Wednesday, 11 February 2009

And how does that make you feel?

I’ve calmed right down now. I think I was alarmed at the speed with which all my projects were rearranged the SAME BLOOMIN’ DAY as I made my little announcement.

But I did end up feeling a little on the totally useless side. So it was nice when, the next day, someone asked me if I could do a bit of teaching while I’m on maternity leave. God when will these people leave me alone?

Also I’m on a training course all this week. Of course this makes me in no way useful but still. It’s exciting.

We’re learning how to do in-depth interviews and focus groups. A lot of the stuff I do is with NHS patients. Increasingly, NHS ethics applications require that the research has been developed in collaboration with the patient population being investigated.

Ethically this is a very worthy aim: among other things, patients feel like they’re actually being listened to and that the research they pay for as a tax payer is actually relevant to them. But in terms of the science, it tends to mean that the research question being asked is not only much more focused, but also one that is likely to be worth answering (and therefore published).

And to be honest my last job involved growing cells in dishes then messing about with them - no interpersonal skills required whatsoever. So I looked forward to blossoming into a confident and friendly researcher, highly trained in the art of interviewing and people management.

Plus I thought it might make me feel like a policeman.

Through the self-reflection that is part of the process I have learnt that...

I am bad at interviewing people
I am good at role-playing the following characters in a mock focus group:

1. Dominant expert “You feel you know a lot about the topic being discussed and want to let everyone know how much you know”
2. Interrupter “You aggressively interrupt with irrelevant topics, or talk over people in a way that makes it difficult for them to finish”
3. Angry and belligerent “You have personal experience of the topic in hand, something you are clearly angry about and may have an axe to grind”

Great! Behaving appallingly in a small group of lovely people was surprisingly difficult and stressful. And although the characters were assigned randomly (others had to agree with everything, or be shy, or disinterested), y'know, first impressions and all that.

Interpersonal skills FAIL.


Allison said...

Plus I thought it might make me feel like a policeman.

I don't know if its the shows I've been watching on the telly lately (probably) but I have this desire to interview/interrogate people too!

And your last comment reminded me of this...

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Oh god, I hate role playing in group exercises. I always cringe near the back, hoping they don't notice me.

I do need to learn better interview techniques though.

Karen's Mouth said...

It's actually similar to police interview technique. The idea is NOT to have any preconceptions about what you will find, or what you hope to find. So it's about not asking leading or closed questions. Which is what I suck at. Maybe it would have been better if I'd had a bright light to shine in their faces and a truncheon.

No choice, Barb, no choice. Hated it. Everybody had to do it. No escape. We had to pick roles out of an envelope. Pure chance I got to be a hateful bitch three times in a row. Ace.