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Do You Hear Me? An Important Family Farm Question

Conflict doesn’t always have to be negative.

Do you feel unheard when it comes to decision making on the farm?

Conflict in communication arises at some point for every farming operation. Knowing how to make your voice heard is crucial.

While addressing farm families recently at the Practical Farmers of Iowa Conference, Rena Striegel, president of Transition Point Business Advisors, suggested questions for farmers to think about and useful strategies to avoid conflicts in farm businesses.

Knowing Communication Barriers

Being able to identify the obstacles of communicating effectively within the farm businesses is a key starting point in determining the successes of your family’s communication. 

“How do you improve communication when it could be any number of 100 things that are causing us to not be very effective?” asks Striegel.

From family rivalries, differences of opinions, family distances, and unequal workloads, these barriers can come in many forms and sizes. Avoiding these discussions can leave a dramatic impact on what other family members are feeling and deciding for future generations.

“You can make small shifts in relationships that help to improve communication tremendously,” says Striegel.

One of the more considerable barriers Striegel notices with farmers is the progress in family meetings and decision making.

“Are you analyzing if you’re making progress?” asks Striegel. “Every communication you have is built on the lack of communication you had yesterday and until it becomes resolved, it just keeps rolling forward and could be years before an agreement is reached.” 

Within these barriers develops the miscommunication on vision and goals for the farm. When members of a family aren’t on the same page or envision similar ideals, there aren’t the essential goals needed for the foundation of a successful future.  

Understand the Importance of Communication

“Communication is a lifelong process of improvement,” says Striegel. “You have to keep working at it and fine-tuning it so it becomes a constant process of improvement.”

Envision the information you could receive if you had better communication with those you are in conflict with. How different would your farm look and how would its goals and visions change?

When both sides are receiving the information needed and desired, a win/win situation grows developing a level of trust in the relationship. In turn, both sides are happier, which makes productivity increase for the family and the farm.

“If farms aren’t getting better, they’re dying because they aren’t stagnant things,” says Striegel. “Reducing stress where you can is a critical component of having healthier farm families and healthier farms overall.” 

No matter how difficult a position you believe you are in, you can shift it and you can shift it really dramatically in a very short period of time if you’re willing to be repetitive.

“If you do one thing differently on your farm than you normally do, it will shift roles and relationships. If you do it consistently, you will never see the relationship be the same way that it was before,” says Striegel.

Why Is There Conflict?

The majority of conflicts stem from misunderstandings, miscommunication, and lack of listening. Striegel says from there, boundaries become crossed and a lack of trust sets in.

“One of the biggest things if you want to learn to change a relationship is seek to understand,” says Striegel. “When one another listens to understand rather than to reply, both sides are better able to come to an agreement without having lost trust and crossing boundaries.”

Conflict doesn’t always have to be negative. When people can have conflict in the right way and know how to handle it, there can be good things that come out of that discussion.

“Positive conflict is where you get new thinking, the best ideas, formulated ideas, and ideas that are thought all the way through,” says Striegel. “We need others to help us think things through so ideas don’t just fail and mistakes are better avoided.”


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