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Smart People Don’t Choose Their Seats Randomly

Smart People Don’t Choose Their Seats Randomly

Every week I have coaching session with some of our team members. In the meeting room we use most often for our meetings, there are 5 seats. I noticed that different team members chose specific seats at each meeting. And that makes a difference.

Seating positions reveal a lot

When we select our meeting real estate, we send messages about ourselves to the other members of the group. These decisions are not random, and they provide insight into the power dynamics in a room.

Observing a person’s seating choice, like observing their body language, can tell us how close that individual is to the other members of a group. A person’s motives may also be revealed through when they elect to sit. When we understand these key principles, we can actively use this knowledge to achieve our own goals.

When it comes to work, things become tricky

For intimate relationships, we don’t think about where we sit too much. Most couples prefer sitting side by side because it reflects an egalitarian mindset and encourages cooperation. Sitting across from one another can seem competitive or defensive.[1]

When it comes to work, things can be trickier. Usually we aren’t as close to our coworkers as we are to our partners. You don’t want to seem too distant, but you also don’t want to encroach on someone’s space. It can be hard to strike a balance, but we’ll try to clarify some best practices for you when you choose your seat at work.

Don’t choose a spot randomly. Have a goal in mind

In any situation, it is important to frame your thinking before you try to learn and apply new skills. If you were the person giving a presentation, you’d remember to prepare slides, conduct research, and compose speaking notes beforehand. Of course you’d want to be prepared, and you’d act accordingly.

Very few people remember to ask themselves what they hope to get from the meeting or event before they sit down. They may file in late, or randomly choose a spot. This may work sometimes, but if you can enter a meeting with clear intentions, you’ll have a better chance of getting what you want. Much of getting what you want comes down to where you sit.[2]

The best spot to build trust

If you want to gain the trust of someone who isn’t close to you, you would be better off choosing a seating arrangement that encourages collaboration instead of defensiveness. Situations in which you might want to build trust include selling something, coaching another person, or participating in a job interview where you want to demonstrate your capacity to work with others.

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Choose a corner spot at the table

    For situations where you need to build trust, choosing a corner position gives you an advantage over other spots. Sitting beside a person at a diagonal is a place from which you could review documents or notes together. You can easily display body language that says, “I’m on your side.”

    Sitting opposite the other people at the table can make you seem too competitive or aggressive. Positioning yourself right next to another person may feel too intimate for an initial meeting.

    Sit on the right

    Which corner you choose to sit in makes a difference as well. There’s really something to being someone’s “right-hand man/ woman.”

      Choosing the right side is less threatening than sitting on the left. This may be tied to the fact that most people are right-handed. A right-handed person sitting next to you is unlikely to inflict any harm with their non-dominant left hand, which will be closer to you in this situation.

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      Let the other person sit with their back facing a wall instead of a door

      With a wall or solid screen behind them, the other person will feel more secure. There is no threat of someone sneaking in the door behind them or creeping past them on the other side of a glass wall. The person with their back against the wall and a clear view of the door is in a power position.

      The spot to show people you’re a dependable leader

      Whether you’re already in a leadership position, or you’re gunning for a promotion, you’ll want to choose a seat that conveys your power and competence.

      Sit at the head of the table

      If you are able, choose the spot at the head of the table. We are predisposed to assume that the person in that seat is the person with the most power. Sitting in that spot is a way to step into a leadership role in the minds of your audience members.

        Stay away from the door

        The power you derive from sitting at the head of the table is easily negated if you sit with your back to the door. The most powerful spot is the head position in which your back is against a wall or screen.

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        Keeping your back against a wall instead of facing a door is important here for the same reasons that it applies when you are establishing trust. Having your back facing a door does not offer you the opportunity to command the space because people can enter and exit behind you.

        If you can’t sit at the head of the table, opt for the middle seat

          In some cases, your boss or a higher-ranking official will claim the head position. Perhaps in your office, there’s an unspoken rule that the manager takes the head spot. When this happens, sit in the middle position.

          The middle position is an excellent spot because it allows you to be the mediator. Your body language from the middle seat can show people that you are prepared to connect ideas and draw people together.

          People seated in the middle tend to ask questions and keep the discussion moving forward. Being surrounded by others is a safe position, which can give people who need a confidence boost some added support.

          How organizers can get everyone engaged

          Event organizers and leaders can hack into the psychology of seat arrangement to make meetings and programs run more smoothly.[3] Whether you’re holding a campaign, teaching a class, or training a group of people, there are a few seating options you can adopt to improve your outcomes for yourself and your audience.

