Conversation, hold the coffee

I’ve taken a lot of meetings this year, and aside from meals, they always seem to follow the same format. We meet for coffee, or drinks, or dessert, at a nearby shop, and spend about an hour, at a cost of somewhere from $5-15.

And that would be totally fine, except that I don’t actually drink coffee, and rarely want any of the other assortment of snack and drink options. I’m neither hungry nor thirsty for anything but a good conversation.

It bewilders me that so many people who don’t actually want a cup of coffee would meet at a coffee shop, buy one or more, and drink them. Every time they have a meeting!

I’ve tried to understand this behavior, and I’m sure there are some rational explanations. Maybe it’s:

  • Space that’s neutral and not ‘owned’ by either party
  • Convenient location somewhere in between both people
  • Ability to leave whenever you want by just finishing the drink
  • Setting that’s not too intimate and not too formal
  • Public area in case you’re afraid of the person (?)

But actually, in most cases, I think it’s out of habit or social norm. Meeting for coffee or drinks is the standard good excuse to spend a significant amount of time in front of someone. We need these to avoid feeling awkward, and to ensure we can quickly justify the meeting without committing too much.

It seems those needs are a bit foolish, and end up exacting a rent on the meetings we have with others. Talking is free, but coffee is $5. Why put ourselves through this social dance if neither party actually likes the beat?

This extends to other social meetings as well, including time spent out with close friends. Often the need is to feel like you’re justified in spending a night out together, by having something socially acceptable to talk about. “We were out at a lounge” is a great way to avoid anyone noticing that what you actually wanted was time together.

Our quality time ends up being much stronger when there are no distractions, anyway. So let’s take a walk or go to a park. I promise, we’ll both remember more of the conversation.

So, if you happen to be meeting me and suggest coffee or a bar, I might decline and forward you this post. Please don’t be offended, but I don’t really want to pay someone’s Starbucks dividend. I just want to spend some time talking to you.