During times of high anxiety and tension, it is easy to slip into negativity. How do we maintain a positive attitude and promote civility in our professional discourse?
I found my own civility goals tested at the recent AIEA (Association for International Education Administrators) meeting in Washington DC, February 18-21. Perhaps the theme of the conference helped set the stage: “The International Imperative in Turbulent Times.”
The meeting was attended by senior international officers (SIOs) from the United States and over 40 other countries, leaders from international education organizations, and vendors. In attendance were also representatives from the U.S. government, including from the departments of Education and State.
Many attendees were challenged by our desire to support our government colleagues in their honorable work in international education, while taking strong exception to the tone and messages communicated by the highest levels of the U.S. government. Even the most polite and diplomatic professionals see the danger in standing by quietly when immigrants, foreigners and other countries are characterized in disrespectful and harmful terms.
One attendee from an African country observed that the United States is shrinking its role and responsibility in the global arena. Another attendee wondered if we put restrictions on our voices based on our roles. He asserted that power is missing because of our independence. He called on our professional associations to help provide a synergy of voices, leading to a move from cacophony to clarity.
How do we remain respectful but firm in our convictions? In the session “University, Leadership, and Responsibility: Challenges and Strategies in Turbulent Times,” Margot Gill, Adel El Zaim, and Linda Hua-Ling Chang provided clear and practical ideas on how to discuss and address difficult topics in a respectful and productive manner. Chang shared ideas on communication in turbulence with a stepped approach - listen, sympathize, empathize, empathize (more) and encourage.
Chang’s recommendation for moving forward was simple and powerful. Having hope will help us persevere. Be positive. Take action. Good advice, indeed, in turbulent times.
Margit Schatzman has been involved in international admissions and credential evaluation for over 30 years. She began at ECE in 1983 as an evaluator. In 1985 she became vice president. She has been president of ECE since January 1, 2007.
She is a frequent speaker at U.S. and international conferences on topics such as credential evaluation principles and methods, and falsified and altered documents.