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What to do when conversations get tough
December 20, 2022


By April M. Stewart, Special MWAF Contributor

Farmers are no stranger to difficult conversations both online and off.

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.” Here’s how you can do that.

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, for example, how your conventional farming methods are better than organic, 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 with whom you’re speaking. 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 (the good ‘ole automatic ‘fight or flight’ 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.



This blog originally appeared here where you can also find more tips for better farm to consumer conversations.

One of the things we love to do the most at MWAF is share the inspiring stories of Canadian women involved in all aspects of the agriculture and food industry. We celebrate common values, a shared passion for the industry and a commitment to supporting each other's goals. You can also learn what our stakeholders are doing to support the advancement of women in our industry. Be sure to come back often.