Make it ‘win, win’ in approaching authorities for change or concerns

By Katie Mauss

According to Social Anxiety Home, over 60 percent of high school students have a fear of authority. This is a problem that can flare up when talking to teachers, going for job interviews and presenting ideas to the principal. To be successful, there are five steps that one might take to communicate with those at the top. 

Step 1: Don’t take it personally

The relationship that you have with this person should be strictly professional during this conversation. Even if this person is your mother, you have to be able to disconnect from your emotions. A way to help you do this is to make your point in a third person perspective. Instead of saying things like “I need” or “I want,” say things like “Wouldn’t it be nice if.” This makes you sound more professional, and it keeps your feelings from interrupting this discussion.

Step 2: Mind your manners

Update: authority figures are people too, and they want to be treated as such. In the beginning of your conversation, greet them politely and give a quick introduction of why you are there. While you are in the back and forth of the discussion, wait until they are completely done with their ideas. Interrupting them will make them feel disrespected, and nobody deserves to have their time wasted by a disrespectful student.

Step 3: Focus on the positive

If asked a question, focus on the things that are good about your idea. For example, if you are asking for a change in school policy, don’t talk about how bad the problem is. Instead, talk about how good your change is. If they see that you are being positive about your situation, then they will be more likely to listen to what you have to say. If what you are discussing has very little positive about it, make sure you keep up a good attitude while talking about it. This shows them that you can have a positive outlook on things, even if life is getting hard.

Step 4: Know what to say when you don’t know the answer

One of the worst things that you can do when faced with the unknown is hesitating. When you are asked something that you don’t know, you can’t just stand there and say “umm.” Some alternate phrases that you could use are “I didn’t find that in any of my searches,” or “I don’t know that at the moment, but I can get back to you.” Saying that you don’t know is 100 times better than trying to fake your way through the rest of the conversation.

Step 5:  Be direct

When talking to a person, be kind and gentle, but stick to the point. Beating around the bush wastes both the authority’s time and yours. If you want something done, say it. For example, if you are talking to your boss about getting hours off, don’t try to say things that don’t relate. Stay on topic, and the whole scenario will be less awkward.

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