Campus Conflict


I'm having a problem with one of my professors. I don’t agree with any of his comments on my reports and he's not interested in my ideas. I am stuck, what can I do?

Your question about student-teacher conflict resonates with all 20M U.S. college students, who empathize with you. We want to help you get along with your professor, but we appreciate your question is deeper and more complex. How are you going to respond to conflict throughout college, in your job, and in your family life? We understand you're in an unpleasant situation, but since you're in college, it's time you learn about conflict resolution.

Many of the principles of conflict resolution in the workplace can also be applied to college. It's even a job requirement for certain positions in the corporate world. Any form of conflict will reduce productivity and create a difficult work or study environment. Conflicts usually involve a difference in opinion, in this case yours and your professor’s.

The first step towards resolving this disagreement is mutual recognition that a problem exists. Is your lecturer aware of your feelings towards his comments on your reports? If he is, as it appears to be, try to set aside a time for you both to discuss the issue. Doing it during a class or just after one has finished is not likely to be fruitful as both of you are rushed. Decide on a mutually agreeable time to meet up for a coffee in a relaxed atmosphere to discuss the issues.

There must be willingness for compromise by one or both of you. By discussing it, you may gain better insight as to why he is commenting in such a manner. There could be reasons that you have yet to consider leading to a possible change of direction on your part. Conversely, if your lecturer spares the time to listen to you, he may take onboard some of your arguments and ideas, compromise is the key to conflict resolution.

There are definitely things you want to avoid when trying to resolve a conflict. An inability to recognize and respond to the things that matter to the other person can make things worse. Failure to compromise or even consider the other viewpoint is also counterproductive, there are two sides to every argument. Completely evading the conflict or confrontation can amplify it and make it fester, leading to further anxiety. Openness and discussion is the way forward. These are the same techniques we use in arbitration and mediation, explains a business lawyer, in order to help our clients avoid litigation.

Whether you agree with his comments or not, you will need to learn a few skills if you want to attempt to resolve the issue amicably. Staying calm and in control of your emotions and behavior can help to communicate your ideas without being intimidating, angry or threatening. These are the skills elementary school children are taught in a Montessori education of constructive and respectful problem-solving options. The same approach is transferrable to dealing with problems at an adult level.

Paying attention to and respecting the opposing viewpoint can also go a long way to creating a mutually agreeable solution.

Take the positives from the situation and learn from the experience whether your professor comes round to your way of thinking or not. Either way, you've gained new skills in conflict resolution which will be of value when you enter the workplace. Diplomacy, assertiveness, empathy and mediation are all required to solve problems between conflicting parties, you have just practiced them all.

Conflict is productive - Patrick Lencioni.

(Nadeem Ghori is President of Webplex, a digital analytics agency).

UTA Radio on Facebook

Twitter Feed

UTA News