I talk about a lot of different things in Viva Survivor workshops, but there are certain tips or pieces of advice that often encounter a bit of resistance. See if they do the same for you that they do for others:

  • “Use Post It notes to add bookmarks or details to your thesis.”
  • “Pause and make a note after each question.”
  • “Feel free to ask your examiner if they can expand on a point.”
  • “It’s fine to ask for a break if you need one.”

Did any of those make you feel awkward, or make you feel that it would be awkward in the viva? Are you happy with the idea of pausing in silence to think? Do you feel comfortable with making notes? What do you think your examiners will say if you do or ask for any of these things?

Awkwardness is one of those things we develop over time. It’s related to stories that we come to believe. For example, if you feel awkward about the idea of pausing to make a note after a question, I would guess that you generally believe it’s rude to keep someone waiting if they’ve asked you a question.

Stories are powerful, but you can change them. If you feel awkward about any of the circumstances around the viva, or if anyone’s advice makes you think, “Sounds good but I couldn’t,” then see what you can do to change the story. Explore whether there’s a more helpful narrative you can take with you to talk about your research.