Working with Difficulty Students Begins with You

Keeping a positive mental attitude in the face of difficulty isn’t easy. In fact, according to psychologists, our brains seem to be hardwired to focus on the negative, as studies have shown. However, there is some positivity to focus on: many studies have also demonstrated that positivity an “attitude of gratitude” and engaging in regular exercise and meditation have dramatic effects on our sense of well being.

Identify negative and automatic thoughts and counter them with alternatives. Typically, these thoughts frame situations in terms of black and white and either/or terms. They also tend to make logical leaps. For example, your boss may have a look of disapproval. An automatic thought might be to assume she is angry because you were late to work. But you were only late to work by a couple of minutes, and you’re always on time if not early, so it’s ridiculous that your boss should be so angry. And the train of assumptions can go on indefinitely. When you encounter such thoughts when working with students, reframe your assessment from terms that this is the case to this may be the case along with other possibilities. Consider other possibilities, including those that have nothing to do with you. Practice reality testing by asking yourself is your first assumption the only possibility.

Keep an open mind when students are discussing problems and situations. There may be underlying circumstances that you are not aware of. Allow the student to voice concerns and problems before jumping to conclusions.