The point is, listening to your coworkers is hard. And if you’re the only other person in the room, your ability to seem fully committed, deeply engaged, and knowledgeable beyond anyone’s wildest expectations will be under a microscope.
Here are 10 tricks to gain the respect of your coworker while simultaneously making sure he never realizes how little you want to be in this room with him right now.
1. Send a last-minute instant message asking if the meeting is still necessary
Send a message to your coworker right before the meeting and ask if the meeting is still necessary. Say you want to be cognizant of each other’s time and make sure there isn’t something more valuable you could both be doing for the company. Your coworker will be impressed by how much you respect her time. She’ll also likely cancel the meeting to avoid the burden of coming up with something important to discuss, leaving you with an afternoon free to leave lengthy comments on random YouTube videos.
2. Say you’re just wrapping something up
Get to the meeting early and start reading e-mail. When your coworker arrives, he’ll get the sense that he’s coming into your office. After greeting him warmly, say you’re just wrapping something up and ask him to wait a minute. For extra points, ask him to wait outside the room. This puts you in a position of power over your coworker that he’ll likely be unable to overcome, no matter what he throws at you.
3. Say you don’t have an agenda
For weekly meetings, put your coworker at ease by saying you don’t have anything in particular to talk about. Not having an agenda makes you seem friendly and approachable. Then, put the pressure on him to come up with something to talk about and get annoyed if he doesn’t have anything. Suggest ending early. If this has happened more than a few weeks in a row, suggest canceling the meeting altogether.
4. React to everything as if you already knew that
React to what your coworker is saying as if everything he’s saying is pretty obvious. Cut him off with phrases like, “right,” “sure,” “right, of course,” “well, everyone knows that,” or “duh.”
5. Suggest a “walking” meeting
If your coworker wants to chat with you, it’s always great to suggest a “walking” meeting. Say you enjoy walking meetings because they clear your mind, just like they did for Steve Jobs.
6. When your coworker brings up an issue, ask for an example
When your coworker brings up an issue he’s having, ask for a specific example. Then ask for a more specific example. Then say you really need more than one example to establish a pattern. Then suggest discussing it next time, when he has more examples.
7. Make an obvious statement that can’t be refuted
Getting your coworker to agree with everything you say is a great way to appear smart. And the best way to do that is to say something he really can’t disagree with. Some great statements are:
- It is what it is.
- We need to be smart about this.
- We should focus on the priorities.
- We have to choose the right choices.
- Let’s deal only in facts and opinions.
8. Say everything you discuss is confidential
Ask your coworker to keep everything you say confidential, even if it’s all common knowledge. This will make everything you say seem extra important. It will also make it more likely for your coworker to share something with you that she shouldn’t, which you can use against her later.
9. Share an “objective” opinion
All opinions are subjective, except the ones you explicitly label as objective. If you start a sentence with, “Objectively speaking,” anything you say afterward must be 100 percent correct in every context and all circumstances no matter what your coworker thinks. Objectively speaking, this is how you should start all your sentences.
10. Have a meta-conversation about the meeting
Be very concerned about making sure the meeting was helpful, useful, and helpful. Ask how the meeting could be better, then say you’ll try that for next time but then don’t.