Relationships are a challenge to build, especially in educational settings. Everyone is on overdrive and, often, just trying to get things done.
However, they are so necessary in the success of the organization, classroom, school, & learning community. An inclusive approach is a collaborative one. Just the other day, I was speaking with a colleague who raised a concern with a summer camp about how their child was being spoken too. My colleague felt very angry because their child felt like they were constantly being yelled at and getting in to trouble. I am not sure the contexts and nor was my colleague. She wrote an email outlining her concern from the perspective of her child. Simple enough. She figured the leader or director would reach out and ask to chat. Chatting is much better than emailing when emotions are high. However, a phone call never came. A confrontational email came, in my colleague's perspective, and it shot down her claims and criticized her for sending an email in the first place. There is now two angry adults and one upset child. No one wins! At this point, I suggested my colleague take 24 hours or so and then pick up the phone or, if possible, stop in- have a real conversation that is neither accusatory or confrontational. Explain that your concerns clearly rather than defensively. Allow the other person to respond clearly and with thought. Often when heated emails or not nice emails are sent, they are misread or miscommunicated. The context is lost.
People will have frustrations- that is okay. Parents will raise their concerns. Colleagues will share their challenges. Administration will let you know what you need to do better. As personal as it may feel, and at times it might be, you need to remember you are working in a professional learning community. As much as you may want to approach the situation in haste, bite your tongue! I sometimes bite the inside of my cheek in order to keep my mouth closed and my comments short.
It might just be their very approach to sharing will drive you nuts: maybe it is an email, maybe they are too direct, maybe they are too confusing, maybe they are not clear enough, or maybe they just don’t articulate themselves in a way you connect with or understand. Whatever the reason, just take a breath, do not open your mouth or do not hit reply!!!
Your response can change everything. Once you read their email or once you hear what they have to say- the ball is in your court. You can change the shape of the conversation.
You have an amazing opportunity to change the direction & to build (or continue to build) a relationship.
The best part is, you really don’t have to do too much.
Listen to what the person is saying. Attempt to filter out the emotional talk (this is hard, but try).
If they emailed you, read it, walk away. Do not respond until you have waited and can view the email through different perspectives.
If they are talking to you, let them know you hear them, try to recap just their main point- then let them know you will get back to me within a day or so.
Take a breather leave the conversation or email alone. When you are ready to respond in a calm, focused, and clear fashion then do so.
This is really hard- many of us are upset when we have upset someone or something is confrontational. BUT walk away.
The goal is to be able to hear & listen to the concerns of the person. Whether you agree or see it differently, you need to be able to converse with a clear head and open mind.
RespondIt is okay to have a different perspective. We need to share, discuss, and listen- not decent & interrupt.
Sharing & listening is best done when emotions are neutral, people are calm, and you are face to face (or over the phone). Try to leave emails alone- too much miscommunication.
Ensure you keep the emotion out of it, but make sure you validate the concerns or frustrations of the other person- even if you disagree with them.
Ensure you clearly articulate your message too!!!
Follow-up You are building a relationship here or continuing to build one. Following up with the person after your conversation not only shows them that you care about the conversation (even just a bit), but it shows them you are willing to work with them to support whatever the context might be.