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Working with people

  1. Aug 4, 2011 #1


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    Just clarifying that this post may look like a rant on people i've meet, but really i'm looking for advices on how to work with or deal with people in these type of situations

    So today in one of our undergraduate lab sessions, we needed to work through a series of matlab exercises.
    From writing down the answer for the first exercise sheet onwards my friend start to ask me about how to do to everying single thing in every step of the way. Basically throughout the whole 90min I've been hearing:

    "So what should we write for this?"
    "So do we do this?"
    "Why are you writing that down?"
    "Then what do we do?"
    "What does this letter mean?"
    "Is this write is I write that?"
    "Why doesn't this work?"

    Without exaggeration, I had like 200~300 of those questions bombarded at my left ear during that session. I ignored most of them, just answering the selected few had already made me hoarse.
    What annoys me most is that
    1) most of the answers to these questions are either ridiculously obvious, self-explanatory, or written in the damned exercise instructions
    2) for the past year and a half, this friend of mine is pretty much an A+ student (and I'm not, more like a B+ ~ A- type student at this point) so he's definitely capable.

    This is not the first time my friend has been like that, and definitely not the first time I know people who are clearly capable but have to ask for help/confirmation every step of the way.
    It just made me wonder:
    - is this something normal among people these days, or
    - is this something about me that allows things like this or making me have a tendency to get along with these type of people, or
    - I am just luckly enough to meet a bunch of people like this? although the majority of my friends aren't like that

    I mean I don't mind helping people with class work every now and then but having to ask me about everything every step of the bloody way is just a little far imo.

    anyone here have experience dealing with this type of people? I definitely don't enjoy offending others, can always use their help one day.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 4, 2011 #2


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    Could be a variety of reasons, your friend could be worried about failure and judge you to be really good. My advise would be not to do or say anything negative (after all they're just trying to get the work done) but to structure how you work together so that you are working together. Ask questions in return along the lines of "what do you make of this?", "how do you think we should do this?", "let's both do it separately then compare answers". In situations like this I like to foster a loose team-like attitude where team members have a lot of independence.

    Hope that helps!
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2011
  4. Aug 4, 2011 #3


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    Thanks, that does make a lot of sense
  5. Aug 4, 2011 #4


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    If the guy's a mostly A/B student, he didn't get there by being this way all the time, so maybe he's going through some personal issues that have undercut his confidence in his abilities.

    If he's actually a friend, why don't you just talk to him about the issue (of how he's acting, not so much directly about what might be bothering him).
  6. Aug 4, 2011 #5


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    I agree with this but if you want to talk to him about it be as delicate as possible! Uni studies are hard at the best of times, if he's going through something that has undermined his confidence having someone point out that he's not flourishing may make the situation worse (speaking from experience here).
  7. Aug 4, 2011 #6


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    what i'm thinking is, given the amount of people i have encountered that acts that way, it is probably something to do with me.

    Considering how I have a habit of always rushing ahead in work to be quicker than everyone else, that might be having some effects on some of those around me. While most people are fine with me in that regard, i guess others may lose confidence seeing me do that.
  8. Aug 5, 2011 #7
    I don't think it's necessarily others losing confidence when they see what you're doing, I think it's probably more they recognize your ability and they also want to do well so they seek your help.

    As for your friend specifically, if he normally gets A's, then he can probably be more independent, and since you guys have been friends for a while you should be able to handle this sort of thing either by what others suggested, telling him nicely he's being obnoxious, or, I think perhaps better:
    Since you said a lot of his questions could be answered in the instructions, tell him "it's in the instructions". If it's something that's easily found in the help index of the program, show him where the help index is. Suggest "why don't you try to work these out independently and then when you're done we can compare answers".

    Or, you could just say something like "Whats up with you today? You normally get this stuff." To kind of call attention to his clingy-ness, without telling him he's being annoying. Maybe he's just hyper or chatty and doesn't realize he's running his mouth. Maybe he's depressed and feels overwhelmed by the assignment. Maybe he's not familiar with the program or the exercises, and you could offer to go over what he needs to know outside of class so next time he'll be able to do it himself. (I find helping people outside of class preferable to trying to show them stuff during class when I'm trying to work in the set amount of time.)

    As far as similar experiences, I have had them. In high school chemistry we would be handed a packet of worksheets at the beginning of the week to be completed by Friday. I tended to finish by Tuesday or Wednesday, and then the questions from everyone else were incessant. I got so tired of it (especially because I was unpopular socially and these were the same people would never think to be nice to me in the halls) that I started not doing my worksheets until the last half of class on Friday. Then when they would ask during the week, "did you do this one yet?" I could just say no.

    Now though, I have friends..okay friend....who are smart too, and we share questions with each other equally. And I try to really restrict questions during class time. Usually interaction in class is limited to passing a short note and then it can be looked at at the reader's convenience when there's a lull in the lecture.
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