. Regurgitated Alpha Bits: Communication Breakdown

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Communication Breakdown

I wish I were a better communicator under pressure. 

Take, for example, an upset parent. (Take them, please!)

I wish I were the kind of person who could put that person at ease; reassure them and convince them that I am open to hearing what they have to say. Let's have a dialogue! But angry parents don't always seem to want that, so communication feels more like confrontation. 

Honestly parents, I understand wanting an answer to your questions or concerns. I want you to understand my motivation or reason for doing what I do, and that I am always coming from a place of caring for your child. I am not afraid or ashamed to apologize when I've made a mistake. I make them all the time! 

But maybe I begin feeling like angry, upset parents are questioning my commitment to serving them and their children in the right manner? Maybe that throws me off? 

One thing I do know about me is that, in my life outside school, I am one who fights back when confronted. That is certainly not who I want to be at school though, and I am concious of that and work very hard to counteract that tendency of mine when I am at school. Does squashing my initial instinct to fight back send me into a tailspin?

In any event, it doesn't take long for me to become a blathering fool, fumbling to explain things and gesticulating all over the place. I rarely feel like a truly upset parent leaves feeling any better after talking to me. 

How do you learn to stay cool and use the right words to defuse tension? 

I know, I know. Some parents can't be placated. They just want to unleash their anger. That's not all of them though. Not even the majority. 

How do I become a better communicator under pressure? 


liana nazaretyan said...

I love how real you are!

Usually, when I confrontational parent, I always apologize that they are upset, and then I ask what is making them so upset. I let them know, even before they begin their rant, that I am there with them to help out to the best of my ability. This usually calms them down. Then they discuss their needs, and I try to see if it is something that I can accommodate. If I can, great! If I can't, then I will discuss exactly why. But most of the time, I will accommodate.

This comes natural to me, because in my personal life I am not very confrontational. I hope this helps. :)

Can't wait to hear your other posts!

William Wheeler said...

Great question... one that any teacher has to deal with constantly in their careers. I once heard a radio personality say that if you are feeling like you could lose control and say things you might regret, just step back and take a deep breath. There is a biological reason for this, as the breath allows your brain to get some oxygen and process information faster. It gives you the space you need to formulate the best response and diffuse the tension. This could help you make a potentially bad situation much better.

Edna Lee said...

@Liana, thank you so much! Starting with an apology probably goes a long way to brining the temperature way down. That's great advice.

@William, a big thanks to you as well. I use deep breaths when dealing with my students. You are so right in suggesting I use it with parents.

This is why I love blogging. There a people way smarter than me out there, and I can benefit from their knowledge. :-)

Edna Lee said...

...bringing the temperature way down.

I need an edit button.

Becky said...

Your blog is so real and refreshing! As a future educator I am so glad to see that it is not always puppies and rainbows. I would use deep breaths with parents, and just try to keep the situation calm. Thanks for the laughs!

Edna Lee said...

Good advice, Becky. Even after 18 years of teaching, I am certainly still a work in progress. ;-) Best of luck to you as you begin this wonderful teaching journey!

Donna Kennedy said...

My name is Dr. P and I am a GT grade 5 teacher and educational psychologist. I am new to blogging and plan to start my own in the near future. I want to comment on William Wheeler's excellent response to the communication dilemma suggested last March. Not only is he biologically correct but psychologically as well. The deep breath he mentions allows for a small amount of time to lapse before knee-jerk responses create more trouble. The time lapse gives the fired-up parent a chance to see that you are not rattled and also to think about what he or she just said. Another hint- if you can possibly relate to something that happened in your personal life that compares to the situation the parent sees him or herself in, you will most likely be facing a very interested listener instead of a raving individual who is most likely mad at the world and is using you as a punching bag.
Dr. P