University of Maryland Aggressive Talks Aspect of Daily Human Life Discussion

Patricia, the fifth-grade teacher, also serves as an adjunct faculty member at Boise State University. One of her students, preparing to begin student teaching, said to Patricia, “You can tell kids whose families don’t have an education.”

As it turns out, Patricia, who has multiple degrees and solid educational credentials, grew up in a lower-middle class family, the daughter of parents who had to drop out of school to begin working. She didn’t immediately challenge her student’s comment. Instead, she said, “Tell me more. Tell me what you mean by that.” She says that approach accomplished two things. One, it led the speaker to encounter his own blind spots or bits of ignorance as she teased out the reasons behind his thinking. Two, it helped her better understand his thinking and gave her more time to frame and tailor her response.

Patricia says that this doesn’t work if you pepper the speaker with aggressive questions such as, “What exactly do you mean by that?” Aggressive questioning can be counterproductive, closing off communication rather than opening it. The gentle-but-clear “tell me more” approach extends the conversation rather than shutting it down.

Have you ever been in a position where you felt as if a person said something that needed to be explained? Describe your scenario and how you responded. Did it deescalate the problem? Why or why not? If not, what might you have done differently that might have deescalated the problem?

If you haven’t been in a position where you felt someone said something that needed to be explained, have you ever been in a position where you felt misunderstood? Give your scenario and describe how it was misunderstood and what the results were. Did it become a problem or were you able to explain?

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