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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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          Last Updated on August 20, 2018

          How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

          How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

          Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

          In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

          Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

          You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

          What is the Stages of Change Model?

          Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

          Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

          Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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            The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

            The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

            The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

            The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

            1. Precontemplation
            2. Contemplation
            3. Determination
            4. Action
            5. Maintenance
            6. Termination

            How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

            To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

              Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

              Stage 1: Precontemplation

              At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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              For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

              Stage 2: Contemplation

              At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

              You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

              The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

              Stage 3: Preparation

              At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

              Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

              Stage 4: Action

              When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

              Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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              Stage 5: Maintenance

              After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

              Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

              Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

              Stage 6: Termination

              Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

              However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

              How long does each stage take?

              You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

              So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

              The limitations of this model

              The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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              Require the ability to set a realistic goal

              For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

              If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

              Difficult to judge your progress

              The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

              Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

              Conclusion

              The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

              While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

              Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

              Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1]Psych Central: Stages Of Change
              [2]Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
              [3]Empowering Change: Stages of Change
              [4]Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
              [5]Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
              [6]The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
              [7]Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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