You’ll know by now that I get the bus. A lot. More than I would like. But what might surprise you is that when I’m met with an empty bus, I will choose one particular seat.
If a handful of commuters are on the lower deck, I’ll sit as close to my ‘seat of choice’ as possible. But if there is just one person sitting (shock horror), already in my ‘seat of choice’, I’ll revert to my second option.
This psychological game plays out in other aspects of my life too. It may be that I’m slightly kooky with behavioural rules that I’ve created in moments of boredom. But gym lockers must be even numbers only – and there are only ever really two choices. I ponder over left, versus right side-of-the-road walking. And ask; where to sit at lunch?
We each have psychological safe areas, you know, those social norms we set out for ourselves and absolutely need to adhere to. We think, what’s going to serve me best? How comfortable will I feel? How will others perceive me?
But how does this translate to the boardroom?
I’ve been looking into it for you, so here’s your guide for social cues to benefit you in the game of seating chess.
- The power seat
You know which one it is. It’s on the end. If you’re chairing the meeting, sit there. It says that you’re in control.
If you’re chairing a brainstorm or discussion, why not get rid of the table all together? Circular seating creates a better dynamic for equal and open dialogue.
- I’m a team player seat
If you are a part of a team and you are there to collaborate, sit in the middle, away from the power seat and as close to the centre as possible. Your central position says: I’m approachable and open to talking.
- The face-off seat
Eyeballing your colleague (or a client) is never a good idea. Research shows that to assert our authority, we often take up a defensive seat, opposite the person we are at odds with. Try sitting diagonally to them, to encourage communication, but avoiding antagonism.
- The dead-space seat
For this reason alone, never be late to a meeting. If you sit next to the power player, you’ll never be seen, or listened to. Ok, slight exaggeration, but it’s certainly harder than anywhere else to have a strong point of view.
- Taking notes?
Sit at the table. You’re important. There’s no need for you to feel ousted and to sit at the side of the room. Did they invite you to take notes via skype? No. You are physically there, you can’t hide. You shouldn’t have to.
Picture citation: Reynermedia, Empty Boardroom CC BY 2.0