What you want to talk about

I get a lot of meeting requests that don’t mention what the person requesting the meeting wants to talk about. In these cases, I used to look up the sender’s profile on LinkedIn to see if they’re interesting. I would then decide whether to meet or not. I’ve discovered that this isn’t a good strategy.

When someone requests a meeting without telling you what it’s about, it almost always ends up being a waste of time. This happens for many reasons. Sometimes the exchange could have simply been resolved over email. At other times the sender knows that they wouldn’t get what they want if they asked over email so they want to make it harder for you to say no by meeting in person. And sometimes the sender has no specific agenda and simply wants to meet you. I don’t understand the motivation behind this but I think it’s because they see you as someone important and meeting you makes them feel good.

In each of these cases, I end up wasting 30 minutes that I could have spent productively. We live in an increasingly connected world where the speed of information sharing allows us to achieve progress at a much faster pace than we could in the past. This makes time an increasingly valuable resource for each of us. We need to respect each others’ time to ensure that we use this resource most effectively.

As a result, I no longer accept any meetings where the person requesting the meeting doesn’t share what they want to talk about. If they don’t mention it in their meeting request, I ask them to do so. I know that this can be perceived as arrogance because the underlying message is that I may or may not agree to meet depending on the agenda. But it’s actually not. By understanding what you want to talk about, I can evaluate whether our meeting has a chance of producing a valuable outcome for both of us. If I know this isn’t possible, declining is a way of respecting your time and mine.

Also published on Medium.