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NACADA Web Event: Blunt Empathy: Skills and Techniques for Delivering Unwanted News in Academic Advising Situations

Event Date: 
May 21, 2020
2:00–3:00 p.m.
Online Webinar

In a 2010 NACADA web event, Jose Rodriguez and Susan Kolls first addressed the topic of Breaking Bad News to students in the webinar venue, sharing their thoughts on delivery techniques that help students make good alternative choices. This early online event drew a large audience and was well received by participants in the live venue, was a top seller for five years on CD, and has garnered over 1,600 hits since it was placed on the NACADA YouTube channel.

At NACADA’s 2018 Annual Conference in Phoenix, a presentation team from Brigham Young University took a fresh look at this topic with a presentation entitled Blunt Empathy: Delivering Unwanted News Doesn’t have to be an Awkward Middle School Dance. This presentation drew a large audience of conference attendees, who rated it highly and recommended that it be brought into other association venues.

The high level of interest in this topic over time is not surprising. Delivering unwanted news to students in a clear, effective, and supportive manner weighs heavily on the minds of advisors in higher education. It can be difficult to clearly communicate consequences, obstacles, realities, and options while maintaining trusting relationships. Although models for this process exist in areas such as healthcare and human resources, what about in academic advising situations? How can advisors convey necessary information in ways that don’t cause students to turn away?

Drawing from their varied experiences in academic standards, limited enrollment programs, international services, and admissions, this BYU presentation team will share personal experiences with delivering unwanted news and will model and explore techniques for delivering this news effectively. Tools such as empathy, helping skills, and confrontation skills will be considered. Finally, the presenters will consider what to do if these techniques and tools do not help a particular advisor/student relationship.