For many students, this semester has been a time to live with new people, join new groups, start new jobs, and perhaps live away from home for the first time. During this time, your student may have been exposed to new thoughts, opinions, and positions than before.
Now that we have reached November, Thanksgiving and winter break are quickly approaching, many students will begin making their way back home. We want to help you navigate difficult conversations that may arise with your student so you both can have a fun and restful break.
Set the Stage
If it is time to have a difficult conversation, you need to properly set the stage. In her 2017 book We Need to Talk, renowned mediator and communication scholar Celeste Headlee presents three important action steps to help drive more beneficial and productive conversations. The first is described as “Be there or go elsewhere”. It is crucial to be committed to conversations about conflict and reaching a resolution for the conflict. Secondly, before engaging in the resolution conversation, is it important to self-reflect checking for any bias or assumptions you have made about the situation or parties involved. The third action step, which Headlee argues may be the most important, is to put away any electrical devices or phones before any conversations, but especially difficult ones. Don’t use do not disturb or silent, don’t just put the phone on the table face down, put it away- out of sight out of mind.
Advice from the Center for Conflict and Dispute Resolution
Missouri State University is proud to house a full-service Conflict and Dispute Resolution (CDR) Center that provides resources for handling conflict that may arise. Director Dr. Charlene Berquist and Assistant Director Heather Blades provided the following advice on how to have a happy holiday season and handle difficult conversations.
- Choosing to Respond… or not. It is important in conflict to manage emotions that may come out. If a conflict arises that may become an unproductive argument, focus on listening to understand the other person’s perspective before responding out of anger. By adjusting your response to the other person, you can alter the dynamic of the relationship. Sometimes, the way in which we respond to comments by others can create more conflict. When we respond out of anger or defensiveness, the situation is likely to escalate. However, when we take the time to listen before responding, it can help reach a more peaceful resolution. If that does not work, you also have the option to not respond/not engage in the argument. Surprisingly often we can end the drama simply by not responding, or by saying “OK” and moving on. No response IS a response, and a powerful one.
- Help others feel recognized and appreciated. Sometimes in our own stress we forget that holidays are stressful for others as well. Help your student feel more relaxed, loved, and valued by making a point to tell them something you appreciate about them, or by clearly recognizing something they have done well over the past year. We too often assume others know what we are thinking or how we feel about them. Just a few words of love, support, appreciation, or encouragement can mean a lot to your student.
We greatly appreciate the CDR and their staff for their contributions to this blog. For more information, assistance, or if you have any questions the CDR can be contacted at www.missouristate.edu/cdr/, by phone at (417) 836-8831, or email CDR@missouristate.edu.
We hope that your student finishes their semester strong and has a safe, relaxing, and fun Thanksgiving and winter break! As always, feel free to contact the Office of Student Conduct at StudentConduct@missouristate.edu or (317) 836-6937. Connect with us on social media @MSUConduct.