Communication skills have been on my mind lately. Farm meetings, texting to get bull calves sold and interacting with people as we go about our daily farm routines are some examples of how we use interpersonal skills to give and receive information.
The number of texts it takes to contact a buyer for our bull calves, arrange the day and time, let them know how many there are, the price and so on can be a lot. Sometimes, I run out of patience to make the connections via texts. I wish I could call, discuss the arrangements and be finished. But it usually takes the back-and-forth texting over a few days to get a plan for the calves and then more confirmation the day of.
A logical place to talk about the plans of the day is around the farmhouse table at meal time. Yet it is also a time to relax and spend time enjoying the food being served for the meal. We sit around a kitchen island on stools, and in close proximity to one another, so it is easy to hear and understand what is being said. Family mealtime is good for connecting with each other, but not all of our team members are at the meals for farm-related discussions.
Ease of getting a clear message sent and received is often not the case in the milking parlor or on other areas of our farm. Parlor talks seem like a good place to touch base with farm team members, because we spend so many hours there. Honestly, it is not the best environment to communicate. After all, it is best to concentrate on milking and not visiting.
Farm meetings are held on our farm when there is new information to go over with everyone who is involved in the decision making in attendance. We have been having a lot of these discussions to go over plans for a barn addition. They are held around a large table where everyone can see and hear. Yet more skills are needed to communicate effectively.
I attended a conference where Monica McConkey, a Rural Mental Health Specialist, explained the way we process and communicate information. She pointed out that meetings can sometimes be a “complete disconnect.”
To help to keep that from happening, we need to think of communication styles. She outlined four types of people and how the way each type processes and communicates information is different.
– Action-oriented: These people are action or task-oriented and want the outcome of the discussion to be bullet points which outline the tasks to do. They are bottom-line oriented.
– Process oriented: These people listen and want to think things through. They take time and ask, “How will it work or play out over time?”
– People oriented: These folks think about how each change we are considering could affect our entire team of people on our farm. How does it impact the flow of work on our people? They are geared toward relationships and teamwork.
– Idea people: They are strategic thinkers and want to examine how it will change the long-term outlook of the operation. They can see the big picture and the future. These people are enthusiastic and might say, “Let’s implement this and it will be great.” They are not so concerned with smaller details.
McConkey also said a mix of communication styles of people involved in a farm operation is a gift. It is important to realize each person may not see it the same way when discussing an idea, change or future goal.
So, with that in mind, I plan to keep working on my own communication skills. I enjoy learning about the topic and implementing what I have learned as I go about the tasks on the farm each day and as I communicate with others.
Thanksgiving happens this month. The holiday helps us to remember to give thanks for our many material blessings and for our meaningful relationships with family, friends, partners and employees. It is also good to thank all of those around us each day and give people positive feedback for the job they are doing.
Maybe you will enjoy the restful time of a family gathering to have a positive conversation with family and friends in the next few months ahead.
    Jean dairy farms with her husband, Rolf, and brother-in-law, Mike, and children Emily, Matthias and Leif. They farm near St. Peter, Minnesota, in Norseland, where she is still trying to fit in with the Norwegians and Swedes. They milk 200 cows and farm 650 acres. She can be reached at