          Use a round table instead of square or rectangular one

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          If you can choose your tables, pick round ones over square or rectangular ones. Since there is no head position, everyone has a chance to have equal footing in the conversation. The round table allows everyone to feel empowered and have a voice. You can also see everyone at a round table, which isn’t always possible with a square table.[4]

          At a rectilinear table, people are more likely to be placed opposite to one another. Sitting across from people can lead to more conflicts than consensus. Remember, sitting across from someone is often a place of opposition.

          Avoid positioning people in rows

          In the old days, students sat in neat rows facing the front. This seating may seem organized, but it isn’t an effective way for people to build connections and learn from one another. Many classrooms have broken away from this rigid seating configuration. Arranging seats in a horseshoe shape or at round tables in small groups is better.

          Where there are rows, there is a hierarchy of attention. Attentive students choose to sit in the front or middle of a group. The people relegated to the left side and back of the room will become detached or distracted.

          If you want everyone to participate, divide them into small groups at round tables. With this arrangement, the focus is on the other group members instead of the one person at the front of the room. In small groups, everyone has more opportunities to connect, and they can’t hide in the back.

          Armed with this knowledge, you can make conscious seating decisions that will help you achieve your goals. You’ll notice a difference in your effectiveness at meetings, and others will register the subtle changes in body language and authority based on your position.

          We may no longer fear someone pulling a sword on us when they sit on our left-hand side, but we still tend to trust the person sitting on our right more. The history of certain seating arrangements carries meaning, even as many of the early justifications for these traditions have been forgotten. Pull up a chair at a round table to collaborate or sit at the head step into your power.

          Reference

          More by this author

          Brian Lee

          Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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          Published on October 30, 2020

          11 Essential Philosophy Books That Will Open Your Mind

          11 Essential Philosophy Books That Will Open Your Mind

          There are numerous ways to build your mindset, but none are as profound as reading philosophy books. Through these books, some of the greatest minds around ask questions and delve deep into thought.

          While there isn’t always a clear and distinct answer to the many questions of philosophy, the entire field is a gateway to a higher sense of self. It gets you to think about all manner of things.

          Below, we cover some of the essential philosophy books that are best for those who are just starting or looking to expand their mind.

          How To Choose a Good Philosophy Book

          Before getting to this list, we’ve researched ideal philosophy books to help you expand your mind.

          We’ve found that the best philosophy books excel in the following criteria:

          • Complexity – Philosophy isn’t a subject that you can’t dive into immediately and understand everything. The books that we selected are great for people making the first leap.
          • Viewpoint – With philosophy, in particular, the author’s views are more important than in your standard book. We want to ensure the viewpoints and thoughts being discussed still hold up to this day.
          • Open-mindedness – Philosophy is all about asking perplexing questions and unraveling the answer. You might not reach a conclusion in the end, but these books are designed to get you to think.
          • Culture – The last criterion is culture. A lot of these books come from early philosophers from centuries ago or possibly from recent years. These philosophy books should paint a picture of the culture.

          1. Meditations

            One that you’ll find on many of these types of lists is Meditations and for good reason. It’s the only document of its kind to ever be made. The book focuses on the private thoughts of the world’s most powerful man who advises himself revolving around making good on his responsibilities and the obligations of his position.

            We know enough about Marcus Aurelius to know that he was trained in stoic philosophy and practiced every night on a series of spirituality exercises. These exercises were designed to make him humble, patient, empathetic, generous, and strong in the face of whatever problem he had to face off. And he faced plenty of problems since he was basically the emperor of roughly a third of the planet.

            All of that is poured into this book, and you are bound to remember a line or more that will be applicable in your life. It’s a philosophy book staple.

            Buy Meditations here.

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            2. Letters From a Stoic

              Similar to Marcus Aurelius, Seneca was another powerful man in Rome. He was a brilliant writer at the time and was the kind of guy to give great advice to his most trusted friends. Fortunately, much of his advice comes in letters, and those letters happen to be in this book. The letters themselves provided advice on dealing with grief, wealth, poverty, success, failure, education, and more.

              While Seneca was a stoic, he has a more practical approach and has borrowed from other schools of thought for his advice. As he said when he was alive, “I don’t care about the author if the line is good.” Similar to Meditations, there are several brilliant lines and advice that are still relevant to this day.

              Buy “Letters From a Stoic” here.

