Establishing a relationship with your supervisor
A good working relationship with your supervisor is essential since, at every stage, you need his or her professional input, constructive criticism, and general understanding. It therefore helps if the relationship gets off to a good start.

Good communication
Good communication with your supervisor based on mutual trust and respect is ideal. This develops over time, of course, but a good beginning is to talk about, and clearly establish, what each expects from the other. A friendly conversation along these lines certainly clarifies practical matters. But it also provides practice in communicating with one another. And, it is also the first step in getting to know each other.

The tone of the relationship
The tone of the relationship needs to be relaxed enough for you to be comfortable. Yet it also needs to be professional. An extremely friendly relationship may initially seem attractive and make you feel welcome. Yet, it may not withstand the later demands of robust, critical assessment of your work.

The other extreme, where the supervisor appears cold and distant and treats you as a researching automaton, and where you are afraid to speak or initiate the contact, is of course unwelcome and counterproductive.

A professional approach
The desired professional approach is where you are treated with respect-and you therefore feel safe enough to take risks and show ignorance-but also where your judgement is valued and sought. It is professional for both of you to be prepared to be accountable, and to plan a mutually agreeable working structure. Although you are expected to be taking responsibility for your own research and working independently, you also need to be prepared to consider, and not dismiss out of hand, advice or ideas put forward by your supervisor.

Well, of course, supervisors are all different (as do students!) and there is no formula for all situations. But, whatever the situation, it remains true that good communication is the key to the relationship working satisfactorily. Remember that communication operates in two directions and it does require energy, attention and commitment.

If, despite all your efforts in the early stages to establish a good relationship, you feel that you can never work together, then try to change supervisors now before both of you invest time and emotional energy.

* What can I expect from my supervisor and what does my supervisor expect from me?
* Intellectual support.
* Emotional support.
* Seeking, receiving and handling feedback.
* Strategies for getting the best feedback possible.
* Overcoming reluctance to seek feedback.
* How do I handle disagreements with my supervisor?
* Clarifying expectations.
* Learning about your rights and obligations as a student.

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