I don’t remember a time without being drawn to rules for appropriate social and civic interaction. Perhaps this comes from a Scandinavian culture that valued politeness, and an upbringing steeped in matters of etiquette and protocol. Perhaps it has something to do with my training in the civil law system and its anchoring in written provisions.
Regardless, I became an expert in the rules for the democratic decision-making process (“parliamentary law and procedure”) in non-profit organizations and membership associations. I used these skills both as a leader myself (e.g., presiding over meetings) and by being a contributing member of many organizations (e.g., knowing that ultimately it’s the majority opinion of members that prevails). Among the organizations where I served in both roles, I like to mention ZONTA; the Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce; AALS (Association of American Law Schools) Section on Graduate Programs for Foreign Lawyers; Florida State Commission on International Education; and NAFSA: Association for Foreign Student Advisors. I’m particularly proud over my service as national parliamentarian for two truly outstanding organizations: NAFSA, and NCJW: National Council of Jewish Women.
For many years I taught members of the Florida Bar during its leadership days, and I also wrote the chapter for its Handbook (check out Publications in the pull-down menu, above) on how to conduct a meeting in the most efficient way, using the democratic process of majority rule. Over the years I’ve lost count of the large number of revisions of bylaws and rules of procedure I also wrote for professional and civic organizations.
Throughout it all, the teaching part was always what I enjoyed the most. Among the custom-tailored classes I gave I think back fondly of those I gave to high school students in their service clubs, the Honors College at Miami Dade College, sororities and fraternities at the University of Miami and FIU, to mention just a few. I believe that majority rule in meetings should be learned from an early age, so that future leaders will know how to reach decisions in an efficient manner that’s determined by the majority but protects the rights of a minority.
Some people see the similarities between rules for conducting meetings with the rules for consular etiquette and protocol. If so, I applaud you.
It’s all about civil behavior in sometimes confusing circumstances.