April 12, 2012

Effective Complaining

Sometimes I have students who will have problems or issues with someone for a specific reason. I will talk to them about how to talk with the person they have issues with in a mature and responsible way. One must be cordial, respectful, and calm when working with others to try to solve a problem. It also helps to be clear in explaining what the issue is and how you would like it resolved.  

For example, if a student has a problem with a teacher, I will encourage them to first calmly and clearly state what the problem is. The more specific, the better. For example, it would not help to yell in anger, "My teacher is a mean old woman! She makes fun of me all of the time! She should be fired!" It would be more helpful for the student to describe exactly what the teacher said or did that the student thought was problematic. It is difficult to take someone seriously when they resort to name calling while vaguely describing the issue. For the example I provided, it would be better to say, "When my teacher called on me today to answer a question and I answered it incorrectly, she laughed out loud and said, "You could not be more wrong! Geez, what is the matter with you?!" I thought she was disrespectful. It hurt my feelings and I would like for her to apologize." Note the difference? Which response do you think will be taken more seriously and bring the student closer to resolving the issue? 

Another tip I give to students, always say you were disappointed, not angry. It seems as if the word disappointed helps gets your point across more. I got this advice from another teacher I worked with in the past. In fact, an article from Woman's Day discussing how to complain effectively, points this out. 

I think the students I work with are capable of handling issues in a mature and rational manner, even the very young ones. Wouldn't it be great if there were classes they can take to learn how to complain and communicate their ideas more effectively? Adults could benefit from some classes as well, including myself. 


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