Friday, January 22, 2016

Meeting's cancelled! . . . ?


    Whether we are students, faculty, staff, employees, supervisors, parents, whatever. . . . this announcement:  "Meeting cancelled" creates  . . . well, usually,  "Glee!" As for myself, I've told many people that I am rarely upset when I get that blessed email or phone call (cue the choir:  "Ahhhhhh!"):  "Meeting cancelled".  (That's me in my Jean Luc Picard persona, above, except I don't look as good in red.)
      Whence cometh our glee with a cancelled meeting?  "Well, I don't have to make the presentation I hadn't really prepared?" or "I'm so GLAD I don't have to sit in another gathering with HIM (HER)!" or "That's great!  Now I can work on things of (greater?) importance." or "I REALLY HATE that room; it's always too hot/cold!" or, "Great, now I can go to the gym!", or the classic "We're meeting because it was "Last Friday's useless meeting".
      Useless?  I guess it may have to do with our ideas of "utility".
      A week or so ago, I was in a meeting (!) where the subject came up about the importance people placed on "action."  (This was in reference to a larger, very diverse, group that seemed to differentiate between "talking" and "acting".)  A wise member in that gathering pointed out, or suggested, two things:  (1) most of us AT that meeting spent most of our professional lives "talking"; and (2) "talking" (or being in conversation with others) WAS an "action" -- especially if we were inspiring or encouraging others who may differ from us, to change their behaviors/actions/relationships.
      As a corollary, I have often thought that, at various trainings/meetings/gatherings of people at the University of Denver, we 
should take every opportunity to know WHO is in the room (or around the table) and what brought them there.   Who are the students?  What's their major?  What's their PASSION (maybe, given the context, that's different than their major)? Who are the faculty/staff? Why are THEY there? Which unit do they represent? Why have they chosen to be a part of the conversation?
      I noted above that I am rarely upset when I hear that a meeting has been cancelled (and for the reasons I suggested). I, like many, have a LOT of meetings.  There are many demands upon me that are "important". Yet, in my wiser moments . . . and in our increasingly dis-humanly-connected world, I have to wonder whether or not ANY opportunity to connect, to hear another's story (or even "place" in the organization), isn't the most important thing we can do?
      Yes, "business" (busy-ness?) might be better concluded outside of "meetings." But there is definitely something valuable about meeting -- seeing another human being face-to-face. We have the opportunity, then, for real encounters; we can connect; in 
Martin Buber's classic phrase, there can occur an "I-Thou" moment.
     I can't imagine that i will ever say "Darn it!" when I hear that a meeting has been cancelled. But I would like to think that I may step back for a moment and wonder:  "What won't I learn?" or, more importantly. "What opportunities for human connection might I be missing?" 



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