Decorum matters…

Avalon Nuevo

“Decorum” has the same root as the word “decoration”: the frills and fixtures that make a room a pleasant place to be. In a meeting, decorum is what keeps the discussion polite and respectful. It includes not only what is said but also the way things are said. The order, the subject and the tone of discussion are all guided by rules of decorum. A debate without decorum is not “democracy” — it’s a disaster.

Don’t make it personal

The key to civilized discussion is to keep the the views and opinions on the issues at hand – not the people who hold those views and opinions. No matter how odious they may be. Meetings are filled with people with personalities that are based on the causes and conditions that create their own unique history of experience. And there isn’t much they can do about that. Some issues are going to be more relevant to some people than others. Blaming people for their experience with an issue, or lack thereof, is not only unhelpful, it’s also unfair.

Don’t question motives

This is related to the prohibition on making the debate personal. Assuming that someone is holding a specific view on an issue for a specific reason is very difficult to prove. Our reasons for holding our opinions can change like the winds based on what other people in the room may say or the stream of thoughts running through our head. Questioning the motives of your colleagues only opens the door for them to question your own motives.

Keep the language clean

Profanity is like a match that gets tossed into a volatile atmosphere. Some profanity ignites an immediate reaction that can quickly escalate and end up blowing up in your face. Other types of profanity are like a slow burn that leaves a lingering stench in the room. The bottom line is that if you think your language might possibly be too harsh – it definitely is. Always err on the side of caution and just watch your language.

Wait your turn

In addition to what you say, when you say something is also important. A good meeting leader will have a strategy to decide who gets to talk when. Hopefully, it will be structured allow all member and sides to equally address the issue. That is why it is important to avoid speaking out of turn, which may through off the balance of the debate.

Who gets to decide?

The speaker gets to set the tone of debate. They are the person who decides which comments constitute personal attacks, which words are profanity and who gets to speak when. A ruling by the speaker may be appealed by another member of the group, which usually ends up being put to a vote by all of the members of the assembly. The outcome of that vote ultimately has to be respected. That is the most important rule of all.