Sorry to bother everyone, I am currently a postdoc at a research institution. I have trouble in my scientific collaborations/discussions because I am hypersensitive to (get easily offended at) insensitive criticism/disrespect/microagression, whether expressed verbally or non-verbally (raising of voice, shrugging of shoulders, disdainful facial expression and other non-verbal expressions of annoyance/contempt/disapproval). I am totally okay with criticism which is well thought through, well explained, expressed in a pleasant/neutral voice, and without showing negative emotions.

I also have trouble reading social cues and making small talk because I am always afraid to talk about things I am really interested in since they may not be interesting to others and/or may seem simple-minded/sentimental/emotional, and I am very bored/not good at talking about politics/sports/other popular topics. I am also afraid that people are subconsciously discriminating against me/judging me because of my gender. When I was a Ph.D. student, I was able to work with my advisor with a degree of success because he had a very mild personality, soft voice, was supportive, never criticized anyone harshly, and in addition to this had some common interests with me outside of work. However, I was able to find very few such people in the scientific community, and their research interests/methods are not close to mine (my research area also has very few people of the same gender as me and they don't seem to have research interests/methods which are close to mine).

Therefore I am experiencing loneliness and dissatisfaction in my career, though I really like the area that I am studying (I am not able to continue working with my advisor effectively because it is much easier to talk to/understand him in person than online, and I moved to a different city). I also have trouble interacting with people at scientific conferences for the above reasons, and therefore cannot derive the expected benefits from them. In addition to the above problems, sexual attraction (note: I was never a victim of sexual harassment, but these things can show in subtle ways and disturb a sensitive person) which sometimes occurs in the course of scientific interactions can make them problematic and negate their potential scientific benefits (which could produce something valuable scientifically, but end up futile).

On the other hand, I enjoy and actively use StackExchange for scientific discussions because the above problems do not occur when using digital media. I would like there to be more online resources suitable for scientific purposes for people like me who have a hard time socializing in the scientific community in person. Anonymous online scientific communication also has the benefit of hiding the gender and eliminating associated subconscious discrimination/exclusion. Could you give me any advice (both for in-person and online interactions with colleagues)?

Maybe I should ask this question on a different forum, if it is not very suitable for this one (could you suggest one as I could not think of one myself)?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – cag51 Jun 11 at 18:42
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    I think the main issue with this question is that this question is not focused enough for cogent, specific answers. Also, brief is good. Try looking at this related question, which was well received: academia.stackexchange.com/q/49967/19607 – Kimball Jun 12 at 21:27

From Hamlet:

"...to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them."

Don't let criticism get to you.

It is common for all postdocs, and often quasi-bullying. Advice: become as independent as possible, and as sure in your own abilities and goals as possible, without social confirmation. Slowly, the hypersensitivity will fade as you realize it is contrary to what you know about yourself. I see it most in the best people, not the worst, who often aren't sensitive to this at all.

I would say it happens all the time for the wrong reasons, and is more about "territory" and allegiance than anything. People often highly praise those who are most under their thumb.

Everyone is hypersensitive at the beginning of every new profession and role, due to fear of mistakes, which lead to a general sense of failure throughout one's life. But anxiety is overcome by self-security, and from self-reliance. "Become your own man/woman". Then you are invincible and free.

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