From the agenda to verbal cues, here’s how to make every work check-in count.

By Caylin Harris and Maggie Seaver
October 02, 2019
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Whether it’s once a week or once a month, any opportunity to talk one-on-one with a manager or direct report should be considered precious time—so use it well. In-person, one-on-one meetings are best reserved for weekly check-ins or discussions about emotionally loaded topics—good or bad. Here’s how to make the most of a two-person meeting.

Know when a one-on-one meeting is the best option.

Do you have to deliver some negative feedback to your boss? Save that for a private chat. Want to go over very specific budget plans with a team member? Spare everyone the conversation and make it a one-on-one dialogue. By meeting just the two of you, both parties can register intonation and nonverbal cues that might be lost via email, and share information that could be out of place (read: irrelevant to some people) in a meeting with a larger group.

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Set an agenda up front.

In the meeting invite, include what you plan to discuss so you can both prepare, says Melody Wilding, a licensed social worker and career coach. Eliminate misunderstandings post-meeting by following up with a quick email listing next steps or to-dos.

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Give nonverbal cues.

A genuine smile, eye contact, and verbal affirmations like “Oh, how interesting!” are little ways to show engagement. When we receive these cues, our brains release oxytocin, a feel-good chemical that gives us a sense of community and belonging. “Do what feels most natural to you, because authenticity matters,” says Vanessa Van Edwards, author of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People ($12;

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Try reflexive listening.

To demonstrate understanding, summarize in your own words what someone has said to you. Include both the surface and emotional meanings, suggests Nick Morgan, author of Can You Hear Me? How to Connect with People in a Virtual World ($12; Start with something like “What I hear you saying is,” or “What I think you mean is.” This gives the other person the opportunity to clarify if needed.