Teaching Online: Lessons from a Hostage Negotiator
Workshop Session 2
Have you ever had someone misinterpret an email or text message, making them more upset than they were before they reached out to you? This is a perennial problem for online faculty and students that we will address with advice from some unlikely sources.
We have all heard the statistic that 93% of communication is non-verbal. While that statistic may not be grounded in reality, we do know that non-verbal cues and tone of voice can convey a lot to the person on the other end of our communication. Given that, where does this leave communication that is devoid of non-verbal cues and tone? That space is where online faculty spend most of their time, communicating with students in a variety of text-based settings, from online discussions boards, to emails, to even text messages.
Living in a world mainly of text can make dealing with difficult situations that much more challenging. Students often come to instructors with stress, fear, anxiety, anger and a host of other emotions that can impact their ability to be successful in the classroom. Our text-based communications can respond appropriately to students and calm the situation. However, it can often make the situation worse when executed poorly. Without tone and non-verbal cues, our words must do a lot of extra work. We also lose the benefit of the student’s non-verbal cues and tone, and words that would seem curt or indifferent in person become easily deliverable over email.
So, what can a hostage negotiator teach us about effective communication with online students? What our experience has shown us is that expert communicators know how to adjust their communication for the situation they are in, and the medium in which they are communicating. In this session, we take lessons from an unlikey source, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended on It (Voss, 2016), and find ways to apply them to the challenge of online communication with students. We will explore how to:
- Be more mindful of how we communicate by text
- Diffuse tense situations in text-based communication
- Build a sense of trust and respect in the online classroom
Voss, C. (2016). Never split the difference: Negotiating as if your life depended on it. HarperCollins.