After the presentation in class on preparing for the feedback meeting, I was reminded about the importance of using assertive and authentic language in my job. Block thinks being assertive is stating directly how you see the problem while not putting others down in the process (Block, pg. 221). The danger in being too aggressive in your language increases the amount of resistance you will get from the client and risks damaging the relationship. As an advisor, I try to be as assertive and supportive as possible. If I have a student where I’m quickly seeing patterns of course withdraws or D or F grades in required business courses, I know he or she is not likely to succeed as a business major and want to help him or her get back on track toward degree completion. The School of Business has a deadline policy, which is heavily enforced by upper administration. If students don’t meet certain requirements by a certain time, then he or she needs to change their major outside of business. Coming from a helping/consulting mindset, however, involves not trying to alienate a student when telling them he or she has failed to meet expectations. In other words, I don’t want to make the student feel dumb and hopeless. I also don’t want to risk the student leaving VCU entirely (retention is key!). It’s my job to state the policy very directly and assertively, so they know early on that there are high expectations one must meet in order to be accepted into the business school.
I mirror Block’s technique in my advising/feedback meetings by describing what I’m seeing using the transcript without evaluating it. I’m simply presenting a clear, specific picture of the situation and letting the student do the analyzing of the situation. I’m also careful to use supportive language that assists them in developing a parallel plan. Block says “People need support in order to have the strength to take responsibility for problems” (Block, pg. 226). It’s still part of my job to assist students in their learning and development, so talking about possible changes that need to be made is essential. Most of the time students know what I’m going to say before I have to say it and already understand what needs to change. I think underneath the surface is the student’s own anxieties about finally dealing with their problems or perhaps facing up to their parents that business is really not the major for them. Just like any consultant, my goal is to have our advising/feedback meetings be the beginning of some positive action.