Lessons Learned Through Agricultural Conversations

This morning as I was reading a post from Agriculture Proud titled, “How to Lose an Argument on Food and Agriculture Topics,” and I just had to share it. In his post Ryan Goodman, the author of Agriculture Proud, included a quote from Darwin that really stuck with me:

“It is not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the ones most adaptable to change.” -Darwin

Granted Darwin was probably referencing his theory on “survival of the fittest,” but I think being adaptable to change is an essential quality for all aspects of life, especially in agriculture. In Goodman’s post he talks about the lessons he has learned during failure and why people, who have the best intentions of advocating, lose arguments. He specifically relates the quote from Darwin to failing to engage in other conversations and seek out other perspectives, but I think the quote pertains to each of his points.

Goodman’s ten lessons learned during failure and reasons for losing an argument are:

1. Assuming science will give us the answers; it only gives us some of the answers.

2. Using economics as the justification for all of our practices.

3. Assuming that you have to speak up in defense of all agricultural practices.

4. Being reactive rather than proactive.

5. Assuming we can’t do better.

6. Attacking everyone who disagrees with you in a negative, critical manner.

7. Not being willing to listen because we are so busy responding.

8. Assuming that the lunatic fringe is the general public.

9. Assuming that because someone disagrees with you they are stupid, evil or both.

10. Not working to branch outside your comfort zone.

As I was reading these points I couldn’t help but think how true they are. As an agricultural enthusiast, I can look back to every argument I ever had and lost and relate at least one of these points to the reason for losing. We can’t know everything, and we are not going to come from the same background as the person we are in conversation with. But, if we take Darwin’s quote to heart, and work to be more adaptive, we can not only be more successful arguing a point, but also learn more along the way.

In the post, Goodman then goes on to talk about how we can approach controversial topics. He has multiple points, but a few of my favorites are: consider your own biases or confusion surrounding the issue; set a framework and objectives for the discussion that lead to engagement and consideration of opposing viewpoints; and at the end of a conversation summarize and reflect, then always leave the door open for follow-up conversations.

After reading this post, I hope to remember these lessons and become better at engaging in agricultural conversations while being open-minded to other perspectives. To read the full list of tips and expand on lessons learned, check out this post on Agriculture Proud.

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