Notes from Anna's Desk

December 8, 2018
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WHAT I WISH I LEARNED IN COLLEGE…

What do you wish that you learned in college to prepare you for the real world?

As a coach, I work with many college students to help them identify their leadership style, and work towards the leader that they hope to be out there in the “real world”. This often gets me thinking about what it is that is important for them to learn beyond the courses they take.

One of the things that I wish I had known before I got out into the real world was how to deal with conflict or have an argument with an adult. This seems to be something that my student coaching clients are also trying to figure out. College can be a period of transition where some adults see you as a kid and some see you as an adult. Navigating this time period when you are in a disagreement with another adult can be tricky.

So how do we learn to deal with conflict or anything in life really? By experience! I remember thinking when I was little that when I got to be bigger, then I would be smarter, faster, more confident or whatever it was. However, when I got bigger I wasn’t better at it just because I was older. You need experience to get better not just age.

So how do we get experience with conflict? I don’t suggest that my clients go out there and pick fights. That wouldn’t be helpful for anyone! I do encourage them to think about opportunities where they feel strongly about a topic or an issue and have the chance to make a change related to that topic. Pick something that you have strong emotions around. Something that you are excited about. Is there an organization that you are involved in that you wish to see some part of that changed? Usually when you are trying to make changes conflict follows shortly.

Once you encounter a conflict, what do you do? Here are a few thoughts to help make your next conflict more productive.

Recognize your feelings. Understand what they are telling you about your situation. What are the thoughts behind those feelings? What is important to you and why? What are some things that are not negotiable for you? What are some things that you are willing to be flexible around?

Check your assumptions. You know the old adage. So, what are you assuming that you might want to check? What are the stories you are telling yourself? How can you get an outsideperspective? Is there a fact that you need to further investigate? Is there an opinion that you are imagining the other party will have without discussing it first? Ask questions of yourself and the person you are in conflict with. Try not to ask why questions as they can be more confrontational. Reframing why questions to “what’s important about that” questions can be more helpful to move the discussion along.

Let the other person know you understand their perspective. Most people just want to be heard. Conflicts can escalate when people feel that they aren’t being heard. So, what can you do about it? Check in with the other party. Restate what you think their point is and get confirmation that you have understood their perspective.

Brainstorm possible solutions together. Once you have shared your perspective and shown that you understand the other party’s perspective, then brain storm solutions together. Figure out what would work for everyone.

So, I am curious… What do you wish that you learned in college to prepare you for the real world?