Having Hard Conversations

Workshop presented by Jennifer Abrams on having hard conversations in education. The centrepiece of the day was around a framework which was captured by an outstanding booklet that I will forever refer to. This blogpost is a summary of some of the ideas I jotted down and are just a snapshot of a few moments from the day.

Get into trouble…necessary trouble

Quote from U.S. congressman John Lewis, that connects to the the need sometimes to be brave and step into a conversation that might not be pleasant. Sometimes it can be necessary to make a little bit of trouble to achieve better outcomes. We can all learn more about how to have humane, growth-producing conversations.

Almost all conflict is a result of violated expectations

Quote from Blaine Lee. Setting the scene by asking if the teachers being blind sighted: Do they know what they are required to do? Do they know the expectations? Is there a shared understanding? This might mean a different – clarifying – conversation. A reconfiguring an understanding is not a ‘hard conversation’.

A hard conversation should be aligned with the Practicing Teacher Criteria – by doing so you take out the emotion and make it professional. The conversation is located in the expectations of our job.

Sometimes these hard conversations are around the idea of what is respectful. We need to be explicit about what is respectful. You need to very clear what that looks like and sounds like in practice. Come from a shared understanding.

Assorted tips for hard conversations:

  • Kiss me, kiss me, kick me – not a fair approach.
  • Think in short sentences, multiple clauses make it blurry
  • Think in professional language
  • Think short and sweet
  • If there is a pattern, describe it succinctly (“Wednesday you did this…Thursday you did this…” is not as helpful as cutting to the core of the issue)
  • Clarify what the impact is on others – make the ripple effect visible, social implications, long term consequences
  • Identify your contribution to the issue a make them feel like you are human – if appropriate. Sometimes you might have no contribution.
  • Indicate your wish to resolve the issue and request an action.
  • Determine what response you want – then be silent. Let the person think and respond.
  • Be comfortable with discomfort – hold people accountable

Certificate of workshop completion

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