feedback · Phd · PhD life · research · stress

Communicating in an Academic world: 101

It’s taken me almost two years to finally figure out how to respond to emails from those in the Academic world.  During the first year of my PhD, email correspondence was fraught with misunderstandings, bruised egos and then meetings to clear up the misunderstandings.  Email communication is tricky especially when you don’t know each other personally.  It’s very easy to read between the lines and take meaning where none was intended.

Early on I implemented the ‘Sandwich Method’ and thought it was going pretty well.  When responding to feedback I would reply like this:

  1. Thank you for your feedback…  (bread)
  2. The reason I wrote that was…   (burger patty)
  3. I appreciate your time…   (bread)

Simple, straightforward and to the point, right??  Well, my responses were being misread as me being ‘defensive’ and not taking criticism well.  I didn’t realise I wasn’t allowed to have my own opinion (that is a whole different discussion 😦  )

So, after much reflection, I think I realised where I was going wrong.  A burger of meat and bread is OK but a bit dry.  Put some tomato sauce, mustard, mayo or avocado and an ordinary burger becomes extraordinary.  So, I realised my Sandwich Method needed some tomato sauce.  So, here it goes:

  1. Thank you so much for your helpful feedback…   (bread)  🙂
  2. That was such a fantastic idea you had…  (tomato sauce)   🙂
  3. Even though that’s a brilliant idea, I was wondering though, maybe it could also be… (burger patty)   🙂
  4. Thank you so much for your time, I realise how busy you are…   (bread)  🙂

You may notice the excessive and unnecessary use of smiley faces – this is to definitively illustrate that I’m not upset or being defensive haha

NB// this variation on the sandwich method only works well for communicating with those who have seniority to you.  Personally, I find it completely condescending and when communicating with my peers I tend to just stick to writing like a normal person.

I have only very recently employed this new strategy so I’ll keep you posted as to how it goes.  Maybe you could give it a try and let me know if it’s working for you!

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