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What Is The Point of This Meeting?

Finding the perfect coffee shop is a commitment. Of love, but also, practicality. Your perfect place needs reliable wifi, access to outlets, decent lighting, comfy seats, and most of all – No interruptions.

No one who speaks to you when you have headphones on, no one taking a personal call on speakerphone (WHY do people do this).

Just. Quiet.

Once you find your coffee shop, you claim your table. Your outlet. Your order. And you stake out, remaining in your spot until it’s time to go home.

Since COVID, I’ve noticed more non-creative professionals have found their way into my coffee shop, infiltrating the atmosphere with none other than: meetings

Loud, obstructive, and – most offensive of all – inefficient meetings.

I’ve tried to pay attention to these “meetings” because I am very nosey and will take any excuse to procrastinate – but I can’t because nothing happens.

I try to listen for what issue is being discussed and resolved and what action steps come next, but all I hear is people offloading emotions, venting, and gossiping for 90 straight minutes. 

The coffee-shop-meeting-offenders are a blend of corporate suits, non-profit people, government folks, and “consultants” – but I group them all together because they are united in their disrespect for people’s time, their overwhelming need to be right over effective, and their preference for sh*t-talking over getting anything done.

I have not graduated too far past this behavior, myself, btw. I’ve been liable to go down the rabbit hole of gratuitous blathering in an effort to fill the time and stroke my undernourished ego. 

Which is perhaps why it gets under my skin SO BADLY when others do it. I see all the parts of my former self I would like to grab and scream at and say, “It doesn’t have to be this way!” Have the courage to demand clarification. To interrupt the mansplainer. To ask:

“What exactly is the point of this meeting?”

You can’t do that of course, because we all know the point of the meeting. 

The point of the meeting is the meeting. 

It’s not about moving the project forward or resolving a problem or brainstorming a solution. It is quite literally about talking for the sake of hearing yourself talk.

It’s about fitting in, pleasing your boss, affirming your victim status, taking no responsibility, staying small, following the crowd, getting credit, and not getting fired.

When I hear people get angry about “the state of the world,” I think about these meetings. This is the world. This is how we are choosing to spend our time. Spinning our wheels, ineffectively diffusing anger, venting, gossiping, blaming, and wasting each other’s time. 

You want to make change – start there. Dare to stand up and do things differently.

Ask for clarification. Run the meeting. Interrupt the meandering person who cannot finish their story. Lead the charge. Bring people back to the agenda. Have an agenda. Come prepared. 

You might be fired. You might also change the world.


PS:  Paul Graham has by what you overhear while eavesdropping. I enjoyed this bit:

A city speaks to you mostly by accident — in things you see through windows, in conversations you overhear. It’s not something you have to seek out, but something you can’t turn off. One of the occupational hazards of living in Cambridge is overhearing the conversations of people who use interrogative intonation in declarative sentences. But on average I’ll take Cambridge conversations over New York or Silicon Valley ones.
A friend who moved to Silicon Valley in the late 90s said the worst thing about living there was the low quality of the eavesdropping. At the time I thought she was being deliberately eccentric. Sure, it can be interesting to eavesdrop on people, but is good quality eavesdropping so important that it would affect where you chose to live?
Now I understand what she meant. The conversations you overhear tell you what sort of people you’re among.

What people are you among?