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How to Deal With Unbearable Meetings

How to Deal With Unbearable Meetings

Currently, I am reading the book Dealing With Meetings You Can’t Stand by Rick Brinkman in light of another book review for you. As I am sure all of us #careerlions will have to deal with meetings that simply eat away at us, it seemed like the perfect read. Not too long ago, I did another personality test via work. This time it was Insights, you know the one with the colors. While partly shocking, not a total surprise. The fun part of Dealing With Meetings You Can’t Stand is that they discuss in detail what the cooperation, caution, and danger zones are in meetings for each behavior type. Note that Brinkman refers to behavior types versus personality types, as each of us is able to portray these kinds of behavior in varying degrees. If you know your own behavior type and that of others, you will be able to use these insights to make those meetings you are dreading bearable. This blog is a quick overview of the cooperation, caution, and danger zone that you can use at your next meeting that you simply can’t stand.

Cooperation Zone

Brinkman calls the cooperation zone the center of the wheel, the Insights wheel with the four colors each taking up 25% of the pie-chart. In the cooperation zone, people will have no problem and all participants of the meeting are ready to get done and right while getting along and appreciated. He explains that the context and relationship are the determinants of the direction the behavior will move in. Once we get into a certain mode, our behavior will focus in a certain direction that is most natural to you. The modes, focus, and levels of assertiveness being:

  • Get it done (color Insights Red): Task focus and assertive
  • Get it right (color Insights Blue): Task focus, while less assertive to guarantee correctness
  • Get along (color Insights Green): People focus and passive
  • Get appreciated (color Insights Yellow): People focus and assertive

Caution Zone

When we don’t get what we need (very unpleasant, I am well aware), Brinkman points out that we start entering the caution zone. I had never really thought about it in this way, but he sure is right. I can start to feel myself boil up. The volcano at this point awakens. This is also when your behavior starts getting out of hand. Depending on your personal preference, you start to be let’s say “less pleasant”. Here’s what happens:

  • Get it done (color Insights Red): When things are not happening in their eyes, they tend to become more controlling in an effort to get it done.
  • Get it right (color Insights Blue): When they feel others are not careful with regards to details, they compensate by becoming a perfectionist.
  • Get along (color Insights Green): When there is a potential conflict or disapproval on the lure, they become approval seeking.
  • Get appreciated (color Insights Yellow): When others are not paying sufficient attention to them, they become attention seeking.

Speaking for myself, I felt pretty confronted by Brinkman’s depiction. I tend to become a controlling perfectionist that I am sure can get unbearable for others too. However, let’s not forget how we got into this caution zone. It takes two to tango, so to say.

Danger Zone

Oh, we have just reached the danger zone. The zone where people are really stressed. This can’t be good. Trust me, it is not and be prepared to feel confronted. This is where the sh*t hits the fan and meetings turn into battlefields. Let’s stick to the modes and then review what monsters are unleashed:

  • Get it done (color Insights Red): They become tanks, snipers, know-it-alls. I am not even sure which one is the worst.
    • Tanks are interrupting and dominating, emerging when they feel a situation is getting out of hand or not getting done. People’s feelings are probably the last thing on their mind. For those of you that need to deal with tanks, don’t take it personally. Even personal attacks are nothing personal. They just want to get the job done.
    • Snipers emerge when anger or resentment are suppressed. This can take both verbal and non-verbal forms plus different intents. Sarcastic comments, disguised jokes/remarks/comments, and the occasional eye roll or smirk include the toolbox of a sniper.
    • Know-it-alls originate from knowledgeables with big egos. Dominating with the meeting with their knowledge by being intimidating and condescending is a recipe for a disastrous meeting really. Especially, if they end up not knowing everything and therefore missing out on crucial insights.
  • Get it right (color Insights Blue): When they feel others are not careful with regards to details, they compensate by becoming a perfectionist.
    • Whiners are triggered by feelings of helplessness and disempowerment, seeing themselves as victims of others and circumstances. They will disregard everything, providing no constructive feedback in the process of problem-solving.
    • No people’s negativity is the result of hopelessness. These people according to Brinkman are a dark force to be reckoned with, given their arrogance of a know-it-all and aggressiveness is spreading around their negativity.
    • Judges are those that nitpick on the details, rather than generalizations like the whiners and no people. The details that they are picking apart, however, probably aren’t even significant or meaningful to the discussion in meetings. In other words, a great time waster.
    • Nothing people have embraced the concept “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it all” a little too well. They simply give in, being frustrated by their own perfectionism.
  • Get along (color Insights Green): When there is a potential conflict or disapproval on the lure, they become approval seeking.
    • Nothing people can also originate from an urge to get along with others. However, you will never know where these people stand. They may very well become passive-aggressive when they don’t agree with decisions made in the end. Mostly, they don’t contribute to meetings making way for the “Get it done” people to dominate.
    • Yes people avoid conflict at any cost, making passive-aggressive behavior even more likely. Think of subtle acts of sabotage or sniping remarks.
    • Maybe people put off decision-making avoiding hurting someone’s feelings, that the decision will be made by default. Imagine multiple meetings about the same topic, only to redo the discussion. These people are not ready to take the blame and will wait for a decision to be made by default, such as higher management.
  • Get appreciated (color Insights Yellow): When others are not paying sufficient attention to them, they become attention seeking.
    • Think-they-know-it-alls originate from even bigger egos. Unfortunately, these people don’t actually know what they are talking about. A real frustration trigger as you can imagine. They are those that waste valuable time and guide groups into bad ideas.
    • Snipers are all about teasing and lightening up the mood in order to make a connection. However, it can be distracting once it becomes at the expense of others.
    • Grenades can throw a classic temper tantrum when they have bottled up a lot of stress. When they are not being listened too or appreciated, they emerge and everything stops. Including the effectiveness of your meeting.

Something that I love about HBR reads is their table summaries. As this article was especially long, here is a quick overview.


Was this as confronting for you as it was for me? My inner monster being a mix of a Tank and Sniper, this was not the most comforting news. Anyhow, I am determined to become more conscious of my behavior and others. In the dreading meetings to come, I sure am using this newly gained knowledge. What is your inner monster? Ready to put this knowledge into practice?

Note: I received a copy of Dealing With Meetings You Can’t Stand via Netgalley.


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