Unpacking why no one wants to come to your meetings
I used to love meetings. I would go into them ready to chop things up, willing to draw up whatever pie chart or word cloud we could conceive of in the name of progress. Every meeting had the potential to change the world to me. And so what if it were just a meeting about making sure everyone on staff notified housekeeping in a timely fashion about missing toilet paper in work restrooms? The world is just a network of small moments that make big moments possible. And if you could convince your co-workers to make those TP notifications with not only conviction but love, your small moment might very well become a big one, or at least ease the next person’s suffering.
Eventually, I would discover what everyone else around me already seemed to understand: Meetings aren’t for working. They’re for delegating. Processes, values, minutiae… all handed down or passed around or encapsulated in juvenile exercises designed to keep us engaged (while failing their first charge, which was to keep us awake). Every meeting had the potential to change the world until it began.
I think a part of me always knew that, so it turned out that I actually loved the idea of meetings more than the meetings themselves. They could never live up to the image of a meeting in my mind, where we have our sleeves rolled up, coffee cups filling black and fast, someone waving at a board with things written on it in crazed passion-speak.
I wouldn’t say I’m anti-meeting now so much as pro-time. Not simply me time, but all time, since all time can become any kind of time: Playstation time, lunch with proper service time, Miller time. It’s all just a collection of minutes. We’re all cooking from the same ball of sourdough.
Burned too many times to count, I now try to take as few meetings as possible. I also don’t take a meeting’s cousin, the coffee date. A coffee date is either a meeting in disguise or it’s hangout time, which I also do very rarely. And in my case, meeting requests are easy to track: I usually get asked to meet after something I wrote. The thing is, I’m a writer to my core. What I write is what I meant, and because I love to write, if you need or would like me to elaborate on something, and your request seems worthwhile and sincere, I may add more words to the table. We don’t need to meet so you can hear me fumble my way through an idea I could have written 10 times better.
I’m at an age where I’m painfully aware that I have more time behind me than in front of me. So I’m not eager to spend it swapping personality traits to see if we can work our way up to a proper meeting. I’d rather you just ask for what you want so I can get back to chipping away at the teetering Babel tower of books in my house or writing about forgotten music or staring down the business end of time’s gun barrel.
And if we must meet, we should meet like we’re never going to meet again from the beginning, not after it’s clear that’s going to be the outcome by default. Meet with me like we’re never going to see each other again, like people meet on "The West Wing" and in movies about Wall Street. Meet with me like a movie. Like you care about my time as much as you care about missing toilet paper. If the question before us is, “Who hurt you, Scott?” The answer is, “Every meeting in the world.”