By April M. Stewart, Special MWAF Contributor
Farmers are no strangers to difficult conversations, both online and off, with consumers, customers, suppliers, employees and family business members.
Recognizing your ‘agitation’ cues and taking the time to prepare mentally to remain calm will help these important conversations go smoothly.
As the old saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
To keep your cool, stay engaged and keep the conversation constructive try the following tips:
- Mentally prepare: If you know that the conversation you’ll be having is going to be difficult, you can minimize the negative emotions you may be feeling by framing the upcoming conversation in a positive way. Rather than think you’re going to have an argument about how your conventional farming methods are better than organic (or vice versa), think about it as an opportunity for discussion, teaching and learning. By focusing on what you have to gain, you’ll be engaging with an open mind which will help you find common ground.
- Watch for your tipping point: Recognize the red flags that pop up on the way to Angerville, because once you’ve approached the town limits your brain will be wavering between fight or flight mode. If you’re starting to feel threatened – increased heart rate, cheeks turning red, quicker breathing – you risk “losing access to the rational front cortex of the brain and then it becomes more difficult to be your best self,” says Amy Gallo, author of Harvard Business Review’s Guide to Managing Conflict at Work. It’s also important to watch for these and other body language signs (crossed arms, shifting weight) in those you’re speaking with. Gallo notes that once one person gets heated up, “it’s easier to mirror that behaviour and before you know it, you have two people swinging punches.”
- Focus to regain perspective: Even though it’s often hard to control how we react (i.e., fight-flight-freeze response), you can learn to reign it in by simply taking a moment to breathe. You can also pause and focus on a physical object: touch the table, the chair, your phone. Feel its texture, its weight in your hand. As long as you can still focus on the conversation, this tactic will help draw your attention away from your emotional self long enough for the fight or flight response to settle.
- Put yourself in their shoes: Ask yourself questions like: What is she trying to achieve? What is her rationale behind her way of thinking? What would I do/think if I was her? Identify common areas and build from there.
Try not to focus on who is right or wrong, the smartest or the best. Try not to take things personally and instead concentrate on tactics that will not only build a productive conversation, but will set you up as the credible, level-headed, empathetic person you need to be to move your policies and solutions forward. Demonstrate a genuine interest to learn more about their side of the issue. Most importantly, remember to communicate respect even in the face of disagreement.
- That’s Not What I Meant, by Deborah Tannen
- How to Have Impossible Conversations, by Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay
- Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, but Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen
This blog originally appeared on The Farmer’s Survival Guide: Communicating with 21st Century Consumers website. Visit https://farmerssurvivalguide.com/ if you’d like to read more topics like this one OR click here to vist the Farmer’s Survival Guide for Women.