“Not enough” syndrome or “more than enough” reality?

good enough

Imagine that while doing your PhD, you are invited to give a talk or a presentation in a business organization. Obviously, the topic is connected with your area of study, however, you are only in the early stage of the research, and you don’t feel that you know ‘enough’ to actually deliver the task to the highest standard. Does it ring a bell?


I call it “not enough syndrome’ – our inner thoughts and speculations whether we still need to learn something more to present our work. Do we need to have ‘better, or more specific findings’ in order to share our wisdom to the outer world, do we need to read more, talk about the research more, prepare more, remember more,……….and the list continues?


Even before starting my PhD, I often thought that I already know a lot and that I’m ready for the opportunity to arise where I could share my insights with someone else – especially, in the professional context. On the contrary, since I started my PhD, I have realised that there is so much more to be learnt, read or done that I cannot ever be ‘now’ to share what I know. At least not with the professionals who are more experienced then me and have much more practical knowledge. Just recently I’ve been getting the opportunity I used to wait for – chances to actually collaborate with experienced business people – and share my insight or expertise on the topic.


Now, this is interesting – an expert. Am I an ‘expert’? I am aware that, by the end of a PhD journey, I should be expert in particular area of my research. However, I’m only a 1st year PhD – does it still count as an ‘expert’? I am sure that I am not alone in these thoughts. Given that the first year is mostly focused on literature and methodology of the field, it is obvious that we all can feel as ‘imposters’ in the field. We discover how much stuff is going on there, how many debates/discussions we could discover and take part in, and how we actually don’t know much comparing to the ‘established experts’ in the field.


Conclusion One: from our perspective, we are only ‘newcomers’ in the field who don’t know much. But does it matter?


Now, let’ see how people in the ‘outer’, or ‘real’ world might perceive us, PhD students. Firstly, PhD is by definition the highest academic achievement. As we have already started our journey, that proves that we have the skills, abilities, intelligence and perseverance to accomplish the highest level of education. Actually, that is per se admirable and I came across many people who really have a great deal of respect towards people pursuing their PhD. More interestingly, these people really think we are some kind of very smart people who need to know ‘everything’. It seems that we might be perceived as “good enough”, or even “more than enough” experts to tackle some interesting business issues. Hmmmm…….


Next, many business experts didn’t have a chance to pursue higher education qualification. Although they are successful in their work and they know the industry well inside-out, they could absolutely benefit from some ‘theoretical’ insights and perhaps a different perspective of their work. Would they like to collaborate with you – a PhD researcher? Well, why wouldn’t they? They would respect your desire to explore theoretically and empirically what they actually do in practice. The results could always provide another significant insight into their work and perhaps suggest better ways of doing it.


I still wonder how can we recognize ourselves at the point of being ready to tackle the industrial challenges. When do we cross our imaginary line between “not enough” and “more than enough”?


Share your thoughts with me and let’s prepare ourselves for the real world, out of the academic ivory tower, and apply our knowledge and expertise.



The Art of Negotiation and Influence

I love Cambridge. In fact, I love being a PhD candidate at Cambridge, simply because of its amazing opportunities for self – development. Since I have started my course in October, I attended numerous researcher development programs, women’s development programs, professional development, etc. Apart from providing some useful tips on doing a creative research, maximizing PhD experience, and building resilience, training programs are an excellent place for networking. As more programs I attend, the more familiar faces I can recognize. That’s how I build relationships and create new networks. That is a real blast in a PhD journey, which can often be, by default, lonely and daunting.

This week I attended a marvellous training program, The Art of Negotiation and Influence, and would like to share some stunning tips I learnt. These could be applicable in almost all the contexts. Workshop leader was Richard Mullender, an ex former Lead Trainer at the National Crisis & Hostage Negotiation Unit at Scotland Yard. Yes – it sounds pretty awesome. Mysterious and dangerous. Having negotiating with suicidal individuals on the bridges, Al Quaida, and having worked with some world governments and Secret services, Richard is definitely the successful communicator worth listening.


I will share with you some of the thoughts that surprised me:

1. You never need to be bored at meetings!
If you are chairing a meeting, summarize the main points every five minutes and you will be in charge of the meeting. In that way, you will also silent annoying people who just like talking too much…

2. Be careful with the empathy
Although you can try to understand other people, their behavior or situations, it is far from the actual understanding. Why? Because we are who we are based on our background, circumstances and worldviews, which is very different for each person. Even putting ourselves into others’ shoes means that we will look at their problems from our perspective, and the solution that might work for us doesn’t need to work for others, as they’re likely driven by different set of values and beliefs.

3. Active listening is the most important part in communicating and negotiating
That means listening to others without asking questions, or asking as few questions as possible. For example, open questions like ‘tell me all about…’, ‘why is that?’, ‘yes, and?’ are the best to use. Also, active listening allows us to focus on particular words that others are using, which we could use to manipulate the conversation in our style, asking questions relating to words they used and we want to find more about.

4. Listen to the person and sell your ideas based on his/her believes. Especially in job application, write your CV based on their values and beliefs, and let them know how will you make money for them. Negotiating means understanding their objectives and providing solutions based on their beliefs.

5.  When you ask questions – you change the agenda of a conversation. Therefore, better listen and allow the person to tell you what they want. After a while, they will reveal secrets and you can use that to manipulate.

6.  Always rehearse! Practice your job interview with someone in the first person! Prepare what you need to say.

7.  There is no difference between influence and manipulation

8. Body language theory is rubbish.
Although there are so many books based on this theory, in principle, it doesn’t work – you can’t know what other people wants if they didn’t say it. You can easily see how someone is feeling based on his/her ‘big’ body language (for example, furiously talking and gesticulating), but you can’t analyse small body language

9. We are selling ourselves all the time and we are different versions of ourselves depending whom are we talking with. For example, you probably won’t have the same communication or topic choice with your friends, supervisor, business partner, spouse, or children. As Shakespeare put it in Richard III –  “And frame my face for all occasions.”
Also, we received some interesting reading list so I will share some books worth reading:

Harry Beckwith: Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing

Paul Eckman: Emotions Revealed: Recognising Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life

Kevin Dutton: The Wisdom of Psychopaths


Share some inspiring workshops that you are attending!