By April M. Stewart, Special MWAF Contributor
We all have multiple conversations every day, both online and off.
Conversations with family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, and complete strangers.
Some are one-offs, but many are part of a series in an ongoing narrative – and these opportunities are where you can use your conversational skills to build constructive dialogue around food and farming.
Each interaction has the power to advance or destroy the narrative, so learning how to approach and interact with others is an important skill to develop.
To hone your conversational skills and optimize your conversations with consumers follow these simple ‘rules’:
- Listen at least as much as you talk so you can to meet the listener where they’re at. This is the space where you’ll discover the root of their opinions and beliefs. This helps clarify any assumptions each of you may hold, helps you formulate and ask questions for clarity, and allows you to restate what they’re saying to ensure you’re understanding them correctly. To set a solid foundation for the next level of the conversation, try using this suggestion by Stephen Covey, businessman and author: “If I understand what you’re saying…” and summarize the opposing viewpoint in such a manner that they nod and say, “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.” Only then can you move forward to next level dialogue.
- Propel the conversation forward by asking probing questions about another person’s experiences and perspectives to help you understand why they feel the way they do about an issue. Again, this not only provides clarity, but allows you to adjust your approach and your messaging as required.
- Always consider the other person’s perspective. Joel Peterson, author of ‘The 10 Laws of Trust’, says, “When they see your efforts to understand their perspective, they’re likely to be more willing to engage in honest dialogue, which makes it easier to find a solution that everyone sees as a win.”
- Don’t dismiss the benefits of debate. Each successive back-and-forth bounce of alternate viewpoints provides critical idea and dialogue building blocks. However, the rule about listening must apply: research indicates that poor listeners (for example, those who are thinking of what they want to say before the other person is done talking) were seen as competitive, inciting the other person to become defensive.
How will you start a conversation about Canadian agriculture and help move our industry forward?