I am a PhD student in the social sciences and I was just wondering if any of you could advise me on how to deal with certain other PhD students who have a negative impact on the postgrad environment (bitching, gossiping, competitive scrutiny, etc). I know we are all trying to complete these massive projects (obviously stressful enough!) but if anyone would like to share their feelings on this matter I'd be really grateful to hear other voices...
In my experience so far, for the most part people are nice and friendly. I do appreciate that there's a more sociable culture in my particular research community (I think this is done to counteract PhD isolation, etc). I understand and value this... but recently I'm really getting into my project (final year) and I find it very distracting and counter-productive when certain people interrupt me to go for "coffee/pint/smoke" when it's VERY obvious that I'm busy (headphones in, typing, stone-faced concentration on the pc screen!) Also, when we do go for lunch etc I find that I have to excuse myself pretty soon as I feel uncomfortable with the negative (often gossipy) chat that occurs.
Is it just me -- my lack of assertiveness -- or do other people ever have this experience?
Sometimes I feel like an "odd-ball" because I don't go out to every "social event" (which usually consists of the same bunch of PhD students sitting in a bar, bitching, moaning and gossiping about everyone and everything). Quite frankly, I often just don't have the time as they are usually during the week when I do my research.
I do have a social life outside this community including mainly a few close friends... but I feel like I need coping strategies to deal with these people...
While I agree it IS healthy to vent and to break away from the slog and relax... I'm just feeling
more and more withdrawn from the postgrad community and not just because I'm obviously very busy right now but because these people really irk me and I don't want to join them and their usually nasty ways! ...
Could you work elsewhere when you really need to concentrate? I had similar issues with the people I shared an office with and found something that worked for me, was to plan my week so that for days when I needed uninterrupted space I worked in the library stacks where no-one went, and then used my office desk to catch up on admin / do fairly monotonous things like formatting, checking bibliography etc. I found that enabled me to be less irritated by interruptions.
I'd just avoid them socially if it only ever turns out as a bitching session. A cathartic whinge every now and then is fun but there's limits after which it's not healthy. There's nothing saying you have to go to the social events.
Hey! I have come across a few fellow PhD students who were like that. At the beginning of my PhD I would just hang out with them anyway, but they got quite competitive and bitchy, and started to make derogatory comments about other people's projects (including mine) in front of me. To my mind they just demonstrated their narrow-mindedness and a complete lack of understanding/regard for types of research that differed from their own. So after a while I just stopped hanging out with them and socialised with the people whose company I enjoy and am relaxed in....when I have time away from work I prefer to enjoy it, not spend it putting up with offensive and ill thought out attacks on fellow students' work. I don't mind a friendly debate now and again but the atmosphere was laced with nastiness. But then they were probably a true reflection of academia to some extent! I would just hang out with people you like and gradually stop spending time with those you don't. Life is too short! Best, KB
Hey Keenbean, Buzzy and Bewildered, thanks so much for the kind and helpful responses! :) Agreed -- no one needs to put up with that or be around those kind of people... bitching and making derogatory comments about someone else's research is so petty (and especially in front of you! That's awful, shame on them). They tend to drain my energy so I'm going to be polite but stay away from them.
Also, Bewildered,that's a good idea. Cheers-- I will def try that!:)
All my fellow PhD/ EdD students were from overseas. They obviously needed each others' company and support, but I just wanted to finish as quickly as possible, and turned down most socialising so that I could just crack on as I was self-funding. To be honest I found it difficult to be the 'only Brit in the village', to be twice their average age, and to have no one I could talk to, but ho hum..
I thought I was coping OK, until recently I had an earful from one of them (she actually lodged with me for 6 months), who came round to my flat (I live very close to the Uni), wanted me to drink with her, was very irritated when I said I could only spare an hour, and then gave me a one hour drunken rant about how anti-social I am and how I pretend to be kind but I'm not really.
Ah well. She's off my guest list!:-)
======= Date Modified 18 Aug 2011 13:42:19 =======
Hi Beajay, that was so inappropriate of her. There is no law that says you must socialise with other postgrads and in your case, it must be tough enough being in the minority! I get a little bit of that too ("you're so anti-social!" etc) when I leave early on the rare night I go out with them.
The main thing is that you make sure you have some healthy connections with people outside college (even getting back home as frequently as you can and staying in touch by email, etc). PhD research can be so isolating. Especially if you don't, for whatever reason you choose, join the "PhD club"...
I'm taking time out to reflect on this topic now (for my mental health) but normally, like a lot of Phd students, I just don't have the time to be as "sociable" as I would have been during my undergrad. years.
I think maybe some research students might have the mind-frame of a "student" in this sense... either that or your ability to focus and get your work done must be bothering them a lot...
Best of luck with everything and keep smiling - you'll be finished soon!:)
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