Saturday, May 12, 2012

An Attitude Adjustment for Women

Smart, Confident, Badass Woman

Here is a worldview that I would advocate all smart women taking, if only for a little while. 

It's not you, it's them.

Now this attitude can become problematic when taken to its extreme, but I have met sooooo many more women who would benefit from adopting this viewpoint than women who go too far in the egomaniac department. 

Here are some test situations to see if you need this attitude adjustment. 

Situation 1:

You are a post-doc and you are talking to a PI (not your own), and they say something like "well, how does that compare to So and So et al., 2005?"

You don't know that paper.

Do you

A. Think Oh my god, this PI is going to think I am an idiot for not knowing this paper.


B. Think What a dork for quoting the name and date of a paper rather than the main point, who does that?

(No matter what your internal dialogue, the correct out-loud response is "In what respect?" or "What did they say in that paper?")

So if you picked A, you would probably benefit from taking the "It's not you, it's them" viewpoint.  If you picked B, good work, you already adhere to this worldview (But pay close attention in Situation 3).

Situation 2:

You are sitting in a talk given by Dr. Bigshot. You are paying attention to the talk, and you are unclear about a graph shown on the screen. 

Do you

A. Think I must have missed something


B. Think The speaker really should have explained this graph better

(regardless of your internal dialogue, you should ask the question.)

I think you can see where this is going.  Is it YOU or is it THEM? Unless you were sleeping during this talk, the answer is THEM. 

Here's the final, slightly more tricky situation.

You are in a that same talk, you ask a question and Bigshot answers with "I showed that on slide 3" goes back to it and, sure enough, exactly what you just asked was on slide 3. 

Do you:

A. Think oops, how embarrassing.


B. Think oh my god, I can't believe I just asked Bigshot such a stupid question. I don't belong here, I am too much of an idiot to be a scientist.  Now everyone will see that I am an impostor


C. Think Bigshot is an idiot.

In this situation the correct answer is A.  If you ask something dumb, you ask something dumb and that's all there is to it. It doesn't mean you are completely stupid, it just means you dazed out for a minute.  You should be embarrassed, but not crushed (B).  Learn from the experience and pay more attention next time, but realize that everyone makes mistakes. In this situation answer C is an example of going too far with "It's not you it's them" mentality.  You have to realize when you've genuinely made a mistake.  (Note that not knowing a paper by the author and date, or not knowing what an unexplained or unlabeled graph means are not mistakes.)

This doesn't just apply to science either.  If someone acts like you are stupid for not knowing the actor in a movie, or when such and such song came out, or anything like that.  Just remember, THEY are the stupid ones for assuming you (or anyone) should know that.

It's not you, it's them.

© TheCellularScale

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more. I am glad to hear someone explain it so well!