Keep Your Family and Friends Educated

Unless your family and friends have themselves undertaken PGR studies at the same level as you, you are going to be embarking on an experience that may be alien and strange to them. It is possible that they may struggle to understand your experience, what it is you are actually doing, how to judge whether or not you are being successful and the impact it may have on how you are feeling.

It may also be that, as your research progresses, your knowledge increases and you become more immersed in your research, they may even find the language you are using opaque and difficult to grasp.

This is not their fault and nor is it a sign that they lack intelligence or that they don’t care about you and what you are doing.

Social environments and activities often have their own internal rules, language and processes that help those who are part of the group communicate with each other and work effectively. However, while all of these rules help those inside the group, they can be difficult to understand for those on the outside [1].

Maintaining a social network outside your research can be helpful for your wellbeing and your work. This includes your family and the friends you had before you began post-graduate research. However, to maintain these networks, you may need to help them to understand what you are doing. This may require patience and an acceptance on your part that some aspects of your work may always be outside their understanding or that there may be a natural limit to their interest. They won’t have your love or aptitude for your area of research (see also “Not Everyone Needs to Understand Your PGR Studies“).

Remembering this can help you to avoid becoming unnecessarily frustrated with those around you. There are a number of steps that can help you to maintain these relationships and help those around you to understand what is going on.

  1. Remember how much you knew before you started studying this topic – it can be easy when you develop expertise to assume that everyone else knows as much as you do – for your own expertise to be invisible to you. Be patient, check out how much the person you’re talking to knows and work from there.
  2. Be careful not to patronise – just because they don’t understand your subject as much as you do, it doesn’t mean they aren’t intelligent or couldn’t grasp it as well as you if they’d had your education.
  3. Check out how much they want to know – this may vary for them, depending on how they feel and what is going on in their lives.
  4. Share your successes as well as talking about any difficulties you encounter. 
  5. Remember that their lives are still going on as well – try to balance conversations and make sure you ask about how they are and that you listen to their answers.
  6. Be willing to explain what may seem obvious to you.
  7. Drip feed those around you with small amounts of information over time, rather than overwhelming them all in one go.



Burns, T. R., & Dietz, T. (1992). Cultural evolution: Social rule systems, selection and human agency Institutionalisation of the climate change paradigm View project CONSTRUCTING AND APPLYING SOCIAL SCIENCE GAME AND INTERACTION THEORY View project. Article in International Sociology.