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       Volume 11 |Issue 04| January 27, 2012 |


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What Meetings Really Mean

Aasha Mehreen Amin

Meetings, in theory, are gatherings of people to achieve something productive and grand from the collective intelligence of brilliant minds. Sometimes however, meetings can drag on and on with the brilliance becoming dimmer along with people's attention spans.

But meetings are a lot more than plain old brainstorming (brain draining for some).

A meeting is the perfect opportunity to hone your doodling skills. Many an artist has been created just through the long hours spent at meetings while feigning to listen to the speaker by occasional nods and grunts. Caricatures, sometimes of the riveting speaker, intricate henna designs and sketches of a house with a tree and path going to nowhere in particular, have flourished at such exalted gatherings.

If it is a longish meeting (whoever heard of a five minute meeting?) like a bored, sorry board meeting, the possibilities are endless.

You may for instance, have the time to text all your near and dear ones, even one of your neighbouring colleagues to ask things like: 'Why are we here?' or 'Do you think he'll notice if we slip away pretending to go to the washroom?'

It is also a place where you often get free food. Cakes, biscuits, even a full course meal replete with a sumptuous dessert, may be the reward at the end of the ordeal. In case the meeting follows a strictly 'no eating policy', the best recourse is to eat before. Otherwise the whole room will hear your stomach growl.

The tricky side of meetings of course is that often the ambience will depend on the mood of the caller, which is usually the boss. If he/she is in a bad mood to begin with - say because of poor sales figures or even a tiff with the spouse, the meeting may end up into a verbal missile attack. Every little thing will be noticed and reprimanded - for being tardy, for looking like you have come straight from bed, for not getting as much praise as the competitor, for getting salaries while not producing enough work, for not reminding the boss that it is a Monday and this was not the day for the meeting anyway...

Conversely, if the caller is in a good mood for some reason or the other (it could be related to money, love or just a dose of unexpected flattery) the minutes will fly like a breeze as the boss becomes exceptionally charming, cracking jokes and even laughing off the most serious of transgressions - forgetting to invite a VIP at the annual gala.

In some occasions the power dynamics are different. The meeting turns into a mini battlefield with colleagues making innuendos about each other's incompetence or slip ups. Sometimes it is done very subtly with words like: 'I think the client felt he was not being taken seriously, I mean that's the impression I got from him.' At other times the rivalry is so intense that it may end in people literally tearing at each other's throats. In these situations the caller feels utterly helpless and mentally kicks himself for calling the meeting in the first place.

There are two most common devils of meetings. One of them constantly tells you to close your eyes and listen to the drone of the speaker's sedating voice. The other one keeps poking the ticklish sensory nerves in some unfathomable part of your stomach that keeps prompting you to burst into a gurgling giggle at the most serious moments. Some experts have suggested taking copious amounts of caffeinated drinks before the meeting (to avoid the dosing) and to ward off the giggles, thinking of dreadful things like what if the boss saw the caricature of her you sketched on a tissue a few minutes ago and which you can't find anywhere...

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