Fall is in the air and the school doors are about to open. For many this year offers some unique challenges. Many schools are facing budget cuts and some personnel cuts. These reductions place greater pressure on the people who remain. As demands increase but resources shrink, we face a world ripe for “sticky situations.”

In the book, Managing Sticky Situations at Work, http://www.stickysituationsatwork.com I described a school related situation in which two teachers had trouble working together. This example might represent a typical problem in many schools where teachers face one another all day and in the teacher’s lounges. Another issue that today’s schools face is parent and teacher conflicts. Many parents expect their children to get a certain level of attention. Some expect the teacher to focus on their child completely. Some teachers, on the other hand, expect parents to do things at home that overly stressed, duel employed people might not be able to do. These expectations create conflict.

What can you do if you find yourself confronted with these kinds of sticky situations? Think about the following three tips:

• Approach each situation with the realization that you cannot change the other person. Change is within you. When you change, you shift the dynamic of the relationship. That causes a shift which could result in a behavior change in others. But, it may not.

• Second, go into all situations with a healthy sense of curiosity. Learn why it is the parents cannot provide attention or support that you, as a teacher expect. Learn the reasons a teacher cannot sit with your child to soothe him after a disappointing experience. Listen with curiosity. You might learn a lot about the situation that you never realized.

• Third, show compassion for the other person. Don’t judge or blame. Judging and blaming closes off communication. When you go into the conversation wondering what it must be like to be that other person, you can better relate to their point of view.

The school environment is ripe with sticky situations. It’s a place where people must work in close proximity with few resources and limited time to communicate. It’s like a very small community, where for everything to function, everyone must give and take. The definition of conflict is “when two people want to be in the same place, but there’s room for only one.” A child wants 2 hours of attention and the teacher has 10 minutes. A librarian wants display space, and teachers want study-hall space. A parent wants tutoring for a special needs child, and tutors are already assigned. The list is endless. Change, curiosity and compassion will lead to healthier communication and ways to overcome these challenges.

Furthermore the tips will not only help teachers deal with parents and parents with teachers but they will also help administrators deal with state officials and teachers with administrators. In fact, if you go into any tough situation with the realization that you cannot change the other person, with a genuine hunger to explore what is really going on, and with true compassion for the other person, you will be in a better position to say it just right.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Joan Curtis is a communications coach, author, speaker and trainer. She recently published, Managing Sticky Situations at Work: Communication Secrets for Success in the Workplace, published by Praeger Press. You can find her at http://www.TotalCommunicationsCoach.com or http://www.stickysituationsatwork.com