When one thinks of the college or university setting the thoughts of attending classes, faculty leading the students to conclusions, campus life and studying come to mind. What most people don’t see is all of the work and organization it takes to keep the student in school, guide their journey through the curriculum and manage a safe place for them to live during their studies.

I am referring to all of the student services departments within colleges and universities. These hard working team members work through the confusing and frustrating student loan system, the matriculation of the students to reach their goals and manage campus life and the dorms. Unfortunately for these team members these areas can create a multitude of problems causing huge stresses for the student and the school team member. These stresses can cause conflict in messages and even physical threats.

Also unfortunately, the student, many times, has a pre-conceived idea of the type of reception they will receive from the school and fears there will be a lack of service and help for their problem. Add in the emotions of financial issues or roommate issues and clear communication is nearly impossible.

A powerful tool for the student services team member is to anticipate these types of communication roadblocks and have a planned template to avoid escalation of the problems and maybe even de-escalate. The tools in Verbal Defense and Influence (VDI) have been designed and tested to do exactly that. By anticipating the elevated student at their desk or counter the team member will be less likely to react and more likely to respond properly putting the student off guard by not receiving the response they thought would happen.

The late Dr. George Thompson developed a method of communication with people under stress with an elevated emotional level. He said that humans need certain elements in communication and rarely get them. He called them The Five Universal Truths. He said all people want to be:

1. Treated with respect and dignity
2. Asked – rather than told – to do something
3. Told why they are being asked
4. Offered options rather than threats
5. Given a second chance

Consider this important fact; the First Truth is unconditional. There is no reason not to show another respect even though they may not have earned it. And protecting the dignity of others requires empathy to another’s situation, background, culture and abilities. The remaining truths help remove the communication roadblocks and can promote cooperation and even collaboration.

It may seem as though some of the above elements don’t apply to student services issues, such as “threats.” This, however, is a piece that can be used to tell someone not you can’t have a certain program or loan but what can be done instead or to be ready next time they become available.

The Verbal Defense and Influence template also includes several subsequent tools to “Go Beyond Active Listening,” a practiced five step Persuasion Sequence and a technique called “Word Blocks” to redirect the conversation.

A great source for information on these techniques is the web site www.VerbalDefenseAndInfluence.com. Search the blogs and past issues of the newsletters and sign up for the newsletter to give you tips and techniques that address human conflict.

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Mark Gotsch (www.mgotsch.vistelar.com) is a consultant in Verbal Defense and Influence. He has over 20 years of experience in law enforcement and 20 years of experience in program development, coordination and training as well as serving as a collegiate adjunct professor.

Vistelar Group –