Tutor Skills and Conflict Resolution

By November 13, 2012Peer Writing Tutoring

As tutors, we undergo a lot of training to be able to understand where our writers are coming from and how to best help them revise or start their papers. Why stop at writers, though? Tutor skills – interpersonal skills – can also be used to defuse situations in other parts of our lives, and using our tutor skills more often can only improve our work when we return to working with writers. With that in mind, what are some of these “carryover” skills and how can we use them in our everyday lives?

The first one that comes to mind, for me, is the focus on the writer in the tutor appointment. The writer is allowed to lay out their situation, their problems, and their concerns before we suggest a way forward. With parents, friends, or professors, we can use this strategy to have a productive conversation where neither party feels like the other is taking over. Be sure that your conversation partner is allowed to say everything they want to say and, if you don’t interrupt them, they will probably offer you the same courtesy.

This might not always be the case, though. Other people, or our writers, don’t always follow the same standards that we do. If the person you’re speaking with refuses to listen to your comments or talks over you, it helps to maintain a clear and specific line of speaking and repeat yourself often – just as you would with a writer. As with any other interaction or tutorial, it helps to remember what your argument is, and why it matters – and repeat often. You can get through to someone if you keep trying.

In a tutorial, you would try to remain as objective as possible with the writer’s work, and this holds for other interactions as well. The other person might not hold your same personal views, but they can often be swayed by logic and evidence. You would ask for sources from a writer who makes untenable claims – why not preempt the question and make sure your points can be defended when you interact with someone?

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned from tutoring is knowing when to back down, and it has served me well in real-life confrontations, too. Know when to take a break, to drop the subject, or when to change your line of argument. Know when you can’t win, and look for other victories. The holidays are famous for familial confrontation (or avoidance of it), but skills like these can keep things from boiling over. So take a look at what you’ve learned as a tutor about interacting with others, and try it out next time you find yourself in a hot situation.