The ability to deal with conflict is a rare skill. Humans are hardwired at birth for fight or flight that defaults to passive or aggressive behaviors. The ability to communicate through that conflict is a vital skill that even the best communicators can continually hone. Personally, I am far better at work communications than I am on the home front.  But I know it is more important that I improve my home communications! 

Talk or listen at home: When you say you are going to talk with someone (spouse, children or others) are you also willing to listen, or will this not be considered an input session? If your talks feel more like lectures, your audience (family) has left the auditorium. They want to hear and participate with you. Ask open-ended questions and do not rush to reply. Thinking over a response allows for more clarity and consideration to others in the conversation. 

Men, generally those 50 years+, have been taught “be a man, don’t cry”.  Instead, they do not have a good way to share their emotions and often the outlet is anger.  In a non-angry moment, can you ask in a loving way what they are thinking and feeling? Finding the time and place to learn what the stoic farmer types in your life and thinking/feeling can go a long way in understanding their viewpoint in discussions. 

Work Setting: Customers want to hear that you care: people within your family want to hear the same thing. 

  • Listen to their needs and expectations.
  • Show respect for their livelihood. Particularly when working with farmers, who do not want to be the generation who loses or harms the family farm. 
  • Success in the business world demands more than likeability. It also requires that people see us as competent
    • Criticism is a fact of our daily lives. It can be positive or devastating. How will you choose to receive it?
    • Use your voice. Do not rely on texting to confirm appointments, etc. Use very clear communication.

Like a Boy Scout: Be prepared! Most of us engage in several rounds of point/counter point when challenged. Instead of being defensive or pointing out the other’s errors, we can ask probing questions to test ideas or challenge assumptions. Do your homework on the situation. Ask lots of questions (before the discussion with customer & during it)

No matter the outcome, do not take it personally. This is business. Customers need to vent. Let them. What can we do if it becomes personal? 

It is said that customers measure you, not by how they are treated when things go smoothly, but by how they are treated when problems arise. In those moments we must address the issue from the customer’s viewpoint, which begs the question: who is your customer? An actual customer? A coworker? Those you supervise. Your manager? 

Negotiating is an art: Practice it and watch it in action. You may never be a grand master painter, but you can be an artist in your own right. One that allows fairness to both sides in business and leaves emotion in the hallway so you can make solid business decisions. 

Remember, no matter what the communication setting is, you must use clear verbal and body language. You do not want to ask yourself “Why can’t you hear what I’m saying?” Repeating the same thing over, in the same way but louder does not improve what you are saying to the other person(s). Stop, gather your thoughts, and present from a different or less complex perspective. Ask your listeners to understand. Answer their clarifying questions with dignity and grace; this is not the moment for sarcasm. 

Communication at home: If you are able to hold smooth and effective communication at work, why can it be so difficult to do the same at home? Because our communication becomes fueled by emotions. 

Do you clearly tell your spouse about work or family commitments, financial concerns or ask for help when it is needed, or do you simply go about your day just hoping everything works itself out? Hoping is not the same as doing. For your household to work smoothly, you can do several things. 

  • Have a mutual family calendar so everyone sees the obligations and can participate. 
  • Host a family meeting at supper or Sunday morning breakfast. Take the time to hear each other’s needs and emotions. This is an incredible opportunity to talk to your children and your spouse to be sure you know what is on their plate as well as seeing what you do daily too. 
  • It can be difficult to bring everyone together; particularly when there are chores to be done and time in the day is short. Perhaps It is a matter of timing, and it may be spontaneous.  Alternatively, if you start this trend while the kids are young, it becomes ingrained in the fabric of your family and is a nonnegotiable item that simply happens within your family. 

The ability to communicate through a conflict is a life-long skill we continually need to develop, not only in our work lives, but especially in our lives at home where conversations can often be fueled by emotions.

Bridgette Readel

Bridgette Readel, of Hunter, North Dakota is ND is a farm girl and passionate agriculturalist! She is also a wife, mom, NDSU Bison & FFA supporter and has a knack for gardening & cooking. Bridgette teaches agricultural sales training and leadership programs through Lilac Lane Media. Her teaching focuses on increased sales and profits, winning more customers and growing your agriculture business.  From family farms to large agribusiness, she works at elevating your skills.

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