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10 Things to Remember If Your Loved Ones Are Scientists

10 Things to Remember If Your Loved Ones Are Scientists

Scientists are a strange lot. If you’re lucky enough to have a scientist as a loved one, you’ve also stared at them and wondered exactly what goes on in their heads. I know this because that’s what my wife tells me. I’ve spent my entire career as a scientist, from nuclear chemist to rocket scientist with multiple US Patents.

Being a scientist, I can tell you that there are times when even we aren’t sure what’s going on in our heads. Being the analytical people we are, we tend to be very introspective, very detail oriented, and, for better or worse, very straight forward.

I’ve been a scientist for over 20 years now, so here is some insight into the scientist’s world.

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1. We see the world through scientific lenses.

Just as artists see the world through an artist’s lens, scientists see the world through scientific lenses. We tend to think analytically, always wondering how things work, and sometimes looking for ways to improve whatever it is we’re looking at. Having this worldview also impacts the language we use to describe things to others and how they understand the way things work. If your loved one is a scientist, learning some of their language will be beneficial in translating their words from science-speak to plain English.

2. We’re slightly nuts.

Scientists often perform very mentally-taxing work. Having to think hard, seemingly all the time, can drive some people mad. Scientists, and good scientists in particular, channel that madness into their sense of humor. In the 20+ years I’ve worked as a scientist, I’ve found that some of the most talented people are also just a little bit crazy.

3. We’re always thinking.

For most scientists, the job doesn’t end when the work day is over. We know that inspiration can come at any time of the day and in any situation. Therefore, we all have a whiteboard in our heads where we mentally take notes, work out problems, design experiments, etc. If you catch us looking up and to the left, just know we’re writing on that mental whiteboard.

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Another side effect of always thinking is that we sometimes verbalize our thoughts to help us process. In the 10 years my wife and I have been together, she’s learned to ask whether I’m talking to her or just talking out loud. In the cases where it’s the latter, my wife knows she really doesn’t have to listen to a word I say, I’m just processing data.

4. We’re resilient.

Scientists know that >90% of their experiments will end up in failure and good scientists don’t let this stop them. Rebounding from endless failures in the laboratory transfers to real life where failures are often greeted with a shrug and a few moments of reflection on lessons learned before moving on to the next plan. Talk to any scientist and they’ll tell you far more “hmm…that wasn’t supposed to happen” stories than “eureka!” stories—and they typically involve unexpected fires, broken glassware, and sometimes even explosions.

5. We can come off as aloof.

Being analytically oriented, we take in data constantly. It doesn’t matter if we’re watching television, at the grocery store, or in social situations. If your scientist, like me, is an introvert by nature, being in their own heads is their safe space. In there we review everything that’s going on around us, analyzing the situation we’re in, and formulating the best solution. The downside to this is that we often come off as aloof, disinterested in what’s going on around us. It’s something almost all scientists struggle with how to engage in the seemingly banal after spending our days pondering how to unlock the secrets of the universe.

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6. We often give complicated answers to simple questions.

Scientists deal in complexity. Because of this, simplicity tends to be elusive. It’s like the old saying goes, “ask him what time it is and he’ll tell you how to build a watch.” For those of you who remember the TV series Cheers, asking a scientist a simple question will often get you a Cliff Claven answer. If you find yourself getting frustrated because your scientist won’t give you a simple answer, remember that, to him/her, the question you asked cannot be answered simply. Be patient with your scientist; they’ll get to the answer you’re looking for—eventually.

7. We can be painfully honest.

Scientists often don’t have time to entertain extraneous nonsense. We’re taught and trained to seek out and identify a problem’s root cause. We view data objectively, without emotion, and simply “calls ’em like we sees ’em.” Keep this in mind before you ask your scientist “what should I do?” They’ll ask you a few direct questions, mull over the information you give them, and usually give you an honest, no B.S. answer. Problem solving has no emotional component to it—most of the time. Because of this, we scientists do tend to deliver our opinions without the tact the situation sometimes needs. Think Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory and you’ll have an idea of how this plays out.

8. We can struggle to be empathetic at times.

After asking a scientist what you should do, be prepared to implement the suggested solution. If you come back to your scientist and ask them what you should do about the same problem, they’ll ask you if you did what they suggested last time you asked. If the answer is no, they’ll be disinterested in helping you out further until you’ve attempted the first solution they gave you. They see no sense in offering another solution when the first one hasn’t even been tried. Plus, we can’t offer a different solution if we don’t know how the first solution fared. It’s not that we don’t care about what you’re going through; it’s just that we see little sense in dwelling on a problem when there are solutions available.

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9. We’re creative problem solvers.

Scientists are innovators. Whether in the research lab, on the manufacturing floor, or around the house, we’re always looking for ways to best solve problems—even those that may not yet exist. Now, sometimes our solutions may be 2-parts Rube Goldberg and 4-parts Steam-punk and seem completely illogical to you, but you can never doubt our creativity! This, however, does not extend across multiple disciplines. There are plenty of times my wife has questioned the complexity of my solution to a problem outside of my expertise—and plenty of times she’s rightfully chuckled at my attempts at building a better mousetrap.

10. We sometimes have difficulty making decisions.

There is a downside to thinking analytically, and its common name is “paralysis by analysis.” Scientists hunger for data and, well, if we feel we don’t have enough data to make a good decision we won’t decide. For example, a few years ago I was searching for a new car. Most people will check a couple websites, test drive a couple models, and they’ll have enough to make their choice. Not me. I had a stack of brochures two feet high and a spreadsheet that cross compared every possible specification of the cars I was interested in. I wanted to be sure I was making the absolute best choice for my money. If your scientist has seemingly endless stacks of printed pages, brochures, or bookmarked product review websites, just know they’re doing all they can to make the best choice they can.

Scientists are a proud folk. We pride ourselves on problem solving, pushing technology forward, and unlocking the secrets of the universe. It’s sometimes difficult to transition from data driven scientist to personable human, particularly when working on a complex issue at our jobs. If you are close to a scientist, you’ll have a loyal, smart, and honest companion to travel the roads of life with,

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Christian Salafia

Rocket-scientist, Nuclear Engineer, Theologian, and creator of the TransformRadio podcast

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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