Thursday, August 04, 2005

Waiting for the autoclave

So this is the first time I've had a few uninterrupted minutes at the computer today. I'm feeling pretty frazzled, and I still have to pour plates before I can go to the gym.

This morning was spent trying to communicate with my advisor via email (she's out of town). At first it went rather badly, but then I think I got my point across, finally, although I'm not sure if that accomplished anything. I'm still trying to unlearn the instinctive response to freak out when I get emails that look important. After my thesis advisor, I realized I had post-traumatic shock from exchanging really evil emails with him. Then the last person I worked for tended to be very discouraging in a very passive-aggressive way, so it took me a while to catch on, sometimes days after I read the message. My current advisor means well, I think, and doesn't realize how she comes across sometimes. And my communication skills have definitely improved to the point where I can usually manage to explain myself, if I don't let myself get paranoid or defensive.

Anyway I still have to send another semi-important email, but I think I'm going to put it off until tomorrow in the hopes that I will be calmer then.


At 10:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean by the instinctive act of freaking out. Many are the games to be played over email. I am a third-year Ph.D student and after 5 years in grad school, I am slowly catching on.

At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have exactly the same issues with e-mail and my PI. Sometimes it is good.. and sometimes it freaks me out. I feel like a game is being played, but I don't know the rules...

what games have PI's played on you?

- hoping to take notes & learn

At 11:47 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

oh, well, my biggest pet peeves are a) avoidance (i.e. no reply, as if they didn't get the message at all), b) partial response (answering some but not all of the questions posed in the email, as if they didn't see them, but actually they're just exercising option a selectively), c) vague response (unhelpful advice), d) bitchy response (defensiveness based on assumed meaning in my original email to them).

mostly the thing I'd recommend is to remember: tone of voice does NOT come across in email. Jokes and sarcasm usually don't work, even with punctuation and emoticons galore! ;-) If someone is in a pissy mood to begin with, it's very easy for them to misunderstand what you're trying to say, and it can seriously snowball from there. Always keep an eye out for when your PI is responding to what they *think* you said, vs. what you meant to say .

there are articles on this (you can find them on the web... I'm too lazy to look right now). i even took a seminar (way after the fact) and they said most of the same things. actually the seminar guy said to keep your emails to a screenfull, minimum. they said nobody wants to have to scroll down. if you have that much to say, say it in person or on the phone if it's long-distance (or wait until they get back). resist the urge to use email as a confrontational device if you tend to freak out in person- better to deal with that and get all the extra feedback from body language, than to ramble on in an email about something that's so important it has you really upset.


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