              3. Nicomachean Ethics

                Aristotle was a famous Greek philosopher at the time with profound knowledge. He’s named after a form of logic as well called Aristotelian logic. Through this book, Aristotle writes about the root of all Aristotelian ethics. In other words, this book contains the moral ideas that form a base for pretty much all of western civilization.

                Buy “Nicomachean Ethics” here.

                4. Beyond Good & Evil

                  Friedrich Nietzsche played a big role in the philosophical world. He was one of the leading philosophers of the existential movement, and it all came through this particular book. He is a brilliant mind. However, the issue with a lot of his work is that it’s all written in German.

                  Fortunately, this book is one of the slightly more accessible ones since it’s translated. Within the book, he breaks down the paradoxes of conventional understandings of morality. By doing this, he sets the stage for a lot of the 20th-century thought process that followed.

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                  Buy “Beyond Good & Evil” here.

                  5. Meditations on First Philosophy

                    In Meditations on First Philosophy, René Descartes breaks his book down into six meditations. The book takes a journalistic style that is structured much like a six-day course of meditation. On day one, he gives instructions on discarding all belief in things that are not guaranteed. After that, he tries to establish what can be known for sure. Similar to Meditations, this is a staple and influential philosophical text that you can pick up.

                    Buy “Meditations on First Philosophy” here.

                    6. Ethics

                      Written by Benedict de Spinoza, this came at a time during the Age of Enlightenment. Enlightenment was a movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries and with that, many schools of thought emerged and were presented through books.

                      Out of the many influential philosophy books published back then, Ethics dominated during this period as it discussed the basis of rationalism. Even though we’ve developed further beyond that, Ethics can introduce new ways of thinking from this particular school of thought.

                      Buy “Ethics” here.

                      7. Critique of Pure Reason

                        Immanuel Kant is another great philosopher who brought together two of history’s biggest opposing schools of thought into a single book. Those schools being rational thought and empirical experiential knowledge—knowledge gained through experience.

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                        In Critique of Pure Reason, Kant explores human reason and then works to establish its illusions and get down to core constituents. Overall, you can learn more about human behavior and thought processes and thus, open your mind more to how you think and process everything around you.

                        Buy “Critique of Pure Reason” here.

                        8. On the Genealogy of Morals

                          Another piece of work from Nietzsche that is accessible to us is On the Genealogy of Morals. According to Nietzsche, the purpose of this book is to call attention to his previous writings. That said, it does more than that so you don’t need to worry so much about reading his other books.

                          In this book, he expands on the cryptic aphorisms that he brings up in Beyond Good and Evil and offers a discussion or morality in a work that is more accessible than a lot of his previous work.

                          Buy “On the Genealogy of Morals” here.

                          9. Everything Is F*cked

                            The only book on this list that’s been written in the past few years, this book by Mark Manson aims to explain why we all need hope while also accepting that hope can often lead us to ruin too.

                            While many of the books on this list are all practical, this one is the most realistic one since not even the greatest of philosophical minds could predict things like technology, Twitter, and how our political world has shaped.

                            Manson delivers a profound book that taps into the minds of our ancestral philosophers, such as Plato, Nietzsche, and Tom Waits, and digs deep into various topics and how all of it is connected—religion and politics, our relationship with money, entertainment, and the internet.

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                            Overall, this book serves as a challenge to all of us—a challenge to be more honest with ourselves and connect with the world in a way we’ve never tried before.

                            Buy “Everything Is F*cked” here.

                            10. Reasons and Persons

                              One of the most challenging philosophy books to read on this list, Reasons and Persons will send you on quite the trip. Through a lot of painstaking logic, Derek Parfit shows us some unique perspectives on self-interest, personhood, and whether our actions are good or evil.

                              Considered by many to be an important psychological text around the 20th century, the arguments made about those topics will open your mind to a brand new way of thinking.

                              Buy “Reasons and Persons” here.

                              11. The Republic of Plato

                                Written by Plato himself, this book is the origin of political science and offers a brilliant critique of government. As you would expect, the critique is still important today. If you’re looking to understand the inner thoughts of Plato, this is one of the best books around.

                                Buy “The Republic of Plato” here.

                                Final Thoughts

                                Philosophy books take a while to digest as they provide profound knowledge and leave you with many questions. With many of these philosophy books, you need to take your time with them, and you might have to read through them a few times as well. And with every read, your mind will only expand.

                                More Books to Open Your Mind

                                Featured photo credit: Laura Chouette via unsplash.com

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