Most of us know how to carry on a conversation. What’s more difficult is having a conversation with someone who disagrees with you. To borrow words from Holly Spangler, food is a big deal, which makes people passionate about the topic.
In simplest terms…
Conversation + Disagreement + Passion = Heated discussion (at best) or fist fight (at worst)
Can you remember a time that you changed your opinion after a heated argument? Probably not. You probably walked away with even stronger convictions than before.
We have to throw something else into the equation to keep it from becoming a full-blown argument.
common ground. compassion. patience.
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Be human. Food is a very emotional subject matter. Instead of spewing facts* all the time, share your emotions, your story. Where and how we grow up has such an impact on our beliefs and values. The more you share your story, the more people will be able to connect with you.
- *Facts definitely have their place. “Keeping it Real” was founded on facts! They’re great conversation starters. They give our opinion validity. However, facts can be so cold and people crave the warmer, human side. So, know your facts, but also be ready to open up.
2. Be nice. I know, I know…when people start throwing dirt at our way of life, our first reaction is to be mad. Mad people say mean things. Mean words won’t help our cause.
When a consumer doesn’t have an opinion on modern ag and comes across a discussion on social media, he/she will probably lean toward siding with the person (whether that person is a farmer or HSUS supporter) who is being kinder, more rational.
Bottom line: People are watching. We have to be nice.
3. Be a good listener. So often we’re very eager to tell our side of the story. We know what we’re going to say before the other person is done talking. Sometimes we even interrupt. The ag community is guilty of this. I’m guilty of this. We’re all guilty of this. Next time you’re involved in a discussion, work on listening, really listening to what the other person is saying. Have an open mind. I think you’ll be surprised at how much better and more enjoyable the conversation is.
To learn by example, read about Katie Pinke’s conversation with an animal rights activist. Here’s a link: http://www.pinkepost.com/2012/01/3-things-learned-from-animal-right.html