Monday, March 29, 2010

Getting to know people...

I just read Old MD Girl's post on how, as a post-bac student independently taking pre-med requirements, she managed to obtain some research experience.

It seems like the same advice continues to ring true across disciplines: get to know people.

Easier said than done. At least for me.

You would think that after years of performing for big and small audiences, that I would have escaped some level of social awkwardness. And in comparison to me before college, and me after college, I probably have. It's still a constant effort to be outgoing, though. I find this less of an issue with patients, and more of an issue with the physicians I work with. I constantly feel as if every time I interact with a physician, I am wasting his or her time. As a result, I'm incredibly meek. I typically avoid any form of interaction in person or on the phone, unless it's really necessary. My favorite methods of interaction are e-mail, arch (text) paging, and leaving notes. If we actually speak about anything, especially on a personal level, especially academic plans, it's like I'm on a date with someone completely out of my league. I start sweating (and regretting that I wore my minimally effective all-natural hippie deodorant). My face feels like it's on fire, I get all shaky, and start blundering my sentences. I don't think I've ever been so nervous in any other kind of situation.

When I become a physician, I intend to be nice to people who cannot control their odd physiological reactions around me, and to break the ice instead of reinforcing their awkwardness by acting like they are awkward AND wasting my time. Then again, I could be over analyzing all of this..

So now I have to come up with a plan. I have to figure out how I'll be social and get to know people who I will be tempted to be mute around. Here is my proposed plan:

I will pretend to be someone else.

I did this when I was employed for the summer season at Cincinnati Opera. It was my first contract to sing professionally. I moved to Cincinnati for the summer, and I knew no one. I pretended I was outgoing, confident, and sexy E. Greene. I always wore make up, and my hair always looked nice. Dresses and heels became a staple. I got to know people, sometimes too well and too quickly! And since I was surrounded by people that didn't know me, how were they to suspect that I had previously had a different personality?

And although this outgoing version of me wasn't how I normally acted, it wasn't a total facade. I think when I got back to Oberlin, I think I was some combination of pre-and post-Cincinnati E. Greene. But the change, this rapid evolution of myself, was evident.

So, maybe it's time to evolve a little again. This should be easy to do, since at my next educational institute of choice, I will know absolutely no one! I'll pretend to be someone more outgoing, to be a little more openly geeky and hardworking, and to talk to professors and physicians without worrying about passing out.

1 comment:

  1. In case it came off that I was actually confident during my first interactions with doctors, let me tell you that I was quaking in my boots. Part of the reason it took me SO LONG to get going on this research thing was exactly because of the anxiety you describe. In fact, I suffered with that same problem the first two years of med school.

    I like your idea of pretending to be someone else. That's actually kind of brilliant.

    Look at the department web pages and find someone who does work you think is cool. Then email them to set up a meeting. Expect them not to email back. Repeat. Meet professors after class. Pub med them to find out what they've been publishing on recently. Say, "I thought your article on XYZ was really interesting." Most students won't have done that and they'll be really flattered (flattery will get you EVERYWHERE).

    Also, it's ok a) ask them about their own work. But it's also b) ok to say you have interests in other specific things too, and ask for suggestions on who you can talk to about them. They might know someone, and be able to set you up.

    And don't be discouraged if someone is a dick to you. It happens periodically. Consider it valuable info to have. Who wants to work for a dick anyway?

    Good luck! I'm looking forward to reading how it goes.