Book by William W. Purkey, John J. Schmidt, John M. Novak
Review by Tara D. Thompson
Academic Advising
Richland College
Dallas, Texas

As a suspension advisor, I know that conflict is the nature of the beast. Therefore I jumped at the chance to learn, as the authors say in the title, how to defuse difficult situations. While relatively small, this book, is packed with examples and ideas. So much so that I envisioned at every opportunity how I could put the authors’ suggestions to work; thus it took me some time to complete the first reading. Their Six-C Process -- concern, confer, consult, confront, combat, conciliate -- has a lot of merit especially with the different levels of approach to conciliation “a necessary ingredient at each level of the process” (p.5).

The one concept advisors must rely on is the good will of people, including ourselves. The authors make no claims that their process will work in all situations, but isn’t that true of most human interactions? As they say “By working through conciliation … you seek to restore relationships possibly damaged by earlier efforts to resolve a concern” (p. 6). Relationships are the backbone of our profession as advisors.

The authors begin with the concern. They shared great examples of how to determine whether or not a concern requires action or is just an annoyance. They call the latter a latent concern, like when someone brings a lunch that has a strong odor. Should we tell the individual to go home and never bring anything like that again? Maybe not the first time it happens, but what if occurs every day? Perhaps that requires action, perhaps not. The authors provide several ways to determine whether a concern is actionable or can wait.

How can advisors address a concern with a person? The authors thoroughly explain how to start with conferring and how to decide when it is time to move up to another, more stressful, level. When should we consult? When is it necessary to bring in other people for a consultation? If a consultation doesn’t work, confrontation may be necessary. At the combat level they emphasize the importance of taking command responsibly. At that point, the authors remind the reader that “people are able, valuable, and responsible and should be treated accordingly” (p.129).

This book is broken down in bite size chunks, easily digested in thought. The delineation of key points will make strategies simple to find when I search for a way to approach a difficult situation in the future. The chapter summaries and major themes help organize the information provided in each chapter. The authors provide historical and personal examples of how the Six-C process has been successfully used. In one example a teacher taught the process to third through fifth graders resulting in “significantly fewer students visiting the counseling office with peer problems” (p.3). If elementary children can learn this, I am positive that we all have something to glean.

This is a significant book in the sea of books about how to get along well with others. It gets to its points quickly, reviews them thoroughly, and will help readers put ideas into action. I believe this book is worth the price for any advising center resource library. 

From Conflict to Conciliation: How to defuse difficult situations. (2010). Book by William W. Purkey, John J. Schmidt, John M. Novak. Review by Tara D. Thompson. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press (SAGE Publications). 170 pp. $28.95. ISBN # 978-1-4129-7986-3
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