Early last month in Peace River country I encouraged the farmers to drop judgmental comments and use the words, “I was just curious…could you explain to me why you…” Curiosity is an effective tool for conflict resolution because you avoid hitting conflict trigger buttons when you stop using judgmental or defensive language. One of the participants said she also found it a useful tool for talking to “idiots” without giving them a label!
An advisor colleague shared a very poignant story about curiosity with me after he witnessed the powerful effects of asking a tough question.
“A new bride who had been raised in town, who was now living with her young husband on the main farm yard sits nervously with her in-laws at a farm succession seminar. She’s heard a lot of new information. It’s time for some small group sharing, and she bravely raises her hand as she looks directly in her father-in-law’s eye: “I’d just like to know, all of these things we’ve heard about today are piling on top of the questions that I hear from the curious folks at my job. I’d just like to know: is the farm doing okay; am I going to have enough to live on; what do you expect of me in the busy season; do you think “Mom” and I could do the books together on the computer; do you respect my input and opinion, even though I don’t come from a farm?”
Amazing answers stem from asking powerful questions.
What is it that you might say …” I would just like to know”?
The father-in-law in the story above shared later in the parking lot that he was relieved to have the hard questions asked, and now he could start formulating some answers. The key question was to quell the workplace gossip and answer to how well the farm was doing financially.
When you ask “why” about the intent of folks making decisions and also come from a sense of curiosity you can make headway without getting stuck in judgment, blame or accusations. You are free to ask questions expecting a thoughtful answer that will help you check out your expectations.
Recently with a group of young farmers in Abbotsford, I surveyed a group of 70 folks who responded with a 43% vote saying that “to be heard and have my opinion respected” was the most important thing they need on their farm. I’ve been using Turning Point TechnologyTM so that the audience can answer truthfully and privately about the key challenges on their farm team. The results post up on the screen in a bar chart format. Sometimes it helps to know that others are sharing the same issues that you are!
What steps are you taking to give good, honest answers to the next generation’s queries? What do they really want to know from you? When are you ready to really listen and share your dreams, desires and expectations with them?
Asking tough questions may be squelched if you feel the other person is just going to get mad at you, but that is their decision to respond in a poor way to a good question, not your fault for trying to find answers that impact your family’s future. I think it is worth it to endure the wrath of another if it helps clarify issues. They might need to cool down, but you are getting closer to clear answers that you need to move ahead. If they get mad, you can still choose to respond calmly with grace. We all get to choose our words, and our responses. Sometimes assumptions are keeping us stuck. “I’d just like to know…is a great opener.” Use it. You’ll be amazed how much better you will sleep tonight when the weight of uncertain expectations and unanswered questions slips off your shoulders of care.
March 15th, 2011 is my 16th anniversary of writing this column and the time has flown by. That’s precisely why procrastination about asking tough questions has to stop on our farms. Time flies by. We say “we’ll get to that after harvest…and 5 years goes by!” Thank-you to those readers who take time to call or write me to share their stories, I am humbled by the gift of sharing your journey.
I’d just like to know what trends you are seeing on your farm that are causing you to lose some sleep at night, and what things make you jump for joy!