Ever wondered how where you sit impacts a meeting or interview? There are definitely dynamics to consider when choosing where to sit in relation to the other attendees in the meeting room. In the western world, the most senior person in the meeting sits at the head of the table. While in Asia, the most senior person sits in the middle of one of the horizontal rows.
Here are some tips about seating positions and how they impact the dynamic of meetings. While many factors will determine the application of the points here, such as number of people in attendance, how early you are to the meeting and even the shape of the table, these tips can help at the very least by highlighting the forces at play and the advantages and disadvantages of various seating arrangements.
Share the corner to put them at ease
When you share one corner of the meeting table, the other person is more likely to be relaxed, comfortable and open to free-flowing conversation. This positioning allows for easy eye contact, freedom to use and observe each other’s gestures, and eliminates territorial division of the table. This can be used for introductory meetings and one-on-one presentations to establish rapport quickly and gain trust. In larger meetings it is easier to reciprocate cooperation from the person seated next you than anyone else at the table.
Side by Side for collaboration
Have a deadline looming? Sitting side by side is great positioning for collaborating and brain storming between two people. Most people gravitate to this position naturally when they are working on the same project. Depending on your level of comfort prior to the meeting there might be a feeling of discomfort or invasion of personal space because of the close proximity of the parties at the table.
Face-off for a power play
We’ve all experienced the tense atmosphere that sitting directly opposite someone (or in a competitive position) can create. In an office setting it can be used to establish a superior-subordinate role. In social research it was found that when seated across from someone else, people speak in shorter sentences and recall less of what was said. It was also discovered that those involved in the study were less likely to be persuaded than any other seating arrangement.
Circle, Square or Rectangle?
Square tables provide the opportunity to combine both corner and side by side seating while a rectangular table provides multiple competitive positions. It is said that King Arthur sat the knights around the round table to avoid the competitive dynamic and imply equality.
So how will you leverage your place at the meeting table to forge a new relationship or establish leadership?