My friend and fellow blogger Jessica Balsley has this amazing website called The Art of Education. Today’s post is a re-post of one of my favorite pieces that she has written: “The Art of Getting What You Want!” This piece is one of the most powerful I have read on the subject of negotiation and working through conflict with grace. As we talked about yesterday, this is a stressful time of year. I think Jessica gives us all some eloquent strategies for being positive and more importantly, the consummate professional when we run into these conflicts. Thanks for the permission to repost, Jessica! And if you’d like to check out more entries from Jessica, check out her blog at The Art of Education!
The Art of Getting What You Want
As art teachers, we all know an “art” doesn’t always have to involve drawing and painting. Sometimes you need to become a master “craftsman” regarding many aspects of this profession. Today The Art of Education will explore The Art of Getting What you Want. I will show you how to express your concerns without complaining and help you build your professionalism to gain the respect you deserve. I know you have complaints and concerns regarding many different things at your place of work. We all do. Especially around this time of year when plans for next school year are starting to surface, we want to let administration, co-workers and parents understand our opinions and expertise in a variety of areas. I have found there are several things you can do to let your concerns be known without sounding like a lazy, complaining teacher (which is one of my biggest pet peeves and why this blog supports positive, can-do attitudes)
A Little Background…
Attached to my computer in all caps, I have a note at school. It says “NO COMPLAINING.” I had quickly realized after my first few years of teaching that the world of teaching can get pretty complain-y pretty fast. I hated it. It was no way to spend your time at work, especially in an environment where we work with some of the most positive subjects: kids! Secondly I have a unique position within my district. I am not only an art teacher, but I facilitate professional development for our art department. Because of this, one of my roles is to take ideas/concerns/questions from my art team to the curriculum department. I am sort of the ‘go between.’ I love this role and absolutely love meeting the needs of my team members, however, it seems I am the only voice that gets heard on behalf of the art department and sometimes a lot of that involves an issue or concern that I am expressing from our team. I’ve found some great strategies to use to keep interactions professional and help to get the desired results for our team.
Because of these strategies, I have been very successful at working with both ends of the spectrum in our district and getting many changes and initiatives going. Do things always work out just the way I want, and do I always get what I am asking for? Of course not.
Expressing your concerns in a professional way gets one of two things accomplished:
The Outcome You Want AND/OR Respect from colleagues, even without the desired result you were looking for.
Complaining gets the following results:
The Outcome You Want (if you are lucky) OR/AND loss of respect from colleagues and no desired outcome.
Here are my Three Rules for Getting What You Want.. Follow this formula for initiating tough conversations with anyone in a professional manner, and you will still keeping the respect and dignity in tow.
Interactions should be:
Let’s dive into what each of these surefire strategies looks like:
First of all, decide who can best answer your question or address your concern. Then, set up a meeting. This shows you are serious and willing to carve out time. Even if you see this person in passing all the time, wait until the meeting to bring up the subject. It will be much more professional than a “Teacher’s Workroom” conversation. Explain the purpose of the meeting when you set it up. “I would like to meet with you to talk over some concerns and questions that have been brought up regarding ______.” Give a general idea, but leave it vague. The meeting is productive because it is focused, time specific and will not get jumbled up with other topics. If it’s an important enough concern, it deserves its own meeting and will have much more impact when given special time.
Take the emotion out. Again. Take the emotion out. No one cares of this upsets you, or it’s hard for you or if whatever the situation is very challenging for you. Stick to the facts and concrete information when you have your meeting.
Instead of This:
“It’s really really hard for me to make it to my school on time when I travel and I can’t even find time to use the bathroom, it’s impossible to teach this way and it makes me so rushed and crabby, please lengthen the traveling time so I can be a happier teacher”
“The time it takes to get to school x has lengthened about 20 % the past school year since student drop off times have become later. In the last month, I have timed my travel time and it has taken on average 35 minutes. Sometimes, when I enter my classroom, the students are already there. This is safety issue first and foremost, secondly it becomes impossible to adequately prepare for instruction with less than 3 minutes to get supplies ready in the art room. This issue is effecting student learning and safety.”
Do you see the difference between a well thought out concern and one that involves on the fly emotion? Of course what you feel is #1, but like I said before: No one cares if something is “hard”- Everyone’s job is hard in some way.
This is my favorite one. DIRECTLY after you express your concern and the facts surrounding it, do not give anyone an chance to answer you. Not yet. Here is where you say “and I have two solutions I have come up with and researched to help remedy this problem and in this attached proposal I would like to walk you through each of those”… I am not kidding. Even when it really wasn’t technically my place, I have made proposals. What can it hurt? Some of the best proposals also include examples and models from other places. If it works for them, why can’t it work for us. People like ideas that work and have proven they work. Like I said before, even if they don’t go for your proposal, at least you’ll gain respect for being organized and proactive instead of just coming with your concerns and nothing else.
Chances are the colleagues you are presenting to are very busy people. They will want quick and easy solutions and they will probably not have time to sit down and come up with their own solutions in as depth as you will. So take advantage of the situation and make it very easy for them to jump on board.
All problems need a solution. Higher ups look over the people with complaints and look to the people with a productive answers to any given problem. Will it always go your way? NO. However, by using these three rules you can keep conversations professional, gain respect, and have a better chance of obtaining the outcome you want in any given situation.
Good luck and remember- No Complaining!
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.