40 minute meetings

by Suspended Reason

So, one piece social tech I’ve found useful lately is the 40 minute meeting. Specifically aren’t calls that go for 40 minutes—they’re calls that are planned to go for 40 minutes.

The idea is this: Some conversations, your partner will dread a long, extended call. Maybe they guard their time closely, maybe they aren’t as invested in meeting. Other conversations, your partner might be excited to chat, might be more invested. Maybe you don’t want them to feel short-changed, like you’re being stingy with your time.

So you suggest a 40 minute meeting. In their heads, mood-wise,” they can either round this up to an hour, or down to thirty minutes. And when it comes time to meet, they can easily call it quits ten minutes early—no harm no foul—or they can participate in extending the call to a full hour without feeling like they’re imposing.

Consider the alternative: if you leave halfway through an hour-long call, or extend a half-hour call to an hour, you can plausible get called an asshole, or insult/inspire resentment in your conversational partner.

Two interaction patterns I see in play here:

  1. You are providing both yourself and your partner with breathing room to coordinate and optimize on the spot, when the time comes, rather than committing up front to what may be sub-optimal terms. In other words, you are staying empowered.

  2. You are giving both your partner, and yourself grounds for justifying or defending either a 30 or 60 minute meeting as appropriate” or etiquette-respecting behavior. This is essentially a preemptive removal of potential future attack surface” by playing to some envisioned hypothetical social court’s sense of reasonableness.”