The Two-Way Street of Communicating

I gave a talk at the end of March about my concept of feeding the goldfish when it comes to communicating. At one point during my presentation, I discussed just how valuable communication is as the most fundamental skill we possess as human beings.

We discussed how effective communicators, especially in agriculture in the social media age, are able to connect on such complicated topics, with audiences that have no understanding of a topic. One of the ways they are able to do this is through being relatable - they somehow connect with an audience on a mutual level. An easy way they do this is by finding common ground and finding out what the audience thinks and feels before they share their opinion and perspective.

One of the lessons I imparted with the audience of enthusiastic agriculturalists was the following idea:

Communicating is a two-way street, involving listening AND talking.

So often, we think communication is about talking, when it fact communication is a two-part process involving the most important part of the process... listening.

We all know those people who forget this concept.

The people who do a lot of talking but don't care to listen to what others have to say. Or those situations we all have been in where you are speaking with someone and you recognize early on, they aren't even genuinely listening to you, they are already thinking of the next thing they want to say.

You can see it in their facial expressions; their head is nodding but you can see behind their eyes that their wheels are turning, already thinking about the next thing they are going to say back to you. And you can tell instantly with their initial response, whether they sincerely took in what you said before they spewed out what you knew they were cookin' up.

Yes, we as human beings like to hear ourselves talk.

But the best communicators are those who take in what people say and listen.

Those communicators get the most out of conversation because they genuinely care about the people they are conversing with and what they have to say. Through listening FIRST, they are able to find common ground and mutual respect so the person/people/audience listens back to them.

As I shared that day with my audience, communicating is in fact a two-way street - try and not only be the driver, but the passenger. People will respect you for it and you'll be a better communicator because of it.

#2017 Check In - Q1 (Jan-Mar)

A majority of companies and businesses measure annual performance, broken down in 3 month increments in terms of Q 1/2/3/4. By setting goals for the year and reviewing them every 3 months, it allows for a consistent check-in to ensure things are on track to meet annual goals, sales figures, performance measures, etc. Goal-setting and check-ins are part of corporate culture, but we don't look at 'check-ins' the same way we do with our own personal goals we've set for ourselves.

Most often times, holding ourselves accountable can be the main reason whether we achieve our goals (or not).

We all start with the best of intentions at the beginning of a new year - or for some, in the springtime or in September with the start of a new school year -  but if we don't have mechanisms to hold ourselves accountable, another year can pass like the one before and that passion project can be shelved for another year.

Unlike the work world where you know your performance is going to be measured, your boss will check in, performance reviews take place and/or your salary may be impacted, if your serious about the intentions you've set for #2017, you'll be serious about holding yourself accountable to achieve these goals.

I shared these 2017 goals/habits at the beginning of the new year. Using this as my 'Q1 check in', I'm happy to report I've committed whole-heartedly to two of my goals - blogging once a week using #Blog452 and doing #365DaysofGratitude (which I realize I need to share more about!). In terms of the other 3 goals I've set, I already have the personal development course in mind I want to attend later this fall which I will be registering for this month; I have tons of ideas (and the equipment ready!) to get the podcast up and going (slowly but surely!) and travel plans are in place (hopefully, if all goes well with the arrival of Baby A!) to explore new destinations later this summer.

What I'm most proud of in the first 3 months is the 5 habits I've really tried to stick too - getting up early to enjoy the outdoors; weekly meal planning; consuming less TV; being more strategic about social media consumption; and so far, I've loved the weekly coffee dates I've been able to fit in to help stick to my #Blog452 goal and client work.

One concept that has really stuck out for me recently, as I'm almost through Neil Pasricha's The Happiness Equationis how we all have 168 hours available to us in a week. If you sleep on average 8 hours a night x 7 days a week, that's 56 hours gone right off the top, known as the first '56 bucket' (and the most important of course!). If we work on average, a 40 hour work week, plus factor in commute time, extra hours worked, prep time, etc, a second '56 bucket' can be established. Its the third and final '56 hour bucket' that is ours to do with it what we want. THAT is where working on your #2017 goals/habits kicks in.

Yes, goal chasing can be overwhelming and daunting. Yes, some days are more productive than others. Yes, some days you're ahead feeling great, and other days you just need to watch Netflix to let yourself have a break. Yes, some days you hear great feedback and other days there are crickets. With only 3 months off the top of 2017, I've been able to learn to take small, actionable steps each day/week to work towards the goals I've set.

If you make this type of commitment (it really isn't rocket science, just sheer willpower), you can and will see your goals through to fruition.  And just think, we still have 9 more months to go, what an awesome feeling!

As I get ready for my biggest life-changing moment yet, in May (motherhood!), I already can't wait to report back on Q2 progress.... I suspect its going to be the BEST life experience. How are you making out with your #2017 goals, I'd love to hear from YOU!

[Photo Source]

Start Putting Your Sh*t Out to the World

Through the personal work I do with my platform The Passionate Voice, I've always worked to help others, both personal and businesses, to harness their voice through social media work and in-person communications training. Helping them to learn how they can speak up, be heard and make impact in whatever industry they are in.

A perfect example of this is Ag Women's Network. There are so many fellow women in agriculture/food and fellow bloggers and social media users who are putting themselves out there about the topics and issues that matter most to them. Its also an incredible personal development forum to learn from each other. I recently challenged these same women to blog (or start blogging!) with me in the personal #Blog452 challenge I've set for myself this year. One month in to 2017 and I'm happy to say, I've blogged every week!

