This year has brought new challenges for students and professors alike. Whether you’re managing remote or hybrid learning, experiencing a change in course workloads or are unhappy about your grades heading into finals, there are ways you can work through it with your professors. It’s important to remember that conflict is normal—even when it’s between students and faculty or staff.
Here are three tips for handling disagreements with your professors.
1: Have a conversation
If you are unhappy or disagree with one of your professors, it can be tempting to email them with a lengthy list of your concerns. However, written communications like emails can often be misinterpreted because they lack context. Professors can’t hear your tone or see your expressions through email. In many cases, navigating conflicts over email can make it come across as more hostile or harsh than we intended.
Instead, consider using email as a way to set up a time to speak with your professor during office hours or over the phone. Take time to plan the conversation and come prepared to discuss specific issues.
2: Keep an open mind
When you’re speaking with a professor, stay open to hearing their point of view and understanding of the issue. For instance, you may be convinced that your grade on an assignment should be higher. When talking with your professor, be open to receiving feedback about why they gave you a certain grade and how you can do better on future assignments.
Listening and showing understanding can go a long way in maintaining a good relationship with your professors.
3: Practice the conversation beforehand
Sometimes it can help to practice a conversation with a friend or family member first. Ask someone close to you to practice the conversation with you over the phone or through video chat. Make note of areas that feel emotional or heated. This can help you know when it is time to take a few deep breaths or step back momentarily from the conversation.
Knowing your conflict style can also help when it comes to addressing disagreements. We all approach conflict differently, and it can be helpful to know what our “default settings” are in a given conflict. You can learn about your conflict style (and how to work with people who have different styles) by taking this Conflict Style Quiz.