There’s a brand of awkward grad student to which I thoroughly subscribe: the kind that manages to get their foot stuck in their mouth in every office hour they ever attend. Maybe I didn’t practice enough as an undergrad (I always assumed that one didn’t visit office hours without a particular concern. My experience with teaching has since shown me the error of my ways). Maybe I watched Dead Poets Society too often and have the wrong understanding of what the faculty-to-student relationship could be.
What I know for sure is this: I end up saying something absurd to faculty in their offices more often than not. And I have to re-play the entire meeting on my way out the door to make sure whatever it was wasn’t too embarrassing (“Did I just say that my cohort doesn’t drink coffee? That’s not even relevant....or true!”).
If you too suffer from Graduate Foot In Mouth Syndrome (or “GFIMS,” for short), I have come up with a couple of ways to alleviate the problem:
(1) Always plan a couple of specific questions or issues for the encounter. You need at least two in case there’s an awkward silence after the first is answered. Awkward silences are feeding grounds for GFIMS.
(2) Take a minute to collect your thoughts before you go into the office. This is especially true if you’re running late. Don’t let yourself be frazzled. GFIMS loves you when you’re frazzled.
(3) Don’t be afraid to hide from professors when they crop up in unexpected places. If you can feel a bout of GFIMS coming on, excuse yourself and leave. This seems much more awkward to you than it does to them. And we both know you could say something much worse than a polite reason to walk away when you’re in full GFIMS-mode.
(4) Don’t always fill silences. Let someone else take that responsibility. GFIMS hits when you aren’t calm and collected. So let someone else lose their cool scrambling for things to say.
Keep in mind that none of these are cures. The only cure for GFIMS is this: you have to have confidence in yourself. Once you believe your GFIMS is cured, it will be.
About the Author
Bessie McAdams, Ph.D. Student, English
Published in: Student Voices