Know When To Fold Them

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 ante-room of the House of Commons.  The MP was on her cell phone when they arrived for their meeting and waved 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 signalled to the client to stop and they said goodbye to the MP  without delivering their message.

You might think that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that this is rude behaviour, but sometimes powerful people 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.

Quick Tips:

  • Try to refocus the meeting on the agenda topics.
  • 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.
  • If you are really annoyed about how you have been treated then share your story if possible. If you can’t, chalk it up to experience. We can learn from good meetings and bad ones.

Updated in July 2017

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10 responses to “Know When To Fold Them

  • How incredibly rude! Surely you would give your apologies to the caller and end the telephone conversation. It would have been more courteous to ask your colleague to wait while she rounded up the conversation.

    • Debra Yearwood says:
      December 12, 2017 @ 10:12 am

      It seemed like an obvious choice to me too, I’m not sure what she could have been thinking. For someone in public service, she’s certainly not a people person.

  • Agree with you that it’s better to cut your losses. Have personally never been treated like that by a person in a top position. But by assistants surrounding them frequently.

    • Debra Yearwood says:
      December 12, 2017 @ 10:10 am

      I was shocked when I heard the story the first time, it is unusual for someone in that position to be so rude. I’ve had meetings with the same MP subsequent to that event and she was more gracious, but my expectations for her are so low that I tend to give her extra points for basic courtesy.

  • Yep, sounds all too familiar. I used to work for someone who constantly took calls on her cell phone, even when she was giving a performance review! I couldn’t do much to change her, but when I went into business for myself I had someone who used to show up for meetings late all the time and I knew she was doing it on purpose to make an “entrance.” So I took her aside and calmly explained that she needed to show up on time in the future or she would find there are consequences. The next week, sure enough, she showed up 20 minutes late, but this time she discovered the door was locked. She knocked and I went to the door and explained she would have to try and catch up from one of her coworkers because the meeting was now in progress, and I closed the door. She was never late again.

    • Debra Yearwood says:
      December 12, 2017 @ 10:06 am

      I love the way you dealt with the situation. It let the person know that their approach is not appreciated without any drama and doesn’t disrupt the meeting.

  • I can sure relate to this post. About 6 years ago, I was in a club in which we had a rather distasteful member. She liked disrupting the flow of events. She loved intimidating people. She was the member from hell. I chose to walk away from that group in order to keep my sanity as others refused to stand up to her.

    • Debra Yearwood says:
      December 11, 2017 @ 10:22 pm

      Ugh! That sounds awful. I wonder how many other people ended up making the same decision. Life is short and better not wasted on bad meetings.

  • That’s terribly rude behavior! Wow. Hope she got kicked out of office and that your colleague had a better meeting with the next MP.

    • Debra Yearwood says:
      December 12, 2017 @ 10:26 am

      My colleague’s other meetings went very well. Unfortunately, the MP is still around, but despite her time in office and even her knowledge of given portfolio’s, she can’t seem to make it into more senior roles. 🙂 I suppose if she’s like that with constituents she’s the same with political assistants and that definitely has consequences over time.

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