One of the most frustrating and irritating elements of work is not just the number of unnecessary meetings, (although they do indeed test one's patience), but the endless talk, chatter and aimless 'sharing of thoughts' that never seems to go away and seldom leads anywhere, either.
Is that true of your workplace?
The need for stimulation
With technologically-driven, over-stimulated brains, it seems that we humans have an inherent and insistent (often unconscious) need to talk, teach, tell, train, fix or just generally hijack others' experiences so that we can get our $.04 cents in. We need to talk. We need to be seen and heard, expressing thoughts even if these contribute no appreciable worth or value. It doesn't matter if we have nothing new, innovative, creative or pertinent to say. It's talk for the sake of talk, not a breath of fresh air.
As I began to write this, I came across a quote from the Indian writer, Master Jiddu Krishnamurti: "Thoughts are like furniture in a room with the door closed."
Move it here, no there, no over there...
So, I thought I'd take a chance and stretch this metaphor and approach the give-and-take of workplace communications – and meetings in particular - from the perspective of moving furniture around in a room.
In many (even most) meetings, people like to move around a lot of furniture. They move it here, then there, then here, then over there. Then they decide to change the fabric or the covers and move the furniture around some more.
Of course, it is still the same furniture, only with a different fabric. It doesn't matter what color or texture you try to cover it up with, it's the same furniture - and still with the door closed. There's no oxygen. No breath of fresh air.
Visualize yourself in a room with other people. Your collective task is to move furniture. But rather than just pushing it back and forth and changing its outer appearance, why not take a different approach and ask yourself the following questions. The goal is to explore not only the value and worth of your own and others' contributions, but to explore what you can learn about yourself in the moving process and how you can make your interactions with others at work more meaningful.
- What kinds of feelings am I experiencing as I move the furniture and observe others moving it?
- What insights am I gaining about myself as I move or observe other movers?
- Do my biases, prejudices, assumptions and "stories" limit me in any way?
- How am I reacting to the furniture, the textures, the colors, the fabrics?
- Is my moving affecting others? How so?
- Do I exhibit a specific way of sharing or thinking that helps/hinders a healthy moving environment?
- How are other peoples' moves affecting me?
- How do I feel about giving feedback to others' moves, choice of textures, colors, fabrics?
- Am I seeking feedback for my choice of moves, colors, textures, fabrics? Why? Why not?
- Do I find myself reflecting about me as a result of others' moves or choice of colors, textures or fabrics?
- Am I conscious of my reactions to others?
- Do I consider myself the moving expert, and the expert of colors, fabrics or textures? How do I express my expertise?
- Am I open to considering other possible moves, colors, textures and fabrics?
- If others' choices are not like mine, are they "bad" or "wrong"? Why?
- Am I attached to my own agenda for how the furniture should be moved?
- Do I lift the spirit of the other movers?
- Am I being open-minded about moves, colors, textures and fabrics?
- Am I judging others' choices?
- How is the energy of the room? Where are the blockages?
- What kind of energy am I generating?
- How would I describe my relationship with the other movers and their relationships with me?
- How do I handle difficult moves or challenging choices of colors, textures and fabrics?
- Does this experience push me past my personal boundaries, comfort and safety zones?
- Am I safe opening myself to new ways of moving, or to new colors, new textures and new fabrics?
- Do I prefer the old familiar way of moving, the familiar colors, familiar textures and familiar fabrics?
- Do I know more about me leaving this room than when I entered? Did I, in fact, learn anything?
- What would happen if we all moved the furniture to another room and opened the door and windows?