of Dr. Steven L. Berg

Asking for Help and Dealing with Introverts


Unfortunately, students do not get to see us ask for help.

Today, I had to deal with a situation that I found irritating–which is as detailed as I can get in a public posting.  I drafted an e-mail and then gave it to the Dean to review.  Her response was one that she has given me on more than one occasion; to be briefer and to the point.  The details of her suggestion were simple and elegant.  They were also something that I already knew.  But, once again, I had to be reminded.

Fortunately, I was able to realize that I was irritated and that I am more prone to poor word choice in such a situation.  While I would have preferred to send the e-mail tomorrow when I had more time to reflect, I knew that was not a possibility.  So I asked for help.

Although I do many things well, I still have problems in drafting appropriate responses to certain types of e-mail messages.  I am getting much better because of great coaching.  I have even gotten some nice notes from the Dean complimenting me on my improvement.  But, the problem continues and I still need coaching–like today–even when I know the correct way to handle something.

In my day-to-day affairs, I have learned that asking for help and taking advice does not diminish me in the eyes of others.  In fact, the Dean’s life will be much easier because I took the advice she gave.  And for that, I am sure, she is grateful.

Last week, on Good Friday, I wrote “Some Transformative Stories Can’t Be Told.”  Although I would not consider this to be a transformative story, it cannot be told well to students.  Glib generalities without concrete examples are not very informative.  However, I guess that the point is not how to write the e-mail but the fact that I, someone who teaches writing and has been writing professionally longer than most of my students have been alive, still needs coaching on his own writing.

A friend posted this on his Facebook wall a couple of weeks ago.  The original source is Dr. Linda Kreger Silverman’s “On Introversion.”  I thought of it this evening as I was reflecting on today because of my need for time to reflect.  We were also discussing it when I got home from work.

I sometimes warn students who get too pushy for an answer that the best thing is to give me time to reflect.  That if I have to make an immediate decision, it will generally not be the one that they want.  Most students will then give me the time I need to reflect.  I am very good at manipulating a situation for the student’s advantage.  But it sometimes takes me time to do this so that I can make sure that the manipulations are fair, meet the goals that are intended, and are really in the student’s interests.  If I have to rush to judgement, I need to fall back on the rules which might not be fair, meet the goals, or be in the student’s best interest.

I am sometimes surprised at how I am able to put things together.  This morning, after some students did a presentation that included information about the Luddites, I built on it by bringing up information about the Lowell Mill Girls, A Visit To Peek Frean & Co (1906), information about Ted Kaczynski, issues from labor history such as the 10 hour workday, femes covert, questions on census records, the first photographs, Henry Ford’s practices toward his employees, and other items which I did not cite such as Life in the Iron Mills.


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