“Difficult Conversations” course coming to Madison College

Sherra Owino , Staff Writer

A course titled “Difficult Conversations” is coming to Madison College in the summer of 2021. While this can fulfill the Humanities requirement for the Liberal Arts transfer program and is part of the Communications department, any student is welcome to join.

Kristy Jagiello, Madison College instructor and brainchild to Difficult Conversations, offers a synopsis as “focusing on interpersonal relationships.”

Jagiello said this course is for those who have any discussions that are “challenging, complicated, stressful, and straight-up unpleasant; conversations we don’t want to have or things we don’t want to say because it’s awkward.”

With Jagiello being the instructor for at least the first few semesters and having her area of expertise actually being in difficult conversations while researching interpersonal conversation, her goal with her students is to give them a broad overview of interpersonal communication; foundational skills that can be built upon.

“By developing basic skills & getting a sense of what these conversations look like, we can navigate them in a whole bunch of different contexts,” Jagiello explained.

According to Jagiello’s assessment, everyone could benefit from this learning. It is the sort of class where all participants not only take away something different from their peers but also can bring a unique perspective. This course will have a primary focus on navigating conversations within relationships such as friends, family and coworkers. Within these discussions there will be talks on self-disclosure, asking for support, expressing empathy, etc.

Additional talks to be included are “coming out,” seeking social support such as asking for help and stigmatized disclosures (anything that could elicit an unpleasant reaction) such as health admissions like telling others about a cancer diagnosis.

Even communication with medical providers can fall under the category of difficult conversations. Jagiello gave an example of those times when a call is placed to a service provider with intentions to get a bill waived, but several hours are spent on the phone with no forward progress instead. In place of having these frustrations, Jagiello has concrete skills for navigating those conversations.

However, it’s not all practice for everyday interactions. There’s also a theoretical level where communication is researched, picked apart and deciphered as language is a huge element to every civilization and culture.

When discussing the personality types that could most benefit from a course in difficult conversation training, Jagiello pointed out that it’s not only helpful for those who take the more passive approach with hard conversations, who don’t want to “rock the boat” with confrontation, but is also for those who are on the opposite end who look to challenge others when a stressful talk arises.

In this age of COVID-19, the future of in-person classes are still unpredictable, but that doesn’t deter Jagiello who is familiar with the various formats of teaching between online and in-person. A number of details have yet to be determined before the official launch, but as of now, the plan would be to meet about two times per week for around one hour and 15 minutes.

All in all, since humanity as a whole is bound to encounter strife and conflict in an interpersonal relationship at some point along this journey we call life, Jagiello said it best when asked who she thought should sign up for this new class at Madison College: “Well, everyone!”