One lesson that parents teach toddlers is, “Don’t interrupt.” When two or more adults are having a conversation a four-year-old jumps in with a question, “When’s lunch?” or “Where’s my doll house?” Mom/Dad may simply respond to the child’s question or comment quickly, but parents who are trying to instill good manners use the interrupting remark to make a point. They stop and advise the child to wait until the adults are done speaking. It’s a life-long learning process to wait until the other person has finished speaking though during some talk shows, poor manners abound as speakers continually interrupt another.
There are a few times when a meeting participant needs to interrupt. An interrupting motion is a motion that can be stated while another person is speaking. Most do not require a second.
Motions that can interrupt a speaker are for those rare occasions when something must be said immediately and without getting recognition from the presiding officer. They are an anomaly in the world of orderly, productive meetings but sometimes they are necessary.
Call the member to order/Point of order When a member or the presiding officer begins to speak personally and unkindly about or to another person, it’s time to interrupt. You can either call the member to order or raise a point of order. You do not want a meeting to degenerate into chaos and never, are another member’s motives part of a debate. Debate is focused only on the issue at hand.
Point of personal privilege If you are unable to hear the speaker because there is noise in the hallway or road construction has shifted into the jackhammer phase, you may raise a point of personal privilege so that you and others around you can fully participate in the meeting.
Division When a voice vote has been taken and you doubt the results as announced by the presiding officer you can call division. It is important when there are issues of voting to either raise a point of order or call division even if it interrupts, because once the voting is past and the decision has been announced by the chair it is too late.
Parliamentary Inquiry If you need to make a parliamentary inquiry in order to fully participate you may interrupt. For example, the presiding officer says “those in favor, say qye” and you don’t know what the motion is that you are voting on, it’s time to interrupt.
If you can wait to speak after a person is finished I recommend that you wait, but if urgency demands it, interrupt. Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised outlines motions that can be stated when another is speaking—see the index for “interrupt” and notice the various categories.
Each member has a responsibility to create a meeting where the rights of all members to speak (at appropriate times) are respected, where members behave with dignity and grace, and where the rights of the minority are upheld. Encourage that behavior and when necessary, interrupt.
The next meeting of the Louise Saks Parliamentary Unit will be December 17, 2019 at the First Presbyterian Church, 1669 West Maple in Birmingham. The lesson for the day will be Fix the Time to Which to Adjourn and guests are always invited. The lesson begins at 9:30 a.m. and you are welcome to stay for the business meeting and for the December lunch, a once-a-year special event in which members outdo themselves in bringing the best dish to share, a lunch to make your holidays bright.