Learn to Communicate Better

The Graduate School, in collaboration with the Ombuds Office, at the University of Connecticut, organized a five part workshop series for graduate students, for Spring 2017. The series is aimed at helping individuals to cultivate and fine-tune their communication skills. I connected with one of the organizers of the workshop, Cinnamon Adams, from the Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Affairs team about the workshop, and why she thinks it is an important offering for graduate students. Cinnamon also shared some advice on improving communication skills. Below are excerpts from the interview.

  • Why is participation in the Negotiation and Professional Communication Workshop important for graduate students?

Throughout their time at UConn graduate students serve in various roles, including being a student, teacher, employee, advisee, researcher, and more. There are challenges and conflicts that can arise in each of these roles. This workshop series has been designed to help strengthen negotiation, listening, and conflict/opposition management skills. It provides a reflection perspective on conflict and communication style. It’s also intended to provide a great foundation for professional life after graduate school.

  • What do you think is a common obstacle for graduate students in achieving successful communication?

Although each graduate student is different in regard to their communication style, one common obstacle for graduate students (really everyone) in achieving successful communication are the assumptions we make in different situations.  Assumptions can have significant impact on how we think and respond to others.  It is important to be aware of the assumptions we are making and take steps to check whether our assumptions are valid or flawed.

  • In what ways do graduate students stand to benefit from attending this workshop?

By attending the workshop, graduate students will add important negotiation and communication tools to their toolbox.  These tools include a better understanding of their personal conflict and communication style, an understanding of negotiation theory and strengthening of negotiation skills, appreciation for the importance of listening, re-framing, and paraphrasing. In addition, we hope that they will develop an awareness of, and can find strategies to deal with the emotions that can be evoked when negotiating interests. When conflict comes, and it will, the participants will be prepared with tools they can use.

  • What three tips do you have for graduate students on how to manage conflict?

Here are three helpful tips to get started:

  1. Test your assumptions in a situation. Much of the problem with communication is often based on assumptions of perceived conflict that are not valid. Ask questions to either validate or refute your assumptions about what is going on.
  2. Give yourself time to reflect on your reactions to a situation. It is easy to respond too quickly based on your current emotion to the conflict (or person).  Allowing yourself some time often yields a more rational response. Writing out what happened, how you are being impacted, and what should happen next, is an effective way to sort out your approach to a problem.
  3. While working through a conflict, try to understand the end goals of every party involved. What is your desired outcome?  What is the desired outcome of the other(s) involved? This can often help in mitigating conflict successfully.

Those who attend the workshop are given a copy of a best-selling book on negotiation, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton. In conclusion, we should remember that managing conflict well is a skill that we can all improve by acquiring information and through frequent practice.

Images Via: http://grad.uconn.edu/2016/12/21/the-graduate-school-communications-workshop-spring-2017/



By Tithi Basu Mallik
Tithi Basu Mallik Graduate Student Career Programs and Services Graduate Assistant Tithi Basu Mallik