Know When To Fold Them – Managing Meetings That Have Gone Wrong

Posted on December 18, 2012

So it’s one thing to reflect on communications from the comfort of your office, but what happens when you do all of the right things and then because of the personality quirks of the person you’re meeting with, things get weird anyway?

A colleague of mine once took a client to meet with a member of parliament (MP) in the anti-room of the House of Commons.  The MP was on her cell phone when they arrived for their meeting and waived to them to join her.  As they approached she paused in her phone call to tell the client to start speaking. As soon as he did, she resumed her call.  The client quite naturally paused again and the member of parliament stopped her telephone call long enough to tell him to continue.  When he did, she did too. Eventually my colleague signaled to the client to stop and they bid the MP good bye without delivering their message.

You might think that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that this is rude behavior, but sometimes MPs get so used to being catered to by their staff that they can lose sight of what is appropriate.  They are by no stretch the norm, but they are also not as rare as we might like.  In situations where your audience is being confrontational or just plain rude, it is best to cut your losses.

Lessons Learned 

  • Terminate unpleasant or unproductive meetings at the first feasible opportunity.
  • Do not take the opportunity to yell or make a scene, it may feel good momentarily, but it will most likely hurt you and in the long run gain you nothing.
  • The best revenge for being treated inappropriately by a legislator is good communication – if possible, tell everyone you know.  If the legislator is your local representative, this approach is especially effective and they’ll get the message loud and clear during the next election.  This may seem like a slow method, but it works, and it hits the legislator where it hurts the most ­–  in the ballot box.