I am a PhD student after the mid stage. I come to know a very strange thing about academia that acceptance is a bad thing. Let me define acceptance, many time i hear the statement of other collegues including my supervisor, research fellows etc. What happens that I always tried to accept their arguments even if they are wrong. If they are wrong, Instead of being harsh, I try to accept their argument then explain my argument. The problem arises due to this is that many times these people try to manuplate me. Like in TA work I listen to the person who comes to me (student) no as I am listening to him he starts thinking that I have not understood his statement, which is not always the case.

In short I accept others mistake, errors etc, but when it comes to me that if i am wrong other people show their very rude behaviour. I don't Is this common in academia? What kind of person I should become the one who point out others mistake and make them realise that they are wrong or the one who accept others wrong things in a positive way?

  • I don't understand what you want from this. I don't understand what you mean by "accept". Accept as true and valid? Do you mean technical arguments or something else? Political? It might help to mention which field you are in.
    – Buffy
    Feb 24, 2019 at 15:15
  • @ Buffy. techinical arguments. Theoretical computer science. Feb 24, 2019 at 15:20
  • What makes you sure that it is not you who is wrong? Feb 24, 2019 at 15:50
  • @ Captain Emacs I don't always fight. I give more than 90 percent time. Feb 24, 2019 at 15:53
  • 2
    @I_wil_break_wall That's not my question; I am not suggesting to back down if you are right (and on substantive matters, not trivia). My question is, how do you know that you are right? Feb 24, 2019 at 18:42

2 Answers 2


If they are wrong, Instead of being harsh, I try to accept their argument then explain my argument.

I think the problem may be this false dichotomy.

Imagine a student comes to you and says "I think the Earth is flat because I went to the top of a tower in the midwest and everything looks flat."

  • One option (what it sounds like you're doing) is saying okay, that makes sense, but there is evidence the Earth is round -- satellites, circum-navigation experiences, etc.
  • Another option (what it sounds like you're complaining about) is saying no, that's not a good argument, the Earth is large enough that apparent flatness on the scale of ~50 miles does not imply that the entire 26,000 mile Earth is flat.

Of these, the second has a clear advantage, in that it actually addresses the actual reason the student is confused. Just telling the student how to do it properly is no more helpful than telling him to read the textbook; explaining where the student's thinking is incorrect is where you can be really helpful.

Of course, same goes for colleagues rather than students -- when dealing with a disagreement, you need to both defend your ideas and refute their ideas. Otherwise you're both just restating your positions and not actually resolving anything.

Now the reason I called this a false dichotomy is because there is no need to be harsh when refuting others' ideas. The best way is to ask leading questions so that the they realizes their mistake all on their own. Usually, doing this requires an excellent understanding of the subject matter. When dealing with colleagues on research topics, one may not have a strong enough understanding to do this gracefully, resulting in what seems like harshness (or one may just be a jerk).


One "problem" with academia is that it is full of smart people. Those people have a lot of ideas. Those people become attached to their own ideas. They want to defend those ideas.

Over time, this works out and the good ideas become generally accepted and the bad ideas fall to the ground.

My advice is not to try to fight every fight. If by "accept" you only mean not to vocally oppose, then sure, accept them. What this means is that you accept their right to be wrong. Bluster doesn't make their ideas any better, nor your arguments any more acceptable to them. Just let it go. The volume with which an argument is carried out normally has little relationship to the validity of the argument. This applies to you as well as to others.

For your own part, work on your own ideas and make sure that they are good ideas. But if you are given arguments against your ideas, evaluate the arguments, and don't just push back at the other person as if they are an attacker. Certainly don't be pedantic in arguing every small point. And note that there is a difference between being "clear in presenting evidence" and being "pedantic".

However, if you are in a place in which people don't act in a collegial manner and generally fight with one another, or fall into factions, find a better environment. Life is short and stress can kill you.

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