Friday, February 8, 2013

table dynamics

I recently signed up for a seminar.  Walking into the room, I realized I was one of the first people there.  I thought about where I wanted to sit to maximize my learning - selecting an empty table second from the front.  I sat down and was anxious to find out who was going to sit next to me.  A fantastic experiment should you want to study/evaluate personalities.  How do people decide who to sit with?  There is a lot of pre-judging that occurs.  Do they find people they think resemble them?  Look smart?  Studious?  Fun? Attractive?

Little by little people started to trickle table remained empty.  Then one of the ladies from another table by the door moved and sat right next to me.  She was disheveled smelly and had bad breath.  I wondered if I was doomed.  Who else was going to join us?

The other people who eventually sat with me included a youngish looking woman, an older smart looking woman, a quiet Spanish man, and a very outgoing know it all.  An interesting bunch.  But I started to wonder...why didn't the other 54 people want to sit with me?  What kind of vibes do I give off?

We did a lot of group work and we were all over the place with thoughts and ideas.  The smelly lady was my partner for the two person activities - and I gained a little excitement because the smelly lady was so not getting it.  Was I actually learning?  I was thinking this whole thing might be tolerable after all.  But the last day we took a quick 20 question quiz, but smelly lady & I did the same.  I lost my excitement and started to worry.

By the end of the three day event, at least 24% of the people gained confidence and became know-it-alls.  When we were reviewing questions and someone asked the moderator for an explanation.  The room went from quiet to loud; all these people had an opinion and everyone thought their reasoning was best.  For me, this was annoying. I wanted to hear the response not from someone who learned it within the last 2 days, but from the expert.  My luck I would remember what the 'fake expert' said, which was, at times, incorrect - and not remember what the real expert said.  I can't afford to have that kind of stuff fill my head.  I wanted everyone to shut up.

One of the good things is that I was submerged in an out of my comfort zone arena for a few days.  I chatted with the people at the table.  When we did other group activities, I talked a tad bit with the other people but usually related to the task at hand.  The first night 4 of us went to dinner, and I thought I did really well keeping up conversation...but it helped that I knew the big topic that they were chatting about, and the rest was all about the class.  The second night was a happy hour, but I didn't do so well there - I only chatted with the people I had already met.

Next month I signed up for a schmoozing class - maybe that will help me a little more.

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