We’ve all been there. Participating in meetings which seem to go on forever or which don’t really seem to apply to us personally. Feeling like our voices aren’t being heard. Getting really upset by someone’s contrary opinion. Squirming with the rising tension. Sometimes I get frustrated. But I rarely get mad. And I never yell.
But sometimes my mind wanders.
So, (even before hearing about the yelling matches in the Toronto council meeting yesterday) while attending meetings of my own, my wandering mind began to compiling this list of all the childlike behaviours that can reveal themselves from our inner psyches when we ‘grown-ups’ are sitting in business meetings:
No patience. Usually there is an agenda for a meeting. Yet so often, people display that childlike quality of “I want it now” and jump to talking right away about an issue that is most important to them even though it is scheduled to be addressed later on in the agenda.
No focus. I often get frustrated with my 6- and 4-year old daughters for not paying attention when I’m talking to them or asking them to do something. It drives me crazy. It also drives me crazy when people in meetings ask questions or repeat comments that have literally just been addressed.
Going way off topic. When we ask our 2-year old about her day, it starts out all normal talking about story time at daycare and how some kid (often her sister) told her she didn’t want to be her friend anymore. But before you know it, she’s making up stuff about eating bugs for lunch or trying to describe some minute detail about the little thing she found on the playground but then lost and worrying that somebody stole it. It’s kind of adorable. The grown-up version of this happens in meetings all the time. It’s not so adorable. But equally hard to follow. And more frustrating since other people have things to say too and timelines to keep.
Being self-absorbed. You know how kids can go on-and-on-and-on about some topic or another that you really don’t understand or even care too much about. It’s kind of cute and endearing, but not really a waste of my time. However, when someone presented something in a meeting carries on-and-on-and-on, rehashing a topic over-and-over again, going into way too many details or specifics, under a delusion that people are really interested in what it is they are saying, I feel my time wasting away. It drives me crazy.
Over-reacting. We all tend to lose perspective from time to time. My kids are terrific at getting overly dramatic about tiny little things that really aren’t that important; especially since 5 minutes later they’ve probably forgotten about it and moved onto something different all together. It drives me crazy when people do this in meetings though. Make a HUGE deal out of things that either aren’t really that important and/or not totally relevant to what’s being discussed. There is a time and a place. And a thing called perspective.
Falling subject to distractions. We all have a tendency to zone-out after a while when we aren’t completely captivated. Children would just get up and leave. Or, more likely, start acting out for attention. I guess grown-ups kind of do this too: start hushed chit-chat (which isn’t really that quiet), doodling, reading emails, or sending ‘very important’ texts. Or anticipating lunch.
Obsession with food. I’m so guilty of this one. That anticipation when the meeting room door opens and someone wheels in the snack tray or lunch. You can feel the energy and focus shift once food is brought into the room. No one’s really listening anymore. Just salivating at the smell of hot pasta or fresh deli sandwiches…
Then there’s also the ways that you wish you could behave like a child in a meeting:
Falling asleep. Because, really, we could all use more sleep. And sometimes, meetings are really boring!
Tantrums. I’ve heard it called the noodle. My sister calls it the stages of despair. But wouldn’t it be a great release if you could just flop and scream and kick when you didn’t get your way. When no one agreed to your idea. Wouldn’t that take them by surprise! Would they listen then?
Getting up and walking away. Seriously. How great would it be if you could just stomp out, or ‘take your ball and go home’ when no one is listening to you or your concerns, or playing by your own rules!
I hadn’t included name-calling and shouting in my lists, but apparently some grown-ups, politicians no less, feel this is an acceptable way to behave in meetings.
I'd be giving them a time out.