It seems that national health care coverage is being attacked in a strange way these days. Some congressman and senators are trying to hold Town Hall meetings across the United States to discuss the issue.

However, what’s occurring are a number of people showing up and shouting their displeasure, never allowing any real conversation to take place at all. It’s an interesting way to get your point across, but it’s the worst thing to do if anyone really wants to try to solve an issue, or get a real point across.

The problem isn’t so much that these folks are disrupting the meeting, although that is a big deal. The problem is that there are probably some people who agree as they do, who’d like to have the opportunity to express their opinions also, but can’t because of the screaming and shouting of these other people. That, plus they then don’t want to get labeled as one of the noisy few, because at a certain point, no matter what their message is, it will be ignored, and all anyone will remember is the shouting and disruption.

Of course, this also happens in business. You go to some meetings where one person will take over and sometimes filibuster their points until everyone either just agrees with them so they can leave, or totally ignores what they have to say but mentally checks out of the meeting. That makes meetings unproductive and lends people to never want to show up for another meeting, especially if that person, or others like that person, show up.

I don’t know how to change what’s happening with the Town Hall meetings, but I can offer some suggestions on how to change what happens at regular meetings. Here are some tips:

1. Have a set agenda, by time, and stick to it.

2. Allow each person only so much time to talk on each topic, then move on. If you get to everyone and there’s still time left on your schedule, you can decide at that point if you want to allow someone else to talk more or more on.

3. Be ready to step in and tell someone they’ve gone off point on a topic. When people ramble, they tend to leave the topic for other things that may not have anything to do with your issues.

4. Make sure you pay attention to every word every person on the committee has to say, even if you don’t agree with it, and encourage others to do the same. You might miss something that helps you persuade someone towards another direction, or something that might indicate to you that you need to change your course of action.

5. When all else fails, end the meeting and try again at another time. This one is kind of controversial, but there’s no sense in beating a dead horse if no positive action is taking place because one person is dominating things. You might have to remove that person from the committee, in which case maybe both of you got what you wanted, because most times people are disruptive because they really don’t want to be a part of the process in the first place. Be strong enough to stick by whatever decision you make.