Meeting sabotage artists seem to have attended the same training academy.

They practice a few techniques to make sure they are rude and condescending. Maybe it is just human nature, but you can spot people who are not that interested in having a discussion from a mile away. The trick? Avoid these postures, attitudes, and expressions that can ruin a meeting. If you do, the meeting might actually lead to some productive discussion.

1. Come with your own agenda

You can't have an agenda with one person, it's just not effective. An agenda is for a larger group meeting to keep conversations on track. (I am using the word with two meanings--you shouldn't bring an "agenda" as a list of topics, and you shouldn't have a hidden "agenda" or secret intent.) By having an agenda, you are dictating the conversation too much and not letting the other person have enough of a say in what you talk about.

2. Don't let the other person speak

You might be conducting a performance review, and think that should be a one-sided conversation. Not really. Every meeting between two or three people should be a discussion. If one person wants to give a speech, it won't work. If you have a one-on-one meeting or in any small group, make sure you let everyone get a chance to share. Millennials in particular are interested in voicing their concerns; they want to be heard.

3. Don't make eye contact

It's an interesting meeting dynamic. People who lack confidence sometimes won't make eye contact, but that's a topic for another day. Those who are bullies in a meeting--who have an agenda and do all of the talking--don't like to make eye contact either. If you look at the other person, it means you might actually have to stop talking and listen.

4. Interrupt as often as possible

Bullies in a meeting try to dominate the conversation, but maybe the other person is trying to interject a few ideas. One way to ruin the meeting is to interrupt as often as possible. Even if the other person has a great idea that might help with a project, you can sabotage things pretty easily by cutting that person off and expressing your own opinions.

5. Avoid trying to learn anything

Here's a great strategy for totally destroying any hope of having a good meeting with someone. Just pretend that you know everything they are saying already. You know, if they share an insight, just nod quickly and look the other direction.

6. Lean back in your chair often

We all know body language is important. In a one-on-one setting or a small group, it's even more noticeable. One of the postures that tends to hamper communication is to lean back often. It says you are not that interested. Lean forward, and it shows you are listening closely and want to engage and come up with solutions to problems.

7. Smirk

The last meeting crusher is probably the most common and the most dangerous. Smirking means you are almost ready to laugh at the person. It means you think you know what they know. It means you are not really listening--you are smirking. Fortunately, you can easily control the problem. Just listen more intently. Clue into the speaker across the table and show empathy. Take notes or lean forward. Show that you want to learn.

Published on: Apr 15, 2015
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