People First, Then Protocol

Lynne Taetzsch Health Guide
  • At our bipolar support group meetings, we take turns being the facilitator, a job that basically means reading the opening message and making sure everyone gets a chance to speak. When fewer people show up, the leader can be more relaxed about timing, but when there’s a large group, you sometimes have to interrupt a long-winded speaker in order to move things along.

    At last night’s meeting, I was not the facilitator, yet I found myself concerned that we might not have enough time for everyone. “Oops,” I reminded myself, “I am not the facilitator tonight and I should stay out of it. Give up being the control freak, for once.”
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    I tried to relax, but then noticed that we had only fifteen minutes left and four people still had not had a chance to speak. “Sorry to interrupt,” I said, and interrupted our facilitator, who was talking at the time. Another member backed me up on the timing thing, and everyone finally did get a chance to speak, but I noted how focused I was on the process of equitable timing for everyone. I was so worried about everyone getting their fair share of time, that I missed half of what they were saying!

    Has our meeting protocol become too rigid? We use 3-minute and 5-minute timers to make sure everyone gets their chance to speak, but sometimes a person who is hurting needs more time, and those of us doing well need less. I am reminded of Suze Orman’s motto on her TV show where she gives people advice on managing their money: “People first, then money, then things.”

    Maybe we need a motto like that for our meetings: “People first, then meeting protocol.” I know that I, for one, need to relax and listen to the content of what people are saying rather than focusing on the sand running out of their timers.

    What do you think? Tell us in the message boards.

Published On: September 19, 2006