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Become More Purposeful: Address Conflict More Effectively

August 3, 2019 Molly Pierson Washington University in St Louis

To sustain a fulfilling and purposeful career in student affairs, one should maintain congruency within values and actions and a strong ability to work effectively with others. These two concepts for most people do not come easily, often involve conflict, and require maintenance. They also require one to be reflective, be comfortable with dissonance, and develop genuine care for others despite differences.

Let’s start with being reflective. Reflection is an important tool in becoming a more congruent person. Having your values, what you say, and what you do be in alignment allows you to truly be in the present and make decisions that best serve the interest of what you have chosen to care about. If you have chosen students affairs, often at the center of that choice is to make a difference in students’ lives. Some helpful questions to keep you in a reflective and congruent-oriented space are: What have I done today that demonstrates my commitment to students? Where have I gotten sidetracked? What can I do differently tomorrow?

Working effectively with others goes beyond and is different than just being a woo (winning others over). It can start with becoming more comfortable with having difficult conversations and smarter at understanding the needs of the other side. Two simple yet helpful concepts that can help tremendously when maintaining relationships are: trusting intent and owning impact and developing a genuine care for the other person. Holding these concepts within a relationship can allow you to challenge ideas, push when you need to push, and make decisions that are thoughtful and strategic. Some helpful questions to consider when you are trying to utilize these are: Why am I experiencing this person as challenging or difficult? What do I need to know from this person to trust their intent? How could my words or actions have impacted this person in ways I did not intend? Outside of our relationship, what could be impacting how this person is experiencing this situation and/or interacting with me? What do I need moving forward? What might the other person need moving forward? What is at least one goal we have in common?

Hopefully the concepts introduced above can serve as a friendly reminder and jumping off point for the continuous work of being a more present, congruent, and inclusive communicator and professional. One final question to help prioritize addressing those relationships that need it most is: Who can I make an effort to better understand and work with today to make a bigger difference in the lives of our students?