Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Dottie Dog and the Get Along Gang

All day yesterday I had Dottie Dog hair. It happens when I let my hair air-dry, and it puffs up into what look like two curly, wavy dog ears perfectly framing my face. Well, like this:

I kind of wish that this blog wasn't anonymous, because then I could post a picture of myself, and you'd see for yourself that I really do look like Dottie Dog. It'd be a startling resemblance and we'd all laugh.

I don't post that picture, because I value my anonymity too much.

Many of my favorite bloggers who blog under their own names have recently abandoned the blogosphere for reasons somewhat related to their un-anonymity. This includes Brian, and Kortney whose posts I really enjoyed. Sadly, there were some pretty crappy, mean, and belligerent commenters on these blogs, and very understandably the bloggers got burnt out. Recently, Geeky Mom posted that she was considering retirement as well because she felt less comfortable expressing herself. I, of course, lamented the potential loss of another ethereal pal.

I've always wrestled with my identity on this blog. I'd say my blog is mostly anonymous. There are many readers who know who I am, because they are my friends that I trust and told, or they just figured it out. There are other readers who I don't know. Looking at Google Analytics, it seems there's a readership in Hawaii.


I've put a link to my blog a couple of times on my homepage, only to regret it and take it down a couple of hours later. Even with my faux anonymity, I never blog about anything I could get in trouble about, in particular the dirty details of my advising relationship or the names of my offenders. I feel I was lucky with the choice I made. For now, I feel it's a good mix. I censor myself only a little, which probably produces better posts in the long run. Otherwise, there'd be 200 whiney posts on how I'll never graduate. There's enough of those already.

It felt appropriate that I looked like Dottie Dog yesterday, given that I was acting like a little yippy dog. I had 4 meetings, during two of which I needed to talk. When giving feedback in a meeting, I generally talk louder and a little higher pitched than I would talking to a friend or into the mic on my radio show. I suppose I do this because I want to be heard, and we all now what a fight it is for air space in this department. At one meeting, after I yipped like a little dog, a friend of mine was giving his feedback. He was a big dog, just calmly stating what he thought, and asking good insightful questions to get better material from the speaker. I thought to myself, "Man, I want to be more like that."

At the second meeting, I made a statement, and used some data to back it up. Someone else interrupted me to say, "I don't think that's true." My reply, "Well, I just have data, that's all." There, I was a big dog, but the topic was something I felt much more comfortable with.

Again today, though, I was a little dog, to the point of a Taco Bell Chihuahua. In part, it was because I'm not terribly good at hiding my frustration. Anger yes, frustration no. I was really frustrated in a meeting, and I wasn't getting a straight answer from the speaker. I put my hands to my head to smooth back my Dottie Dog hair, and said, "Look! I'm just trying to understand, do you mean A, B, C, or ..." And of course, I didn't get to finish my question, further exacerbating the yipping I already was doing.

In general, I feel really stupid after being the little dog. I regret not having handled myself better, and wish I didn't get so frustrated here with the fight for air space. I wish I just kept my damn mouth shut, but that's not a possibility. That was my initial strategy in my early graduate years, and I was chided for not contributing.

My question to you dear readers, is, "How to be the big dog?"


CSDL said...

I wish I had advice for you... But I guess I sorta look at you like a big dog where I'm the little dog, who runs away scared with its tail between its legs.

I was also thing, when my dog sees your dog, do you think he wish he was a big dog like her?

kermitthefrog said...

It seems like what you're talking about is more tone than substance. So in a very material way, there are changes you could make in the way you prepare to speak when you make a comment -- like taking a few deep breaths to make sure you're supporting your voice from your diaphragm. That at least will keep you from sounding yippy, and probably also help with the frustration.

But the broader question is one I am really familiar with. How to interact with others in a situation where the power differential is unclear, or where you're trying to stake a claim to territory. I'm also still struggling with that myself...

Jenny F. Scientist said...

I actually have a couple posts about this that I'm going to put up for the next carnival- it's been such a huge problem in my lab too. I call it the 'stags-in-mating-season' style of interaction.

Of course I don't know if any of these things will work in your environment, but since you asked, there are a few things I do to not get steamrollered:
-I actually talk in a louder but deeper voice than I otherwise would.
-When people interrupt me I interrupt them back and say something mildly mean, like "Excuse me, I'm not finished" or "Would you like to hear what I'm saying?" and then go back into what I was saying.
-I cut people off if they're being jerks. I say 'That's not what I asked.' And so on. I feel mean, but it's effective.
-I try to avoid any phrases that convey, for lack of a better word, vulnerability. I almost never start with "I'm sorry" or "Excuse me".
-Sometimes it helps to ask very specific questions, if possible: Do you see X under these conditions? Could Y be going on, and if not, why not?
-I stand up for my data. (Which it sounds like you do wonderfully!) I say all the time (because all the time, I get 'I don't believe that'), "I have this evidence, I have this evidence, I did this control, and the data show that X. Next question."

None of this keeps it from being miserable, though.