07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Friday, September 23, 2016

A Mask for Meetings?

By Linda Lovely

I need a mask.

I haven’t worn one since grade school when we went Halloween trick-or-treating, making sure to hit Mrs. Bradley’s house early before she ran out of homemade caramels.

No, I don’t want a mask for Halloween 2016. I need one to wear at certain meetings I force myself to attend—meetings that often leave me too irritated to sleep. 

After contemplating this month’s blog topic—masks—I realized one might come in very handy for mandatory attendance events that force me to interact with (or at least listen to) people I believe to be total hypocrites, bullies, or arrogant buttheads.

My problem is I tend to show exactly what I think in such encounters. I know folks who can smile sweetly while face-to-face with someone they despise and then ridicule or curse that person the minute she’s out of hearing range. Other people can appear as serene and blank-faced as a Buddha while listening to someone tell lies or exaggerate to  make their point.

Not me. I’ve tried. Even when I know it’s in my best interests to mask my feelings, I typically fail. Maybe I’m missing some mystery gene that would let me command my facial muscles to smile when my heart and gut are telling me to narrow my eyes and glare.

For better or worse, one look at my face usually tells people everything they want (or don’t want) to know about my mood—joyful, angry, sad, excited, bored, disgusted. Of course, I do have a neutral expression. It usually indicates I’m napping.

My inability to mask my own feelings leads me to be fascinated by the chameleons I encounter who can change their colors at will and react in whatever manner they think will gain them the best advantage with any audience or situation. I study these individuals in real life for a very good reason—they make exceptional villains in fiction.

Guess that’s another reason to attend those meetings I dread. Great research for characters.

Can you mask your feelings? If so, what’s your secret? 


Judith Ashley said...

I'm so glad I'm past the Mandatory Meeting stage in my life. Other than Windtree Press author meetings (which I actually enjoy and look forward to), I don't "Have To" go to anything. However, I spent a great deal of my life attending meetings.

I remind myself of why I am there. Meeting with a family whose child I'd taken in to protective custody, meeting with a new trust client with medical and mental health issues, meeting with a potential adoptive family. I had different roles. But underneath it all I reminded myself of my goal when talking to challenging people. I wanted them to thank me for being there when the exchange was over.

Why? Because when I was young and in a dv situation, I actually thanked a state trooper who'd stopped me and gave me a speeding ticket even though I knew my husband would be furious and might hit me. Spent a lot of time trying to figure out how he'd done that and committed myself to emulating that.

Linda Lovely said...

So glad you're out of the DV situation and also don't have to attend meetings any more! I'm hoping I can't wait to reach that only-go-to-meetings you want to attend stage! And, yes, the Windtree Press meetings are a pleasure.

Robin Weaver, Author said...

Hi Linda,
Interesting blog. Not sure I mask my feelings so much as I've stopped reacting to...well, stupidity and meanness. :)

Linda Lovely said...

Wish I could quit reacting...

Marcia King-Gamble said...

I'm just like you, Linda. An old boss once told me I needed to work on my poker face. It never happened.

Linda Lovely said...

Maybe we should play a game sometime, Marcia? I'm not even good at a poker face when I'm playing cards.

Anonymous said...

I Love this line in your post: "Of course, I do have a neutral expression. It usually indicates I’m napping." :) Personally, I appreciate someone without a mask because it is genuine and I always know where I stand with that person.

Corporate meetings in particular are rarely designed to give and receive feedback in any effective manner. The majority are designed as a one way informational communication (e.g., boss to underlings, or committee to lead to other people). The few that have a goal of getting honest feedback often fail to provide a good environment to actually achieve that (e.g., small groups working toward a particular goal).

The way I get through meetings in my past, and even now when people are being unreasonable, is somewhat similar to napping. I simply tune out. I remove my need to know what is going on in the belief that if it is important, it will come around again in a way that is more effective. I hear chatter but it makes no sense to me. Of course, this doesn't always work because sometimes active participation in a meeting is a requirement of a job.

Another thing that has helped me to deal with the players in a meeting is to determine, in advance, the unchangeable personalities of various attendees. In other words: those who have to make everything about themselves; those who always play the victim role; those who must be right no matter what, etc. By doing that in advance it helps me to also understand that nothing I say during that meeting is going to overcome that individuals need to play that part. For the few in the meeting who may actually be open to input, I find time to talk to them one-on-one either prior to or soon after a meeting. Then I don't feel the need to compete in the fray during a meeting.

Fortunately, like Judith, I am now in the position to choose which meetings I attend and what I'm willing to put up with. Good luck to you as you continue to struggle with mask vs reality in your meetings.