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To the point, I think I am suffering from the lack of the interpersonal skills and especially while working with supervisors. My character is quite good, I can make good connections and etc, however, I looks dumb while dealing with supervisor and I think this would leave a negative impression.

My new supervisor asked me to call him with Dr.X, and I felt so much shy to call his name directly, he didnot comment later, but I do think their actions said I am boring, dull, and maybe end hating me as happened in my previous PhD, my ex-supervisor commented once time, that he didnot like that I am using " kindly" in email, in the end , I feel I am not likeable even if I did a good work.

Another issue is my tone of voice shows that I am arrogant person, and this happened today, another senior professor had a facial expression which wasnot good, although I would like to deliver the idea, but I fail apparently.

I am so afraid to commit another inadvertent mistake and it seems academia policy is harsh. I dont know whether with my personality I can keep in academic world, I dont want to be an ordinary lecturer, I want to be a leading researcher in my research field, but given the facts, I am way off.

The question:Is there coaching techniques that could help me, I am very sensational, kind, but supervisors apparently see me dull, boring, and arrogant which hinder me to deliver my ideas and suggestions.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – eykanal Mar 29 at 20:53
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    I think that interpersonal skills are about as important in academia as they are everywhere else. Unless you are a monastic hermit, any workplace is about dealing with people. Academia is really no different in this regard. – Wolfgang Bangerth Mar 30 at 2:47
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I do think that interpersonal skills are important in academia. A few ideas:

1) Tell your supervisor you would like to improve at this. Ask for suggestions on improving your verbal communication and email communication. Consider asking if there is a particular person who is effective at this that you could learn from.

2) Ask your friends to read over your email and have “practice conversation” with you while you are working on improving this. In important situations I always have friends read my emails before sending (common among my group of Asst Professors who are trying to climb the ladder).

3) Keep examples of effective correspondence. I have a coauthor who is loved by everyone and who is a master at asking for things in a polite yet firm way. I often refer to his emails to get ideas for my own.

4) For the arrogance problem, be careful how you state your facts. I have a student who will often state his opinion as a fact. Or will state something I taught him the day before as a fact he is explaining to me without acknowledging that I was the one who taught it to him! I know this is a cultural difference, so I try to be patient with this, but it is difficult because really dislike it. Consider using phrases like “As you know,...” “As you explained to me...” “I recently read in X journal that...” “To the best of my knowledge,...”

5) It also seems that your supervisors don't respond well to your disagreements. First, you are right to "pick your battles" as you have stated. In some cases you might decide not to disagree. My old boss used to say, "This will become self-revealing," by which he meant that the incorrect party will eventually realize the problem without a direct disagreement (it will become clear in the data, from other sources better positioned to disagree, etc.). Second, you need to learn to disagree diplomatically and tactfully. One approach is to distance yourself from the disagreement. Instead of saying, "I think this approach is wrong." you might say, "I understand that many people use this approach. I have also read some papers recently that argue that another approach is an improvement on that method in certain cases." You might also try to lead them in the direction you want to go by making it their idea. This usually comes down to asking questions. "Are there any extensions of that method in the recent literature? Are there any cases where that method is less preferred? What feedback about that method have you received from reviewers?" Basically, you want to disagree without being disagreeable and always allow the other party to save face.

  • I always show respect to people, I do think sometimes professors dont like argument, or finding a mistake in their work, they need to be a copycat and do something which isnot quite true and there an improvement can be done. I tell myself, you can shut up your mouth and dont deliver ideas, maybe I am wrong, but thats what I am perceiving in academic world. – Monika Mar 29 at 14:45
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    Of course! Noone likes people who "argue" with them or find mistakes in their work. It is unpleasant. However, most people know this makes their work better and are willing to accept it as long as it is done tactfully. I will add something about how to disagree tactfully. – Dawn Mar 29 at 15:27
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    Fluent or not, your English may be idiosyncratic enough that your inadvertently communicate things that you do not intend. – paul garrett Mar 29 at 16:57
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    Word choice is very important to conveying respect, tact, and diplomacy. In addition, you will find that using more words almost always makes you sound more polite in English. This is difficult for language learners. – Dawn Mar 29 at 17:42
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    You might also google “More polite English phrases for work.” to help to identify phrases which might be too strong or too direct. – Dawn Mar 29 at 17:49

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