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One Solution for Meetings You’d Rather Not Attend

Let’s face it, some meetings are necessary, well run, even enjoyable. Others, well, you’ve surely been to some (as I have) that make you want to stick a pencil in your eye and set your hair on fire. Or at least run out of the room screaming.

Am I exaggerating? You tell me.

In the most horrible of meetings, I’d usually just hunker down and pretend to pay attention while doodling on a legal pad. Try to stay out of any disputes. Just grin and bear it. Tell myself, “This too shall pass.”

The organization was undergoing changes of management, and of course, politics being what they are with each faction warring with the other, there was a lot of bitter conflict among the staff. The daily meetings were agony, just watching the barbed looks and vitriol shot across the room. Nobody wanted to go to them.

Here’s a solution some friends and I dreamed up:

A few of us decided that maybe a therapy dog would calm everybody down and bring a certain je ne sais quoi into the proceedings.

“No, no, no, strictly against the regulations. Not sanitary, you know. Germs, ugh.”

Okay, so what could we do to make those meetings at least bearable? We came up with our own therapy dog. “Let’s see, we’ll name him Pal. He’s a really good, happy dog, generally well behaved. He might be big, he might be little, he might be shaggy, he might be sleek, but we’ll train him well.

Whenever someone said something reasonable or compassionate, Pal would go to his or her side and wag his tail. But if things got ugly, Pal would be dispatched to the perpetrator of bad vibes to lift his leg. In really tough cases, we’d have to send Pal over to bite someone who just wouldn’t play nice with the other boys and girls.

The few of us who created Pal so loved deploying him here and there that it made the meetings wildly funny for those of us in the know. Now we’d be eager to get to the conference room and get a good seat to watch the dynamics flying around the room.

All it would take would be a tiny bit of eye contact, a subtle roll of the eyes, and a slight motion of the head to launch Pal into action. Those meetings became the most fun in town, well mostly. That’s a slight exaggeration, maybe, but when things would heat up, I’d think: Just say it, Buster. That’s fine. Just be nasty, but you’ll have Pal on your hands, or rather on your pant leg.

 So if things get hairy in your meetings (or in other situations), you could always call in the ubiquitous Pal, the amazing, invisible therapy dog.

How do you handle meetings you’d rather not attend? I’ll bet you’ve got some great stories and solutions to share with us. Do tell!


1 nek { 06.14.11 at 4:30 pm }

“God gave us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed…..”, but in revealing His sense of humor He gave us the imagination and creativity to overcome boredom.

2 Janet Iggulden { 06.14.11 at 4:53 pm }

Pal would have been a great addition to some of the meetings from hell I’ve attended in the past! I distinctly remember one former co-worker who could control a whole room with her breath….specifically an inhale! It was almost imperceptible, but with that subtle inhale, all the positive energy left the room!

3 Ellen Moore { 06.14.11 at 6:06 pm }

Yes, Pal will never be unimployed, that’s for sure. Maybe more in need now than ever.

This colleague of yours, what power! I wonder if we could learn to use the breath in bringing positive energy into a room, iinto a group. A sort of invocation? The strong power of silence in the right places. Who knows more about this from various esoteric traditions? I’ll bet it could be taught. I’m ready to take an improv class as suggested by one of my mentors–Colleen Wainwright at She’d know–I’ll ask her! Always much there to inspire.



4 Ellen Moore { 06.14.11 at 6:10 pm }

Yeah, I love that sense of humor. It can pull us out of some of the most agonizing situations if we will but employ it. Or at least think to ourselves that “perhaps some day even this may be humorous.” On the other hand, let’s don’t wait for the future, let’s laugh now.

Thanks for reminding me,


5 misterco-in { 06.22.11 at 8:57 pm }

Nowadays many meetings are handled as “conference calls” and I’ve engaged a new form of Pal–texting via cellphone–during a conference call or two. Instead a rolling eyes and pointed looks you have the chirp of an incoming text followed by a chuckle and pressing the send button with a reply text; all while the conference call host blathers on and on. Good ole Pal–he’s evolutionary.

6 Ellen Moore { 06.27.11 at 10:40 am }

Since Pal was invented before the advent of our current technology, I’m glad to hear he’s continuing to evolve as needed. Your solution opens up all kinds of wondrous possibilities! Thanks for updating him (and us). Now, this probably means I need a new cell phone, right?

7 Beverly { 07.11.11 at 12:47 pm }

Ellen, Pal’s control of those noxious meetings is just what we all need. Can we find a way to have him lift his leg and cause the target to disintegrate? Yes!

8 Ellen Moore { 07.18.11 at 8:06 am }

Hi Beverly,

Just found your comment today after a bout of computeritis.

I didn’t know Pal was so versatile. You’ve identified an important new function. Just think of the possibilities!

So would he have to be right next to the “target?” Or could he work at a distance? You know, like “distance learning.”

Inquiring minds want to know. Don’t keep us in suspense any longer.

9 Joyce { 08.05.11 at 1:25 am }

Your answer was just what I needed. It’s made my day!

10 Sandra { 01.01.13 at 9:34 am }

I am not surprised the balancing and healing energy sought out for the “meetings from hell” was an animal. In my experience I have found animals teach me more than people about virtues and character strengths to live…joy in being alive, kindness, acceptance, forgiveness, patience, sharing the good and bad in stride and still wanting to be in community…and much more!
By the way “meetings from hell” is well named when ego, power, self adulation, control, manipulation, oppression, domination (just to name a few lower character traits) are “on the table”! “Ruff, rough it up Pal, good watch dog!”…..but if Pal could bite those traits off those people might they rise to be more than an enemy that we need a “watch dog” to manage for our own peace and thriving?

11 Ellen Moore { 01.14.13 at 4:38 pm }

Yes, indeed, Sandra. Good to hear from you. So many critters seem to have the power to take the “bite” out of much human interaction. You’ve given me a vision of Pal “vacuuming” away the hurts of the harsh to reveal the goodness inside. One of my favorite quotations is from Kenneth L. Patton. “We seek to understand the fear behind pride, the tenderness behind clumsy strength, the anguish behind cruelty. Kenneth L. Patton

You’ve taken my thought experiment several steps further. Thank you for your insights!

12 Susan { 06.25.13 at 12:28 pm }

A friend jsut directed me to this website, and I read aboutPal, your meetings from hell therapy dog…and saw the comment about the breath, and if there was a breathing exercise that might be of benefit…I was reminded of the AH breath breathing technique taught by Stephen Levine in most of his deatha nd dying workshops…it can be foudn online, such a simple practice, but incredibly powerful…and it works in lots of situations, I’ve used it mostly with people in pain, or in anxiety, but also to get someone’s attention in a restaurant, etc…toxic meetings might be next!

13 Ellen Moore { 09.26.13 at 10:47 am }

Thanks Susan,

This sounds interesting. I would love to hear more about this practice. Especially about getting someone’s attention and in toxic meetings. Sometimes the complex can be made very simple. Namaste.

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