Communication Strategies … and … Suggestions When a Tutee is Frustrated

Many people don’t listen.
Often, in discussions, debates, or complaints, people wait, thinking about what they want to say next without listening. Many believe they are correct, know better, and must convince you they are confident in their knowledge. Even as they ask a question, people often do not listen for the answer since they have an answer they expect. They believe the only way to get what they want is to convince others that their answer is correct.

Listening attentively helps in fully understanding.
By trying to remember what you want to say next, you often miss parts of the conversation. Further, you miss cues, make assumptions, and break down communication. In the end, conversations leave both parties feeling upset, further collaboration is difficult, and relationships are tough to repair.

Respect is central to communication.
Two entities communicate and relate effectively when they respect each other. However, when one party believes they are smarter, better, or more knowledgeable, they dominate and leave no room for discussion. Sometimes, people use body language or loud speech to command attention. Other times, they convince others that they know better. Yet, being the smartest in the room leaves little room for others to contribute to the conversation or project.

Forceful discourse puts people on the defensive.
People feel defensive when someone yelps at them, insisting on a specific, predetermined result. Without listening attentively to others, there is little opening to having a conversation. People are thrown off and uncomfortable and resort to their fight or flight mechanism. They will either fight back against the aggressive body posture, language, or tone, give in to the demand, retaliate by getting back at the person, or walk away from the conversation.

Tutoring example with a frustrated student…
In tutoring, students often ask a question they have been trying to answer for hours. They need help figuring out the problem even after looking up various solutions. They come to the tutor and ask for help. The student gets angry as the tutor begins to look through the question and try to figure out how to solve the problem. “I already know that,” they say, “I want to know how!” The tutor politely says, “Let me read the question.” The student jumps back, saying, “I need to know the answer.” The tutor tries to reread the question, but the student says, “You are supposed to know.” The tutor gets defensive and insists on having a minute to run through the possible techniques while also figuring out how to explain the answer. The student, obviously frustrated, demands that the tutor tell them how to do the problem.

Alternative methods to resolve conflict when the tutee’s frustration builds…
There are many ways to resolve the tutee’s angst. One way is to lower the frustration by stopping the tutee’s aggressive approach and taking a breath. Sometimes that does not work. Empathizing with the student may help. Being vulnerable and describing a time when they faced a similar situation may help. Taking control of the process might work. Agreeing to get back to them on that question and moving on to the next might be a good strategy. However, another option might be to ask the student what they have done to figure out the question, putting the conversation in their hands and respecting their attempts. These are all possibilities since communication needs to work for both parties.

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