If you’re a Student Affairs administrator, you’ve probably been subject to some sort of self-assessment of your color-type, your energy-type, or the alphabet soup of Myers-Briggs. If you haven’t taken these tests of every trait you possess (and even of the traits you didn’t know existed), you’re either new to the field or you are an anomaly to the field. These tests reappear time after time in professional development sessions, leadership conferences, and team retreats. Don’t get me wrong, they provide excellent insight to how you approach a variety of situations and the inner workings of your style; however, I would argue that the self-assessments that provide us with the most valuable reflection and foresight to carry with us are those that focus on specific aspects of our style. Once you know a little bit more about your personality and what makes you, well, YOU, it’s time to dig a little deeper and discover how you act and react in specific circumstances. This type of analysis can help you tweak the small stuff, which eventually will help you extract your best qualities when that crucial moment arrives.
Recently, I attended the Missouri College Personnel Association drive-in conference for support staff at the regional colleges and universities in the state. These smaller-scale regional conferences are a wonderful asset to our professional development in the SA world because, although they may not have as fancy of resources as the national level, local connections get you more in-tune with your region and allow “real talk” between you and your fellow administrators. That conference and my opening topic collide hand-in-hand, as I had the opportunity to attend a session on conflict management and discovering your conflict management style. We took a self assessment of our conflict management style, and I would encourage all of you to take this assessment by clicking here. After you take this assessment (which is only fifteen questions), click here to see your “animal” and the adjective that describes you in a conflicting situation. Don’t cheat!
To move forward with this information about your newly discovered alter ego animal, just remember these three steps to resolving conflict with
AID: A – ANALYZE ISSUES I – IDENTIFY OPTIONS D – DETERMINE BEST SOLUTION
More frequently than we’d like to admit, emotions get entangled in conflict. But, keeping AID in mind will hopefully help you break all scales of conflict down to a more manageable size. These concepts may seem elementary in notion, but sometimes a simple reminder before attempting to resolve a problem is the best approach to take.
1) Analyze the Issue Ask yourself what the issue at hand is. Solve one problem at a time, even if a problem spirals into the domino effect. After each issue has been determined by every person involved, be sure to ask clarifying questions without using negative or accusatory inflection. When analyzing the issue, I know that an objective state of mind can be hard to reach; however, this part of conflict resolution is not the time for opinion, and objectivity really is the best way to analyze. During the analysis, each person involved needs to spell out what they would like to happen. Your group will never reach compromise if wants and needs are not clearly outlined.
2) Identify Options As much as every person involved might want to jump to the collaboration stage – take a minute for each of you to outline at least 3 possible solutions. You might be surprised by the creative juices of those around you. For each solution, determine pros and cons. Share your lists, see which elements overlapped, and see which side outnumbered the other. Also consider: is there something that each of you could change, stop doing, or start doing that would help the issue? Something as simple as writing the date and time you took a message, especially if it’s urgent, could help a process fast-forward a million miles in some situations.
3) Determine the Best Solution Now is the time to decide which solution is best to suit the needs of all parties involved. It may take a little bending by one side or the other to reach this, but the clear outline of pros, cons, and expectations will help facilitate this process. Clarify each person’s role within the solution so there is no confusion and no doubt to the role that each will be taking. Additionally, having a fail-safe is almost always a fantastic idea. What happens if this plan doesn’t work? Do you have another organized method so there isn’t mass chaos? The least you can do is have a plan of action, even if you may never need it.
These steps to AID work best in collaborative office settings, but you can apply them to almost every part of higher education. Here’s a few examples:
- When advising a student about their class schedule – make them come up with a plan if all the courses they plan on enrolling in are full.
- If a student is not admitted to your program and calls questioning why – come up with several areas of feedback for them and tell them if reapplication is a possibility. Many students think that not getting in at one school is the end-all-be-all of their lives, when frequently this is far from the case.
- If you teach classes at the university level, use your student surveys at the end of the year to guide your next curriculum – make several syllabi and consider which one is the best fit for what your students’ learning style is and what you would like them to walk away with.
Those ideas barely scratch the surface of what managing your conflict can result in. Whether you are a shark, turtle, teddy bear, fox, or owl, remember to take others’ views into account when managing your conflict. Conflict may start as an interior battle, but it rarely involves only you. Many thanks to Becca Meier from Northwest Missouri State University for presenting on this topic at the MoCPA Conference.
Assessment Source: Falikowski, A. (2002). Mastering Human Relations, 3rd Ed. Pearson Education. http://www.pearsoned.ca
Image Source: http://images.flatworldknowledge.com/bauer/bauer-fig10_006.jpg
> BONUS <
Podcast With Sue Caulfield on “Suedles”, Creativity, & Learning Styles