Throw out any topic and people are quick to share their point of view on politics, religion, food, and so forth. There's no lack of opinions, and the internet has given many of us a mouthpiece to share.

Last month, Heineken released a commercial to capture the existing divide of viewpoints. "Worlds Apart" was an experiment that asked, "Can two strangers with opposing views prove that there's more that unites us than divides us?"

Do you ever feel that your consumer is a world apart from you?

People who live hundreds of miles away from your farm (and have never stepped foot on a farm) are making food decisions that might impact your farm.

It's easy to point fingers, but the truth is that we need less farmers telling their story and more farmers listening to what our consumers are trying to tell us.

Let's watch as two complete strangers enter a conversation.

Icebreaker

Starting conversations with a stranger is not easy.

In this commercial, two complete strangers are removed from what separates them because they're working toward something together. Think of things you do outside the farm. Volunteer projects, your kids’ sports teams or maybe your church group. . . these are all great places to build relationships with people outside of agriculture.

But how do you break the ice online? Join a non-ag Facebook group that interests you, then use Facebook’s search to see if there are groups that exist on that topic (Harley Davidsons, DIY projects, baking, or Crossfit, for example).

Q&A

Note the "Q" in Q&A because it's often forgotten. We may know the answers when it comes to farming and food, but we must start with asking questions and building a relationship. If you don’t know anything about the person you’re talking to, all your words will fall flat.

Watch in this commercial when people's faces light up as the other shows interest in them. Show people that you're sincerely curious, interested and willing to get to know them - beyond your differences.

Bridge Building

Now you can learn about the person’s differing viewpoint. Awkward? Maybe, but only for a second. You’ve taken the time to establish a connection and learn a lot about the other person so it now feels like you’re an arm’s length away and not on other sides of the Grand Canyon.

The Decision

To engage or not engage? If you continue to ask question and find common ground it only becomes easier to engage. That doesn’t mean following steps 1 through 4 will convince everyone that your viewpoint is right. It just means that you’re set up for a better conversation.

Step off the pulpit. Put down the megaphone. We need less farmers telling their story and more farmers starting conversations.

Looking for ideas or tools to get started? Join the Dairy Hub www.dairyinfo.org.


J. Vander Molen

As a Director of Digital Training for Dairy Management, Inc., Jamie Vander Molen provides digital communication and social media training courses for farmers, industry, corporate staff and serves as a mentor to executive staff.

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