Combating The Doorknob Syndrome

Maybe it’s just me, but have you ever had a scheduled meeting (out of many in a day) and the individual you are meeting with seems to only make small talk.  Then, right as the meeting ends, they are about to leave and they drop a bomb.  Normally these are the earth shattering (to them at least) problems that need your immediate and undivided attention.   Sometimes its “my parents are getting divorced”  or “I think my girlfriend’s pregnant.”  You realize that the hours up, time has been wasted (somewhat) and you may be up against some other meeting or deadline.  You may even cynically say to yourself “Thanks for waiting till the end of the meeting to get that one out…

You sometimes may sense the doorknob comment coming, and if you are able to see it coming there is a simple solution to help your student, parent, friend, whoever open up sooner.  If you sense this happening, draw the meeting to a close prematurely.  Don’t be abrupt, harsh or hasty in getting the other person up and out, but communicate subtly that you are trying to close the meeting.  Something like “It’s been great spending this time with you, perhaps we should do it again sometime” or “Thanks for stopping by” works for me.   They will sense the meeting end and make the doorknob statement they were anxious about making. 

While you may not need to close the meeting at that time, it will encourage whatever the person is trying to get out, to get it out.  Doing it  when you sense it happening, helps you get to the bottom of why that person is visiting you, giving you more time to solve (er, work on) the issue at hand.

Two Reasons it Works:

  1. If you guess wrong and the person was just making small talk, you can get back to work (they will come back to make more small talk some other time).  
  2. If you have a person who is (unconsciously) waiting for the doorknob moment, you can get to helping that person quicker.  


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