I realize putting yourself out there to the online world takes confidence and guts.. and some would shy away from this. I also realize that there are a lot of 'fence sitters' who are watching others around them do what they wished they themselves would or could do. This isn't a bad place to be in though so all the 'fence sitters' reading this, take this as your "call to action" post :)

Have you thought of starting a blog but held off, time after time, because you were worried what others would think or weren't sure how to get easily started?

Have you been in a meeting and wanted to say something but feared what others would think and so you refrained from sharing your thoughts?

Have you wanted to give a talk at the front of a room but feared what the crowd may think of you and/or how you would be able to present in front of an audience?

Putting yourself out there to the rest of the world is not easy. Once you begin speaking your mind and showcasing your passion or what your good at on a platform, it is an outlet to be quickly judged by others. Not everyone can do it nor are you ever really 'ready' for what follows once you finally do put yourself out there for the rest of the world to judge.

Putting yourself out there doesn't necessarily mean big, elaborate gestures. It can be the smallest, most simple step. It can be finally putting up your hand at a meeting and saying something. It could be sending that email to the person you've always wanted to contact with. Joining a committee, board or team after thinking about it joining. It could mean FINALLY starting that blog/website to showcase your talents and what your good at in hopes that one day you'll be recognized for those talents or to positively make a difference.

[Tweet ""Putting yourself out there doesn't necessarily mean big, elaborate gestures." #PassionateVoice"]

Putting yourself out there is never easy. But it is SO worth it once you do. Trust me, this is something I've struggled with in doing my work at The Passionate Voice. These posts don't just write themselves... and many of my posts have sat in draft form until this year when I committed to 2017's #Blog452Challenge.

But I promise, just go ahead and test the waters and you'll see what I mean.

Really, what's the worse thing that could happen..... besides crappy tweets from people or hearing crickets because you don't think anyone is reading? In all seriousness, what really is the worse thing that could happen? 

If anything, as I've personally learned, you'll be mad at yourself that you didn't put your sh*t out there SOONER.

[Photo Source]

Does Emotion Outweigh Science, Facts & Logic?

It has been a hard few days to comprehend what is taking place in the world right now. In whatever circles you run in, industry you work in or conversations you've had with family and friends, I'm sure the topic of conversation as of late, has mentioned either one of two things:

  1. the state of the world
  2. something you've seen or referenced on social media and how social media has played a role in reflecting the current state of our world

If you work in the agriculture-food industry as I do, one of the 'topics of conversation' in the last year has also been about the misinformation that exists when it comes to labeling and consumer knowledge of things such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), gluten-free, hormones, use of antibiotics, etc.

A lot of the timeliness around these conversations has to do with the marketing/supply-chain decisions made by major fast food chains and retailers recently in where and how they are sourcing their products in relation to what their consumers are asking for (or what they want them to ask for) (see McDonald's & cage-free eggs), Subway sourcing Canadian ingredients, A & W's Better Beef & Raised without the use of antibiotics campaigns,  Domino's Pizza using only cheese made from 100% Canadian milk, and McDonald's 'Not without Canadian farmers' campaign)

As you can see, some of these decisions favour Canadian agriculture and food while other campaigns hinder. 

In many of the conversations I've participated in, been privy too or watched transpire online relating to food and misinformation over the past year, one of the most common arguments in how we need to counter this misinformation with the use of science/facts to dispute the misconceptions.

How the industry needs to inform consumers with more facts, figures and logic. How the industry has to help consumers make more rational, well-informed and educated decisions in how they go about choosing their food. How we need to let the facts speak for the truth to counter misinformation that consumers have learned, grown up with, or heard from family, friends, society, etc.

After witnessing the 2016 US Presidential election and all that has transpired since, including this weekends devastating events, it has made me question that while we can believe that facts and figures should be used as the right tool to shape truth and change one's opinion, what role does emotion play in all of this? Does emotion in fact outweigh science, facts, figures, logic and rationality?

Can you truly have a one-time conversation with someone and try and change their personal opinion on a matter with facts/figures? Or do we have to get to the heart or root of WHY their making that decision to understand that more often times then we'd like to acknowledge, emotion is what drives people's decisions, thoughts and ideas, which would explain some of the events that are taking place currently in the world and influencing the conversation online and on social media.

Whether it is right or wrong, there is science that supports that emotion is what in fact what trumps science, facts, logic and rationality. 

Studying emotion and how it relates to our brain and day-to-day decision making is something that's been studied since the 1800's. As this Harvard study about emotions and decision making points out, "many psychological scientists now assume that emotions are the dominant driver of our most meaningful decisions in life." Many leading neuroscientists, who have studied emotion and how it relates to decision-making more prominently in the last 15 to 20 years, have come to find that "even with what we believe are logical decisions, the very point of choice is arguably always based on emotion." 

If this weekend has taught us anything (among so many other valuable life lessons), it would be that what appears 'right' or 'wrong' depends on the eye of the beholder and what their emotions are telling them is right or wrong in their world of views or beliefs.

This can be disheartening and hard to come to terms with, but its something for all of us to keep in mind as we communicate with our intended audiences, especially in the agriculture and food field.

[Photo Source]