1) everyone can have their say but not everyone can have their way
2) we need to be able to disagree without being disagreeable.For some reason, those two saying have stuck with me for almost 30 years now, and I am reminded of them as I run meetings here at the University. What do these sayings really mean? Here are my thoughts:
Everyone can have their say but not everyone can have their way: people's voices need to be heard, and often times meetings are run in such a way in which either the quiet voice or the dissenting voice is not heard. It is easy to speak up when everyone agrees with an idea...it is when one has an opposing viewpoint that it becomes harder to articulate what they are thinking. The leader's role is to create a a safe environment where the quiet and/or opposing voice is able to speak if they so desire. My first caveat to this is that while everyone can have their say, they also have the responsibility to say it in a fashion that is respectful and honoring of the other. My second caveat is that at some point a group needs to make a decision, and while some would still want to have their say, they may need to respect the group's desire and give up their say at that time. Another of the leader's roles is to determine when that time is right, without stopping debate before all voices that need to be heard are heard.
We need to be able to disagree without being disagreeable: this is perhaps one of the hardest sayings to live out in any group, mostly because people have never learned how to do this. In a recent faculty and staff training here at Concordia, we had someone train us in the art of crucial conversations. We learned that there is a way to disagree without being disagreeable...and that there were specific ways of thinking and acting that made those conversations go better than imagined. Several ways to approach this is that when someone has a differing opinion, they should 1) believe the best about those with an opinion other than their own (rather than assume the worst) and 2) understand that their idea is based on what they believe to be true at that time, which may or may not be an ultimate truth...beginning with the words "I may be wrong..." works wonders most every time. Those listening must also be respectful of the differing opinion, believing the best rather than assuming the worst.
Consider what it is that you believe about how meetings should play out, and check to make sure that what you want to have happen actually does happen. And if it takes a certain saying that is repeated before every meeting, go ahead and say it...a good reminder of how an assembly should act can never hurt the process or the outcome.