Side-by-Side vs Face-to-Face
Do you share the dilemma I face whenever I get to the table at a meeting or meal and have to decide where to sit?
Do I take the chair facing the door or the one that faces into the room? Will I sit opposite my table-mate or beside them?
Once I’ve made the decision (if I can make the decision) and sit down, what does the other person infer from my choice?
There’s so much to process before the event has even begun!
For your sake and mine, I put together some pros and cons for sitting face-to-face or side-by-side.
When you sit face-to-face across the table from each other:
- There is good opportunity for eye contact with the other person which is positive when it shows them you’re paying attention and engaged in what they have to say. However sometimes being unable to escape someone’s gaze can be confronting or challenging through the tension of being under scrutiny.
- The person opposite you can literally see what’s going on in the background behind you and has information about the situation that you’re unaware of. Can you trust that they’re telling you all that you need to know?
- If you’re looking at a document or image one person is seeing it upside down. How does that affect their perspective, understanding or ability to focus?
- It can feel formal and adversarial.
- I associate this set up with interrogation, addressing problems and resolving conflicts.
When you’re sitting side-by-side at a table:
- You have the opportunity to see things from the same point of view. If you’re referring to documents, images or even menus you can look at them together and share each other’s observations.
- When you’re seated facing the same way, you see the room (and world) around you from the same point of view. There’s less “what can they see that I don’t know about?”
- It feels collaborative by nature, informal (and in some situations, intimate).
- I associate this set up with conversation, dreaming up ideas, looking into the future together.
Of course this list is heavily biased by my experiences and neuroses and may reveal a little too much about how I sometimes view the world, but I’d love to know your thoughts. Send me a message here.