Negotiation skills

There is a problem with my students. They don’t know how to ask for something without being rude about it. I am sure they have valid points about their needs and demands, but they come across as rude or impertinent. In such situations my job is to step back and evaluate. Ask the essential question:

Why?

Young people especially in the education system are not taught to deal with challenges and accept defeat or better, rise to the occasion and conquer their own selves. We just don’t teach them that. I am afraid most of the time we fail them on coming up with life skills such as these.

In my own school teachers expect results – test results, exam results, homework submission on time. We do make compromises and we do extend deadlines, but that is mostly it. We hardly ever ask for the why behind the difficulties. When students confront us with some demand, we think they are wrong, lazy or unprepared.

Which may very well be. But they don’t know how to cmmunicate, let’s say „I’m in an abusive home environment and studying online is not my top prirority right now“. And we do not read minds. So we are at a mute point.

What to do?

Recently faced with such a conundrum I had to reevaluate my own behaviour, gather some intel (from parents, friends, teachers, etc. ), a.k.a play the detective and come up with a suggestion to all parties involved. I know, I did not sign up for this when they said, come teach some Japanese. But I love it.

First steps

When you show willingness to listen, things improve. Students gain confidence to share, ask and evaluate, too. Also, be rigorous. No one wants threats without consequences. If they even sniff at indecision, it is game over. That is when you’ve lost credibility and respect. So, tough it out. No fear.

Negotiation

Then comes the give-and-take. They will say „I want a passing grade!“ – sure, we knew that. But what did you do to deserve it? Online or not, education requires work. Did you do your own? If not, state your reasons why. If the reasons are found acceptable, we can extend periods. Or, you can get a different kind of task. But don’t count on too many easy outs, they are not the answer. If the student is unwilling to to some give they cannot expect to just take. Hard limits.

Attitude problem

The hardest part during negotiation is to get rid of the ego and see past attitude. They will show it, we know we have our own. Can we shelf those for a half hour period and speak candidly about needs/expectations. I believe if we can do that a great lesson will be learned.

The lesson

Do your work, commit to your expectations. If it doesn’t come easily to you, option A – try harder, option B – try smarter, by prioritizing better.

For example, are you cutting sleep hours to play computer games, but want an A in history? Try cutting the games first, before complaining of demanding tasks. Do some of your work and then demand.

Teachers also learn this way – that the way they set goals and expect results will lead student behaviour. In conclusion, rigor, honesty and some solid negotiation skills are the key to any relationship.

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