Dear Dinosaur Advice Column

Got questions about Robert's Rules of Order? Ann Macfarlane is a dinosaur who knows her stuff. She explains the complexity of Robert's Rules so it makes sense. She loves hearing from readers with their questions about Robert's Rules of Order.

Insulting body language – what to do

Dear Dinosaur:  We have a board member who rolls their eyes, sighs, shrugs their shoulders or grimaces while others are speaking. How can this be addressed?

Answer: The rules of parliamentary procedure, and specifically Robert’s Rules of Order, require that all members of a body show courtesy and respect. We suggest requesting that the board president hold a private conversation with this rude member to bring this issue to their attention (if state law allows one-on-one conversations outside the meeting).

If that has no effect, during the meeting, a member may make a Point of Order as follows:

“My colleague is failing to display courtesy and respect in their body language.”

Hopefully, the chair will rule the Point of Order “well taken” (correct) and remind everyone,

“Members are kindly requested to treat their colleagues with respect, and to refrain from verbal or physical expressions of discourtesy.”

This general way of speaking, using the “third person,” is important in order to keep the exchange professional and not personalize it. You don’t want to say, “Hey you, stop rolling your eyes!” But it’s important that everyone understand that body language is also a form of communication, and must be courteous.

Dear Dinosaur provides simple, practical answers to questions about Robert’s Rules and parliamentary procedure. Send your questions to Dear Dinosaur here. Our answers are based on Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 12th edition. As always, nothing in this post constitutes legal or business advice. For specific issues, seek a qualified authority.

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Ann Macfarlane

Ann G. Macfarlane is a Professional Registered Parliamentarian. She offers an interactive and user-friendly way to master the key points for effective, efficient and fair meetings. Her background as a diplomat and Russian translator enables her to connect with elected officials and nonprofit board directors and give them the tools they need for success. She is the author of Mastering Council Meetings: A guidebook for elected officials and local governments.