Whenever I see Donald Trump on TV I wonder if he ever doubts himself.
Then I noticed a newspaper article about his nocturnal tweets to rectify his controversial statements about former Miss Universe Alicia Machado. Is the Donald insecure?
I know that PhD students are, specially meetings with their supervisor can create a lot of uncertainty.
Why are these meetings so hard sometimes?
At the start of your PhD your supervisor has far more knowledge of the subject than you have and because he is more experienced he will also have a broader view. All this can result in you feeling you are not in control during meetings. However, the more experience you acquire, the more you know about the subject and the roles will change automatically.
Sometimes it feels like passing an exam. You have the feeling you have to answer the questions correctly and say the right things. In case you fail to do so your supervisor will surely think you are not good enough to get your PhD. How do we call this phenomenon? Insecurity. And almost every PhD student suffers from it.
What to do to make it more easy?
Make an agenda which keeps you on track during the meeting. Make a list of all the questions you would like to be answered.
Another idea is to record your meeting, for example with your iPhone. You can then listen once more later.
How to prepare mentally?
Perhaps with what attitude you walk into the meeting will be the most important point. How do you regard your supervisor? Is he your mentor, your teacher, your coach, your sparring partner or something different? What do you expect from him. Have you ever ventilated these expectations? Your attitude will evoke a reaction. Do you act like an insecure student? Changes are big your supervisor will act like a patronising teacher. Or are you full of different plans and initiatives, which you can provide ample support for, then the start of the meeting will be on a wholly different level.
What if the meetings aren’t productive?
Take the bull by the horns and talk with your supervisor about the process. Discuss how to cooperate together and how to have productive meetings. For example suggest how to hand over your documents and in what time schedule. Talk about the feedback you would like to receive. Are you both aware of how you would like to cooperate? Agree with your supervisor how many times you will meet up and how formal or casual the meetings can be. Will you only discuss actual content or can you also talk about your feelings?
This will never happen with my supervisor. I never feel at ease in a meeting.
The relationship with your supervisor won’t change overnight. What can be of an enormous help is to talk with other PhD students: how do they tackle these meetings? What tactics do they use, and which ones definitely not?
How did Peter tackle how to have a good meeting with his supervisor?
Peter was basically afraid of his supervisor. According to him he was very intimidating. That was the reason Peter avoided to schedule as little meetings as possible, he would even steer clear of him when encountering him in the building. Peter really wanted to change all this but how? We discussed a strategy of ‘taking the bull by the horns’: just imagine your supervisor with ‘budgy smugglers’ and a flowerpot on his head.
The supervisor was really pleased that Peter tackled the problem with him. He also had the idea that the meetings should be far more productive. Now they meet for a walk and talk during their lunch break.
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