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How to connect with your professor?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by Syndicate101, Sep 6, 2014.

  1. Syndicate101

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    Hey. I'm having problems finding a common ground between me and my professors. I feel like we don't connect on any topics and i'm having this problem with most professors. Any tips on how to form good relationships/have a conversation with your professors? I go to a big school so I can only really talk to them during office hours, and during there are awkward silences.
     
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  3. kraskadva

    kraskadva ...
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    Has this happened (the awkward silences) multiple times with multiple (>2) professors?
    If so, I'd say it's your social/conversational skills that need work. (i.e. you're saying things that sound reasonable in your own head, but that pause is the prof thinking "WTF?")
    If it's only happened once or twice though, you could brush it off as an awkward professor.

    As to common ground... well they're all 35+, probably married, maybe have kids. You're what, 20?, not married, etc. etc. There's not going to be much common ground outside of academics.
    However, the one thing you do have in common is the class and the university. After you've gotten whatever help you need for the class, talk to them about their subject. Look up news on the topic, ask if they've heard about xyz new thing in their field, ask what their research is, etc. Most professors are pretty excited to talk about their fields, especially to someone who's showing interest. Once you relax into that topic of conversations, others might begin to pop up as well.
     
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  4. akinetopsia

    akinetopsia some dude
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    Seconding what kraskadva said. Look up their research interests. Usually the prof's departmental website will have a bio or CV on it with their research interests. Show that you're interested and curious about their field (NOTE: this works better if you are actually interested in it, your enthusiasm will show through). Also, this may sound somewhat out of left field, but you may want to read the old classic, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. It'll make it easier for you to find common ground with other people if you can be interested in what other people have to say, professors included.
     
  5. EMDO2018

    EMDO2018 Membership Revoked
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    Go to their office, take your clothes off, and tell them to "teach you" - boom, strong LOR
     
  6. Syndicate101

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    Awkward silences are something I get alot. I'm extremely comfortable with friends but I think too much about what I say to strangers leading to awkward silences. Is there a way i can improve this aspect of myself?
     
  7. kraskadva

    kraskadva ...
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    So... just to make sure I understand your situation...

    Is is something like this:
    Prof says something. You stop to think about how to respond, analyzing how the response will make you look. By the time you decide what to say, it's been >5-10 seconds and the Prof is looking at you expectantly... which makes you feel awkward. Rinse, repeat, downward spiral.

    Or is it more:
    Prof says something. You respond in <10 seconds. Prof looks at you oddly in silence for a few moments before going on.
     
  8. MatttF

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    Taking a Speech/Public Speaking class could definitely help you. Also going over what you and the professor may talk about before going in to actually talk to them and what you might say in each situation could help you to be better prepared when speaking to them. Also, go in with a list of things you want to discuss with them, if one starts to die off go on to the next (not while holding an actual list), and when you are finished with everything you wished to discuss with them either thank them for their time if you were asking them question or just tell them you'll see them on lecture on such-and-such day.
     
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  9. Syndicate101

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    A little bit of both.
     
  10. kraskadva

    kraskadva ...
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    Okaay...
    Well, the first thing I would recommend is, if you don't already have them, work on developing your verbal filters. This will prevent you saying totally inappropriate things at inappropriate times.
    What I mean by this is- for example, when I'm with my friends I tend to curse and make raunchy jokes on a scale that would make a sailor blush. HOWEVER, I've trained my brain such that when I walk into a conversation where that's not appropriate (with my grandmother, with my department chair, in a professional situation, etc) the verbal filter immediately kicks in and those things absolutely do not come out of my mouth under any circumstances.
    This takes some practice, but if you've having to sit there and go through a process to mentally censor yourself, you've wasting time and look awkward. It needs to be automatic. And not just with cursing, if that's an issue, but with things like text speak, inappropriate internet references, etc.

    Then, I would absolutely get over the 'stupid question' paranoia.
    Sure, stupid questions do exist. That's not the point.
    What makes a question stupid is not ignorance per se. After all, you're there to learn. They assume you come in ignorant and won't hold it against you as long as you're actively trying to learn. The stupid questions that do get held against people are the ones from somebody who clearly wasn't listening to what was said 5 minutes ago, or who is putting no effort at all into learning something.
    If you're there in their office asking interested questions about their subject, even very basic ones, then this is not a mistake you'll be making and should not be sitting there analyzing a question for stupidity in your head. So don't be afraid to ask academic questions, they'll be more than happy to help you learn.

    Also, when you're going to office hours, have some questions prepared -either on class material or the subject in general. Ask them. Ask whatever else pops in tangentially along the way. Then when the conversation is winding down and you don't have another question at the moment, say thank you and walk out. Do not sit there and try to come up with something else to ask for the sake of 5 minutes more conversation. Just leave before it gets awkward. Go get coffee before your next class or lunch or whatever, but go while it's still comfortable.
    Because if you leave while it's comfortable, then it will be smoother the next time you come back. If you stay till it gets awkward, it will start off awkward the next time and continue to compound the more you do that.
    Go for the positive spiral, not the negative one.
     
  11. sat0ri

    sat0ri Everything we see hides another
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    OK they are various things to do, but one very good approach is to ask them how they enjoy their career. Would they do anything different? At the end of the day, are they satisfied? Etc. You will need to gauge your questions based on your relationship and their receptiveness (if you relationship is aloof and professional, don't open with "do you hate your life and wish your research was more impactful?")

    Here's why it's good: 1) Everyone loves talking about themselves. It's comfortable, it's familiar, we like positive attention, and it's usually how most of us spend our days--thinking about things from our own perspective and how things affect ourselves. So it is natural. Also, most professors by nature of their profession possess "generativity", i.e., they want to give back, teach, mentor, educate. 2) You are very interested because it is a conversation you can directly benefit from. Everyone perks up when they know they can get something out of it.
    So these two things together mean, youre both interested genuinely in the conversation and...
    Viola! You have organic conversation that isn't laborious to maintain or feel like contrived small talk. In this conversation too, you'll casually be able to bring up your ambitions and why you'll be such a great doctor and that youre not the average pre-med and plz plz plz write me a letter I want to go to HMS.
     
  12. O2Doc

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    What topics are you talking to them about?
    They would expect to help you with coursework, or if you were especially keen, maybe discuss issues that arise from their teaching materials but are beyond what's taught in class. If you're going to them just to talk about anything, to try and force a "relationship", the situation itself is awkward. Or more likely annoying.
    More personal relationships are easier in higher-level courses where the classes are much smaller, and the courses involve much more interaction with profs (and discussion vice prof lecturing and students just asking the odd question). Or if you volunteer or work with them, as in a lab, or they advise you on a project.
     

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