What Is Your Intent?
Paul Overstreet has a song that says “if I could bottle this up, I could make a million..” well, if I could bottle up a magic formula for reading minds, a lot of farm families could get unstuck. I don’t have a magic potion, but I do have a conflict resolution tool called INTENT< ACTION< EFFECT which has helped open many eyes and minds.
INTENT is hidden in our minds unless we speak about it or show people by our actions what we mean to do. For example, a cattle producer living in a shabby house wants to give his 30 something son the cow herd, and he tells the son. Dad’s intent is to gift his assets. The son says “NO Dad, My intent is that you sell me the herd, I’ll get a good loan, cause I am young and have time to pay it off, and you can use that money to build Mom a good house. “
The effect…once the conversation took place, everyone had a better understanding of what outcome they would choose.
When my mother-in-law shows up with cookies and wonderful baking, I have two choices. I can judge her intent as being a critical manipulating mother-in-law who thinks I can’t cook well enough for her beloved son, or I can choose to feel deeply cared for…which is the effect I choose to embrace. I once told this story at an Alberta conference and a woman in the front row yelled back “Can I adopt your mother-in-law ?”
Intent in all kinds of farm transfer issues has to be checked out because no one can read your mind. All you get to see is the actions or inaction of people in the transfer process. The succession process or action planning may be stalled because the older generation is worried about the effect of the transfer on them, and the non-farm kids. Who knows?
The only way to find out is to communicate. Ask with a sense of curiosity and figure out what people are really thinking. Do it in a facilitated meeting that feels safe for everyone. Prepare your questions ahead of time by distributing the mysteries on paper beforehand, to give each couple or team member a chance to collect their thoughts, and put their responses on paper.
I use a personal family profile sheet to ask a few questions about lifestyle goals, inheritance, risk aversion, and hopes for the future. Most farming children just want their parents to live well, and have a decent level of living in their new chapter of life.
The next time your family is embroiled in a heated conversation, stop the camera and use the freeze-frame technique of asking, What is your intent? This is the action I see, and this is the effect it is having on me. Please tell me what you are really intending by your actions.”
Elaine Froese has a certificate in conflict resolution and mediates privately as well as for the Farm Debt Mediation Service. She speaks to large farm groups across Canada and the US. Check out the Interpersonal Conflict Resolution Course at www.mediationserviceswpg.ca. It will be a great investment for better conflict resolution in your farm business. It will be a great investment for better conflict resolution in your farm business.