Step 3: The face-to-face meeting

Once you have clarified what you want to discuss, the next step is to talk to the other party involved.

It is more pleasant for both you and the other party if you make an appointment for the discussion rather than bringing it up during a casual meeting in the corridor. Make an appointment with the involved staff member and mention that you wish to discuss the situation that is bothering you. Do not agree to discuss it right away on the telephone; experience learns that this is not the right kind of contact for coming to a satisfactory solution.

Prepare for the meeting thoroughly. There are a number of guidelines for giving and receiving feedback that may help ease the discussion. If you follow these guidelines you will have the best chance of a clear and respectful exchange. The guidelines are described below:

  • Make sure you are well rested and properly prepared before the meeting.
  • Briefly explain what is bothering you to the other party. Use the personal tense (“I am upset because”) and stick to one or more specific situations. This prevents the other from feeling attacked and being forced to defend themselves.
  • Try to formulate a solution rather than a complaint. This sounds difficult but it is definitely worth trying. After all, by offering a solution you are inviting the other party to agree to it. For example: “I’d like to receive my reports back earlier so that I have enough time to change them,” sounds more pleasant than “You always return my reports too late and I’m unhappy about that.”
  • Treat the other party with respect; they have their own perception of the incident and their perception is just as valid as your own.
  • Stick to your own personal experience. It does not help to say things like: “Everybody thinks that...” This will only cause the other to go on the defensive;
  • The meeting is not about determining a winner and a loser. Realize that, though it may satisfy your sense of ‘justice’ if the other party admits their error, creating a harmonious atmosphere and restoring amicable relations is much more valuable!
  • Listen to what the other has to say. This is harder than it sounds. Often, you will find yourself concentrating on the next thing you want to say. Make it clear that you are listening to what they are saying: “I realize now that you were unimpressed with my attitude at the time.”
  • Dare to ask for more details. This can help clarify things for yourself. For example: “What do you mean with ‘You didn't seem to be interested’?” It is not important to get a straight answer to the question; sometimes you simply will not have the slightest idea why the other thought about you in a particular way at a particular time. Be honest about this and let the other party know you regret it if they got the wrong impression.
  • Feel free to bring along your notes with the most important points and things you want to say. You may be able to use these notes to compose yourself if you get nervous. Even if you do not use them, it may help to make you feel more certain of yourself if you have the notes with you.

If you are able to bring across what you want to say in the course of the meeting, this can in itself be sufficient to clear the air. If this is the case then you should say so and thank the other for giving you the opportunity and time to get it off your chest.

However, it may be that, however hard you try to find some degree of middle ground with the other party, it is your impression that it has been to no avail.

You could give it some more time to see whether this feeling remains and that really nothing changes. It may be that the effects are not immediately noticeable, or maybe you had set your hopes on an admission of guilt and regret that is not forthcoming.

Whichever step of the process you are engaged in and whatever the result, you are always welcome to discuss it with the student counsellors, whether it be to analyse your strategy, or get tips for a new strategy.