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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.

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          Reference

          More by this author

          Brian Lee

          Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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          Last Updated on February 11, 2021

          20 Amazing Facts About Dreams that You Might Not Know About

          20 Amazing Facts About Dreams that You Might Not Know About

          Dreams — Mysterious, bewildering, eye-opening and sometimes a nightmarish living hell. Dreams are all that and much more.

          Here are 20 amazing facts about dreams that you might have never heard about:

          Fact #1: You can’t read while dreaming, or tell the time

            If you are unsure whether you are dreaming or not, try reading something. The vast majority of people are incapable of reading in their dreams.

            The same goes for clocks: each time you look at a clock it will tell a different time and the hands on the clock won’t appear to be moving as reported by lucid dreamers.

            Fact #2: Lucid dreaming

            There is a whole subculture of people practicing what is called lucid or conscious dreaming. Using various techniques, these people have supposedly learned to assume control of their dreams and do amazing things like flying, passing through walls, and traveling to different dimensions or even back in time.

            Want to learn how to control your dreams? You can try these tips:

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            Lucid Dreaming: This Is How You Can Control Your Dreams

            Fact #3: Inventions inspired by dreams

            Dreams are responsible for many of the greatest inventions of mankind. A few examples include:

            • The idea for Google -Larry Page
            • Alternating current generator -Tesla
            • DNA’s double helix spiral form -James Watson
            • The sewing machine -Elias Howe
            • Periodic table -Dimitri Mendeleyev

            …and many, many more.

            Fact #4: Premonition dreams

            There are some astounding cases where people actually dreamt about things which happened to them later, in the exact same ways they dreamed about.

            You could say they got a glimpse of the future, or it might have just been coincidence. The fact remains that this is some seriously interesting and bizarre phenomena. Some of the most famous premonition dreams include:

            • Abraham Lincoln dreamt of His Assassination
            • Many of the victims of 9/11 had dreams warning them about the catastrophe
            • Mark Twain’s dream of his brother’s demise
            • 19 verified precognitive dreams about the Titanic catastrophe

            Fact #5: Sleep paralysis

            Hell is real and it is called sleep paralysis. It’s the stuff of true nightmares. I’ve been a sleep paralysis sufferer as a kid and I can attest to how truly horrible it is.

            Two characteristics of sleep paralysis are the inability to move (hence paralysis) and a sense of an extremely evil presence in the room with you. It doesn’t feel like a dream, but 100% real. Studies show that during an attack, sleep paralysis sufferers show an overwhelming amygdala activity. The amygdala is responsible for the “fight or flight” instinct and the emotions of fear, terror and anxiety. Enough said!

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            Fact #6: REM sleep disorder

            In the state of REM (rapid-eye-movement) stage of your sleep your body is normally paralyzed. In rare cases, however, people act out their dreams. These have resulted in broken arms, legs, broken furniture, and in at least one reported case, a house burnt down.

            Fact #7: Sexual dreams

            The very scientifically-named “nocturnal penile tumescence” is a very well documented phenomena. In laymen’s term, it simply means that you get a stiffy while you sleep. Actually, studies indicate that men get up to 20 erections per dream.

            Fact #8: Unbelievable sleepwalkers

              Sleepwalking is a very rare and potentially dangerous sleep disorder. It is an extreme form of REM sleep disorder, and these people don’t just act out their dreams, but go on real adventures at night.

              Lee Hadwin is a nurse by profession, but in his dreams he is an artist. Literally. He “sleepdraws” gorgeous portraits, of which he has no recollection afterwards. Strange sleepwalking “adventures” include:

              • A woman having sex with strangers while sleepwalking
              • A man who drove 22 miles and killed his cousin while sleepwalking
              • A sleepwalker who walked out of the window from the third floor, and barely survived

              Fact #9: Dream drug

              There are actually people who like dreaming and dreams so much that they never want to wake up. They want to continue on dreaming even during the day, so they take an illegal and extremely potent hallucinogenic drug called Dimethyltryptamine. It is actually only an isolated and synthetic form of the chemical our brains produce naturally during dreaming.

              Fact #10 Dream-catcher

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                The dream-catcher is one of the most well-known Native American symbols. It is a loose web or webs woven around a hoop and decorated with sacred objects meant to protect against nightmares.

                Fact #11: Increased brain activity

                You would associate sleeping with peace and quiet, but actually our brains are more active during sleep than during the day.

                Fact #12: Creativity and dreams

                As we mentioned before, dreams are responsible for inventions, great artworks and are generally just incredibly interesting. They are also “recharging” our creativity.

                Scientists also say that keeping a dream diary helps with creativity.

                In rare cases of REM disorder, people actually don’t dream at all. These people suffer from significantly decreased creativity and perform badly at tasks requiring creative problem solving.

                Fact #13: Pets dream too

                  Our animal companions dream as well. Watch a dog or a cat sleep and you can see that they are moving their paws and making noises like they were chasing something. Go get ’em buddy!

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                  Fact #14: You always dream—you just don’t remember it

                  Many people claim that they don’t dream at all, but that’s not true: we all dream, but up to 60% of people don’t remember their dreams at all.

                  Fact #15: Blind people dream too

                  Blind people who were not born blind see images in their dreams but people who were born blind don’t see anything at all. They still dream, and their dreams are just as intense and interesting, but they involve the other senses beside sight.

                  Fact #16: In your dreams, you only see faces that you already know

                    It is proven that in dreams, we can only see faces that we have seen in real life before. So beware: that scary-looking old lady next to you on the bus might as well be in your next nightmare.

                    Fact #17: Dreams tend to be negative

                    Surprisingly, dreams are more often negative than positive. The three most widely reported emotions felt during dreaming are anger, sadness and fear.

                    Fact #18: Multiple dreams per night

                    You can have up to seven different dreams per night depending on how many REM cycles you have. We only dream during the REM period of sleep, and the average person dreams one to two hours every night.

                    Fact #19: Gender differences

                    Interestingly, 70% of all the characters in a man’s dream are other men, but women’s dream contain an equal amount of women and men. Also men’s dreams contain a lot more aggression. Both women and men dream about sexual themes equally often.

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                    Fact #20: Not everyone dreams in color

                    As much as 12% of people only dream in black and white.

                    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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