a group of people around it. And if there’s one single denominator of these meetings, it’s open dissatisfaction.

So if they haven’t already, fledgling planners should try to sit in on these meetings to learn how rules, agendas, and common courtesy can craft a positive outlook and, in some cases, forestall and curb disaster.

Most meetings fall into the following three categories:

Self-help. Lose weight, stop smoking/drinking, get in shape – These intentions are not only popular at the beginning of the year, they are highly lucrative. Many self-help groups are run by professional organizations like Weight Watchers and non-profits like hospitals and medical centers; others, like Alcoholics Anonymous, are self-governed.

Community. Community halls, school meetings, and prayer groups are the means by which issues involving neighborhoods’ care projects are set in motion and maintained. While there’s self-governance involved, there’s also a tendency to invoke external controls like “Robert’s Rules of Order” if things get a little off-track.

“Injustice.” Perceived wrongdoing, especially around events like elections, motivates people to want to “do something.” This year, for example, the presidential inauguration has galvanized a number of organized and grassroots meetings.

If you’re planning a meeting, here are some simple questions to ask:

  1. How should I react when my attendees start
    1. crying
    2. yelling
    3. cross-talking
  2. How can I keep my attendees
    1. courteous
    2. respectful
    3. safe

Wait, you ask: Did you say safe?

Yes, yes I did. While most meetings are just considered stultifying, a very few end in acrimony, violence, and death – as the recent conviction of Dylann Roof reminds us.

So how do we work to make those meetings very few to NONE?

This series will examine everyday meetings and see what makes them so extraordinary. Stay tuned.