I've spent most of my life in The South (as I've mentioned before) and I haven't really thought about what that implies in respect to my... personality. That's not to say that I haven't noticed differences in the behavior of people through out the country. I was shocked at how rude I perceived people to be the first time I traveled to New York City on my own. I've noticed the differences in greetings that Katie discussed. However, I've never really considered myself the typical demure Southern Belle (despite the occasional accent). While I still don't think of myself as a Southern Belle, nor does anyone else, I have recently been told that my South is showing at Girl's NightTM.
I was relating about how I'm trying to develop the courage (I'm not sure if that's the right word, but I am horribly shy in real life) to ask questions of speakers. So, I've been practicing during General and Specialty Journal Club. I'm not too terribly obnoxious about it (as in I don't ask questions just to ask them), but when I honestly have a question about the methodology presented or the interpretation of the results I'm trying to ask the question then. So far I've asked a grand total of three questions (out of the two Journal Clubs I attend each week).
Anyhow, I asked a question last week pertaining to the controls of one experiment that were obviously very off and that no one was questioning. This particular experiment was somewhat central to the paper's thesis and I felt that I had put the student presenter in an awkward position. So, at Girl's NightTM when we were talking about mean questions I pointed out that I had recently done so to another student thus breaking the graduate student code. This caused everyone in the room to burst out laughing. I was rather mystified and irked. I pointed out that I was rather bitchy in how I phrased the question and could have put the question much gentler.
“That was bitchy!” Northern Big City Friend replied and snorted. “She was so nice about it,” she explained to the rest of the room, “she said, 'So, it seems that the loading controls are a bit off there. Did the authors explain that at all? It makes the interpretation of the data rather hard.' The loading controls were more than a bit off. They were completely off! There were dark bands and non-existent ones.” She started laughing again.
“Well, what was he going to say to that? It wasn't his experiment! He couldn't help it. Besides if I hadn't said anything maybe Dr. BigShot wouldn't have said anything,” I defended myself.
“You are never rude,” Canadian Friend said, “For you to be rude, it would require lots of alcohol or just extreme provocation.”
This really did shock me. Apparently, I had a completely distorted view of the situation. I felt that I was being a huge... well, bitch about the whole thing and everyone else thought that I was completely justified. All I could see was that I made the student presenter rather uncomfortable, not that my question was justified. This has made me wonder about other times that I thought I behaved rather rudely in an academic situation. Maybe I wasn't rude at all, but pointing out something?
Also, this may be indicative of my whole demeanor in academic situations. I have been told that in day-to-day conversation that I have strong opinions (which may be code for obnoxious), but that I do not express them during my presentations. Advisor has told me that my voice goes up at the end of my explanations of figures and that it makes me sound like I'm asking a question instead of giving an explanation. Dr. Nice BigWig has told me that when I answer questions I preface my statements with “I think” rather than just giving the answer. After reading Katie's post about interviewing and PhysioProf's response. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm just too afraid of publicly offending someone. But then again, what's the line between being confident and being rude?
Northwestern Friend told me that, “You are really nice, but you need to start saying 'no' to people. Just because you know something about a particular technique does not mean that you need to teach someone a short course in it.”
Advisor has been telling me to be more selfish with my time. I think that I am selfish with my time. It's not like I'm spending hours everyday on other people's projects. And it's only a fraction of the hours per week I spend at the lab. Besides it's important to share the knowledge, right? Maybe it's not me that needs to be selfish. Maybe other people need to be less selfish. Maybe we all should be more polite. Just because one is right or busy does not mean that one should be rude.
However, Midwestern Friend agreed with Northwestern Friend and said, “Consider this an intervention. Overcome your Southern-ness.”
Labels: Academic Interactions, Friends, The South