Here's a topic I haven't seen on here. So I work in science, and a couple times a year I go to scientific conferences for professional development, paid for by my boss. I always take a poster I've made that explains my project. The conferences have a big hall where everyone hangs up their posters in numbered spots and attendees can look them over. There's a couple hours set aside when people are specifically supposed to be standing by their posters to answer questions from other interested attendees.
I've been to over a dozen conferences but at the last one, I had the rudest person I've ever encountered. Now I'm worried that I will see this specific person again at the next conference, or someone like her, and I'm wondering what kinds of things I can politely say to her. I'm honestly not sure if there is
a polite way to say, "Leave me alone now," during a stated poster session, when the purpose is to talk with other people about your project; unless maybe someone else comes along, and you can be like, "Nice chatting with you, but I want to give this other person the chance to ask me questions."
She started out nice, interested, asking a lot of questions, which is good. Her specialty was one particular thing, which accounted for about 10% of my project and was largely done by collaborators (not me). I explained this to her but tried to answer her questions about it anyway, and I thought I answered them pretty well; I also encouraged her to contact my boss if she wanted to know more (which is what my boss says to tell people). Then she started asking such nitty-gritty detailed questions that I'm not sure my boss
even could have answered them, and getting frustrated when I couldn't answer them.
Then there was some confusion about the terminology she was using--she was like, "What did you do about X?" and I said, "Oh, we did Y and Z," and she was like, "That doesn't make sense. What did you do about X?" Then I said, "Hmm, I guess I'm not sure what you mean by X then, could you explain it to me?" And she got all huffy and was like, "X is X! You know? It's X! What did you do about it?"
It all seemed to boil down to the fact that she didn't like our method because it wasn't what she
would have done, even though we followed the method of a leader in the field (as I pointed out). Keep in mind this is all just about 10% of my project, which she had interrupted my overview speech to focus on. Then, when it became obvious to her that I wasn't able to tell her what she wanted to hear, she said in a patronizing tone, "Well, why don't you tell me about the parts of this project you actually did
," suggesting that because I wasn't an expert on the 10% she was interested in, I actually hadn't done anything at all.
I just kept a smile plastered on my face and suggested, about a dozen times, that she take her questions to my boss. But I was pretty upset afterwards.
For what it's worth: there was no language barrier (which sometimes causes difficulty in understanding and tone) and she was about my age, maybe a bit younger. She told me she had just
finished her advanced degree and was starting her post-degree job, and her boss had been nice enough to let her come to this conference even though she was brand-new. Also, there was no one else around that she seemed aware of (like, someone she was trying to impress).