I am writing this in a hotel room in Melfort, Sask., as I am on the road with the Farm Leadership Council (www.wflc.ca)talking to farm folks and credit union staff about “Who wants the farm and when?” One of my key stories is about the filter that the father has for his daughter-in-law, the way he thinks that everything she does or says is negative in his mind. (Stop for a second and spread your hand in front of your face, that is the filter you are using to judge others on your farm team. Is the filter positive or negative?)
Where did this stinking thinking come from? Former Grainews columnist Della Radcliffe was the first person I remember who used the term “stinking thinking.” These are thoughts that are not helpful to bettering your behaviour or your attitude toward another person on your farm team.
My speaker colleague Randy Park has an excellent tool on his website at www.thinkingforresults.com.The tool is called the “Think about it!” worksheet, and I think you should download it. He asks you to describe a situation, and ask, “What do I know for certain?” Then answer these questions: What am I assuming? What am I ignoring? What I don’t know? What I have learned? Who needs to know this?
As a farming founder who is losing sleep at night worrying about your daughter-in-law, I challenge you to fill out Randy’s Think About It! worksheet. Randy taught me in December to consider the filters that we put on our thinking that cause us to jump to conclusions and make faulty decisions that lead to less than positive outcomes.
For instance, a farm couple is “helping” their son and his wife by coming by often to offer to do the yard work, run to town for special groceries, or drop in for lunch. The farm parents think they are being helpful, but the younger couple is seeing the parents’ over-involvement as interference. Both couples have negative filters of “stinking thinking” that causes them to be frustrated, rather than thankful for the offer of help. When these assumptions were exposed at a family business meeting, the tone of the relationships on the farm front became way more harmonious than it had been in months.
I have learned that it is helpful to check out one’s assumptions. I assume that families want to get along, but I also know that I cannot read minds. I want to know what your intent is for doing something, an action that has the effect of frustrating me. You only know about my frustration if I am willing to share my thoughts with you in a safe and respectful manner.
“WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO DO DIFFERENTLY?”
This is a good question to use in order start cleaning your thinking filter. “I apologize for judging your actions, without checking what effect my actions were having on you.” I have learned that it “takes courage to talk about our differences, and I don’t want to assume things about what you need to be happy on the farm team.”
What assumptions do you need to clean out of your brain? Go to www.thinkingforresults.comto use Randy Park’s worksheet. The free tool will get you to work on clearing up thoughts that are not helpful to your farm’s success.
If you would like to join the family of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, send me an email or check out www.canadianspeakers.org
There is a wealth of great tools for all of us to be better thinkers, and ultimately better communicators.
I hope that the only thing that stinks on your farm is the compost under the kitchen sink, waiting for willing hands to unload it in the appropriate place outside. Let’s stop dumping our assumptions on each other, and learn to pay attention to how our thoughts shape our behaviour toward the ones we choose to love — and farm with.
Remember, it’s your farm, your family, your choice.
Elaine Froese is a certified farm family business coach who helps families talk about the tough issues of farm transfer and succession. Her work is recognized across Canada. She is thankful for farm parents and in-laws who modeled encouragement to her. This column is dedicated to the memory Margaret Froese , Elaine’s mother in law who passed away January 31, 2009. Margaret’s love for Elaine gives Elaine strength for her work with farm families. Visit www.elainefroese.comor 1-866-848-8311.