Tuesday, June 3, 2008


There really are few things in this world that are more fun than a reunião. But a couple that come to mind immediately are: A poke in the eye with sharp stick. Sawing off both legs with a butter knife. Being shocked with a cattle prod. Solving differential equations. Sweatin' to the Oldies with Richard Simmons.

I try to be a fairly tolerant and patient person, but the meetings (reuniões) I have attended here leave me exhausted, frustrated, and wondering if I could possibly get back those last two hours of my life that would be been better spent refolding all the white t-shirts and socks in Eric's dresser or organizing my cleaning supplies by bottle height and color. I have major issues with poorly managed meetings, meetings without a purpose, and meetings where absolutely nothing gets accomplished. Maybe I spent one too many years studying Robert's Rules of Order, but, seriously people, there is a better way!

Granted, my experience has been limited: 2 teachers' meetings at the language school where I teach and 1 condominium meeting for our apartment building. But, wow! All three times it has gone something like this: There was a scheduled start time. 20 - 75 minutes later, the person who is in charge of conducting the meeting shows up. It starts off good enough by welcoming everyone and thanking them for coming. About 15 minutes into the meeting, I find myself surrounded by everyone in the room all talking at the same time. Maybe it is about the subject at hand or maybe someone else is trying to bring up a new and totally unrelated subject. Either way, everyone in the room has an opinion and they all try to share it at the same time. I am the only person not speaking now and therefore, presumably, the only one listening. And me listening does a heck of a lot of good when I am only able to catch about every third word I hear being shouted all around the room. Every once in a while, someone who really wants everyone to hear their opinion will quiet everyone down until he can make his point to a listening audience. And then the all-around chatter/yelling starts again. After a couple of hours, everyone leaves. I walk out of the room with someone else, who I assume understood more of the meeting than me. I look at him/her and ask, "So, um, what exactly was the purpose/what was decided/was I supposed to come away from that with?" And I usually get a shrug and "Oh, I don't know." So despite the fact that I find it nearly impossible to understand every word of Portuguese when it is coming from 20 different people at once, I don't think my comprehension (or lack thereof) is the problem here.

I mean, I suppose bad meetings are an universal problem. I have been to unproductive meetings in the US too. But, just the same, I think next time I have to attend one here maybe I will walk there in the road instead of the sidewalk. Getting trampled by a passing horse and buggy, tagged by a motorcycle, or flattened by a bus might make for a more enjoyable day . . . really.


wondering ego said...

Tips for brazilian meetings

Although I am brazilian, I am from German ascendancy , so I tend to be more objective, etc... This is what I learned so far (moving from Santa Catarina, a more "objective" state, to Minas Gerais, a more "fruitive" state:
1. Don't embark on the same crazy chat, talks, yelling...
2. Stay at the listening position as much as you can
3. Then, at the right time, say the precise things you want to say or question (everyone will listen to you at this stage). But first you should get the attention... don't talk louder than them, just stand up and raise your hands, they will see and be quiet... I hope... hehehe
4. Look them in the eye, and pick a sympathetic one to capture it... the others should follow
5. Question them about the purpose of the meeting, etc... and say that you don't have all that time to spend (unless its a school meeting, where this will not work...
6. Good luck! Hehehehe....

Mamasphere said...

Yes, yes and yes! I'm right there with you. Luckily the company I'm at now is great about meetings, but I've been to a few doozies. It's one of the most frustrating things I've ever dealt with. Besides my husband, lol.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it is a good idea to request an agenda when you get invited for a meeting. Also, leave the meeting at the time it was supposed to finish claiming you have another appointment/plan.

Hope that helps!

AcesHigh said...

i think in Rio Grande do Sul the meetings are also more organized. My girlfriend is a terrific meetings controller/host. Very objective.

mineiros... hmphh! :rolleyes:


Corinne said...

I SO hear you!! Just image university departmental meetings in Brazil...university professors are traditionally TERRIBLE administrators in any culture and then you have the rambling that goes along with it being in Brazil (and Minas). The sociology profs in my department are trying to proose a new curricula and we have had 5 meetings so far and nothing has been decided!! It seems we start from scratch EVERY TIME. I dread anytime I have departmental meetings - 2+ hours of nothing happening!! And don´t get me started on the meetings for my son´s daycare, that have a whole week of e-mail exchange as a prelude and still take forever!! I liked wondering ego´s suggestions, I may give them a try :). My only advice is to avoid meetings as much as possible and only attend the ones that will be discussing something of real importance to you.