Civility In Committee

Dear DECORUM! Readers,

Please read this great post from the terrific website about committee etiquette.  Mr. Vlahakis addresses being courteous in the Model UN setting, but I think these principles apply to real-life meetings, too!

You can also read this article on the original blog page:



Sunday, February 10, 2008

Committee Etiquette

I have my next guest post! Meet Aryestis Vlahakis, a junior at Yale who competes with the Model UN Team. He’s originally from Greece, and he also serves on this year’s Secretariat for the Security Council Simulation at Yale (SCSY).

Committee Etiquette
By Aryestis Vlahakis, Yale University, Timothy Dwight College ’09Delegates often overlook the issue of committee etiquette. How should one behave towards fellow delegates? How should one behave towards the chair and the rest of the dais staff? Etiquette means respecting your fellow delegates’ positions and opinions even though you may not agree with them or—be honest here—even if you don’t like some of them. And excellent etiquette can help you win Best Delegate.

In any committee, particularly General Assembly committees, you want to make your presence known to the chair. Although good chairs will familiarize themselves with everyone in committee, you might have bad chairs or a big committee. So, you need to take that extra step to make yourself known.

Before the first session of the conference, walk in a little early and introduce yourself. You don’t have to get into a deep philosophical debate; just offer a couple of words about you, your country, and your school. And speak with confidence.

“Hi, I’m Aryestis and I’m representing Greece. I actually do come from Greece, but right now I’m studying at Yale. I just wanted to introduce myself. It was nice to meet you.”

You are now one step ahead.

If you have a question about the committee or the topic matter, now is an excellent time to ask, but do not make up a meaningless question on the spot. Good chairs see right through this, and then you look like a “suck up.”

Doing this will not guarantee a win, but it certainly grabs the chair’s attention. Impressed chairs will look forward to hearing you speak. They may even offer you an advantage when calling on delegates during moderated caucus and pick you first.

This should be your attitude towards the chair throughout the committee. You should not be afraid to approach him. Chairs are generally very knowledgeable on the subject and offer good advice when you are stuck in committee.

But do not, under any circumstances, suck up to the chair. Although this may sometimes work, the chair will see right through it and you will look like a complete fool.

The whole idea is to present yourself as a team player, not as someone who is trying to leverage an unfair advantage because the chair knows him.

The same goes for interactions with your fellow delegates. You have to present yourself as an easily approachable, easy-going person who is willing to discuss other people’s ideas and compromise on them.

In most cases, the delegate who wins the committee is the one who leads it to a consensus. You cannot be that person if you refuse to work with other delegates, especially the delegates who have all the good ideas. Even if you do not like other delegates, you need to overcome your personal likes and dislikes and be an effective diplomat. Remember that Model UN is not a naturally competitive activity, but one that demands negotiation and consensus.

The best way to present yourself to other delegates is the same way you should present yourself to your chair. Get to your committee room early, reserve yourself a good seat, then walk around the room and introduce yourself to the other delegates. You can ask them what they think about the topics or Britney Spears’ latest nervous breakdown. The point is to get out there and get to know your fellow delegates.

Because all this may be hard to remember when you get into the hustle and bustle of committee, when you are not sure how to act or what to do, just think of these three things:

  1. Don’t be afraid to go up and talk to the chair and fellow delegates;
  2. Be confident and polite;
  3. Be diplomatic and willing to compromise.

Posted by Ryan Villanueva at 3:54 PM