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Advising Interactive Worksheet: Difficult Conversations

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At various times, we all need to have a conversation that may be difficult and where we feel uncomfortable, or even anxious. Here’s how you might prepare for such a conversation: 

  • Think about what your concerns and questions might be
    • What is the conflict about? Who is involved? 
  • As you think through the conversation, be as specific as you can about the framework.
  • Outline the conversation
    • Make a list of the topics you want to make sure to cover. 
    • Think carefully about what you’d like to say and how you’d like to say it. 
    • Write out actual sentences. 
    • What outcome would you like to achieve? 
    • What will happen if the conflict isn’t managed?

Be forthcoming and honest. Conversations go both ways. People can’t read minds. Honesty is appreciated and will likely be reciprocated. 

Keep in mind

  • Advisors and faculty are professional, caring, supportive, and knowledgeable. They also have access to resources. A conversation with an advisor or instructor may result in welcomed aid. 
  • Parents speak out of concern for you. Speaking calmly and knowledgeably, with evidence for your argument, will help to set their minds at ease. Most often, they simply want to know that you have a feasible plan. 

During the conversation 

  • Focus on actively listening and be open to accepting feedback and advice. 
  • Use collaborative language. 
  • Ask clarifying questions (i.e. neutral questions & supportive questions). 
  • Stay focused on what’s relevant to the current conversation. 
  • Make sure to summarize what you think you heard (i.e. “you seem to feel strongly about...” or, “if I’m understanding you correctly...”). 

After the conversation

  • If necessary, write a summary of what you think you heard, including the outcome(s).
  • Follow-up, and re-affirm that all involved are on the same page.

How To Have Difficult Conversations

Download our Interactive Worksheet

Academic Advising is a planning process that helps students to approach their education in an organized and meaningful way… 

—National Academic Advising Association 

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