No one likes to be pitied, and it’s important to remember that fact in tutorials as well as daily life. A good way to avoid appearing like you are offering pity is to inject an empathic nature to your exchanges with your tutee. In other words, draw on your own experiences when offering academic advice.
Say someone is trying to write a conclusion to their paper, but he or she isn’t getting very far. Explaining that conclusions are often the hardest part of the paper to write and that you struggle with conclusions yourself will tell the writer that he or she isn’t alone in struggling, that other people, even people as smart as a writing tutor, struggle with writing conclusions. If you’re reading this thinking “I don’t struggle with writing conclusions,” then you are probably not a very well-liked person.
Specific, concrete examples work best, as well as logical narratives that explain your reasoning behind what you did. For instance, I do a lot of Digication workshops for the In-Class Workshops team, and I review the usefulness of changing the URL of the portfolio. I explain that people like me with a very long, difficult last name (Caracciolo) may consider changing the URL if the last name is part of the portfolio’s title. “Matthew Caracciolo’s Teaching Portfolio” is too cumbersome as the last part of a URL, so I often shorten that portion of the URL to something like “Caracciolo” or “MCPortfolio,” although the latter I use sparingly to avoid affiliation with a certain fast food chain.
Empathizing with your tutee will help him or her realize that writing is a process, one that can be reflected upon and applied to future writing assignments, and that struggling is a natural part of the process.