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Dealing with Difficult Professors, Part III

Dealing with Difficult Professors, Part III

10-part series by Patrick Kerwin, MBTI® Master Practitioner, with some great tips on how students can manage conflict.

In the first blog in this series we discussed how a “difficult” professor might just be a professor with a personality type different from yours, and we examined your MBTI® type and your likely learning style. In the second blog we then looked at the different instruction styles of the different types of professors. Now let’s figure out how best to communicate with professors whose two middle letters of their four-letter type are different from yours.

Below are tips for dealing with different types of professors. As you read them, think about a professor whom you find to be particularly difficult and see if they might help.

When you’re interacting with professors whose two middle letters are ST, try to focus on facts, be logical, and stay on topic. ST professors usually aren’t persuaded by conversations about theory, abstractions, or personal matters, or by conversations that bounce from one topic to another.

When you’re interacting with professors whose two middle letters are SF, try to focus on specifics, be kind, and present your topics in sequential order. SF professors usually aren’t persuaded by theoretical arguments or hypothetical situations, or by conversations that seem to challenge them to debate.

When you’re interacting with professors whose two middle letters are NF, try to focus on ideas, show your personal side, and consider how different topics relate to one another. NF professors usually aren’t persuaded strictly by facts or logic, or by conversations that seem too black and white.

When you’re interacting with professors whose two middle letters are NT, try to focus on concepts, be direct, and be prepared to engage in debate. NT professors usually aren’t persuaded by technicalities (i.e., “It says right here that…”) or subjective reasoning (i.e., “I feel that…”), or by conversations based on feelings rather than objective analysis.

Here’s an example of how this could work. Let’s say that your two middle letters are NF, and your “difficult” professor seems to have the middle letters ST. You feel that your professor has been nit-picking your papers and almost seems to have it out for you—hence the “difficult professor” label! If you went to that professor with an NF approach, you might say something like, “I really need to talk to you because I’m feeling so frustrated and upset. I’m trying really hard. I have four other classes and I study a lot, and I’ve never had this kind of problem before. I wonder if I’ve offended you in some way?” Let’s see… That was pretty personal, it was pretty abstract, and it did start to wander—all the worst ways to approach an ST professor!

Now, let’s say you followed some of the suggestions above. You might say something more like, “On the past three papers I’ve received scores of 87, 82, and 93. I thought I’d done better than that, so I want to understand the criteria better. Can you review each paper with me and provide suggestions on what I can do differently?” OK, that was pretty factual, pretty logical, and it stayed focused on the one topic.

By doing things a little differently, you might just be able to turn a “difficult” professor into a tolerable one!

 

Read Patrick’s previous blog: Dealing with Difficult Professors, Part II

Read Patrick’s next blog: Working on Group Projects: E and I

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