In Meetings, Just Fake It
There are 11 million meetings every day, and most professionals attend 62 meetings every month. My total is somewhat less at around 30, adding up standing committees, ad hocs, department meetings, mandatory meetings, and last-minute teams to hose the fires. Many of these are dreadful, mind-numbing exercises that decide -- if anything -- when to meet again. Ostensibly these are how problems are solved by the most informed minds brainstorming creative solutions.
I can’t think of a surer way to kill creativity. But I’m an introvert who prefers to work alone or in small teams to fix problems. Inspiration requires thoughtful marination and immersion in a problem, exactly the opposite of what a meeting does. If there are any extraverts out there, weigh in. Maybe, you feel differently about meetings.
But here’s a trick I’ve discovered that has made meetings bearable: fake it.
Instead of affecting a bored attitude, arguing stupidly, working on something else, writing mindless doodles, playing with your smartphone, thinking about your trip to the store after work, or anything other than paying attention, pretend. Fake it. Sit raptly at attention, hands clasped, elbows on the table, back straight, and attention fully focused on the speaker or presentation. Really act interested. If the topic is really boring or doesn’t apply, then spend your energy thinking of ways to look even more interested. Shift from clasping hands to one hand under the chin. And above all remember to nod, which is a form of active listening.
For all I know, this is what everyone who looks interested does. Cynicism aside a “fake it til you make it” strategy done well is invisible to the other participants at the meeting and engages them. Good meetings are all about listening, and an appearance of active listening is as good as the real thing. Interested people are more interesting, too. I’m not ashamed to admit that I now fake it in meetings and despite my mind wandering to creative ways to look like I’m paying attention, I really pay more attention.
Ain’t that something.
NEXT: Babysitting Other Departments