I don’t like meetings. The people who know me are currently thinking, “Tell us something we don’t know.” For everyone else, please let me explain why I don’t like meetings 1.
Meetings are a form of psychological torture. At least, they are for me.
I have no doubt there are people out there for whom meetings are wonderful times which lead to both productivity and creativity. These people appear as alien to me as I do to them, but I will acknowledge how meetings can help them process information into action. Just leave me out of it, thank you very much.
For me to process information I need both physical and psychological “space.” I need this space, and a certain amount of time, to be able to chew over an idea and formulate an action step. Meetings are often so filled with both psychological and physical content that this space is tough to come by. What’s worse, extroverts tend to fill up that space to such a degree that I don’t feel like I can contribute unless I resort to an incredible level of rudeness. I may not be the nicest person on the planet, but I don’t particularly enjoy being rude just to share a comment in a meeting. This means I often spend meetings with a growing amount of mental frustration. I typically only last about an hour before I my mind goes completely on vacation 2.
Even worse is when meetings “break out” into small groups. Let me interpret what these feel like to me. “OK, here’s the idea I just handed you and which you have no time to process on your own. Now share the thoughts you haven’t been given time to form, mesh them with other thoughts you’ll have even less time to process, and then form all of these into a useful amalgamation to share with the group. You have five minutes.” Break out groups terrify me.
I have two reactions to the small group break out.
First I maneuver myself to control the group out of psychological necessity. I haven’t been given time to process my own thoughts, much less anyone else’s, so I make sure the group has to focus on my own thoughts so I gain some space to process. Now, I can recognize when I’m being selfish this way, and I don’t like it. This leads to my second way of handling the small group, the “offer a comment then check out” maneuver. This let’s other folks process their thoughts, by sacrificing my own participating in the group. I offer a comment by way of contribution, but then get lost in another task. It’s as if the group is happening to someone else.
Now, I know I live in a world of people with different psychological make ups. So, really, I do need to attend meetings and allow the folks who thrive in them to have their space to process information. If I’m going to demand it for myself, after all, I need to be hospitable and give it to others.
Just understand that at any meeting I’ll eventually end up in a mental corner, just trying to cope.