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Six tips for constructive conversations

Published Feb. 11, 2014 | Discuss this article on Facebook
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by US Farmers & Ranchers Alliance

When engaging consumers in conversations about food system issues, try to use these keys to having a productive conversation that builds and further enhances trust:

1. Acknowledge concerns with open minds. Concerns are real. They are not right or wrong. You don’t have to agree, but you do need to acknowledge that concerns exist. (“I understand your concern…” “I can see why you feel that way…” “A lot of people I have talked with have the same question…”

2. Talk about what concerns consumers, not what you want to talk about. We need to know more about what they’re asking so we can know how to answer them. Remember that there is only one rule for being a good conversationalist – learn to listen.

3. Don’t refute with facts alone. Addressing a concern with a refuting set of facts just dismisses the concerns and does nothing to open a conversation. Everyone has their own set of facts. If you don’t trust food production, you don’t trust its facts. The goal of a conversation is to achieve understanding about each other.

4. Turn off your defense. This is not personal. It’s about the food we eat, not the people who grow it. Always approach every conversation – even the ones that feel like an attack – as an opportunity to share your story.

5. Don’t claim to be 100 percent right. Who is? As hard as they try, farmers don’t always get it right, but they do get it better. Share your story about how you have “gotten better” on your operation.

6. Talk about using less instead of producing more. Less is the flip-side of more and in many cases consumers are more receptive to hearing it this way. Today’s farmers use less resources and still produce healthy food for all is the gateway message to your farm story that addresses many concerns.

U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) consists of more than 80 farmer – and rancher-led organizations and agricultural partners representing virtually all aspects of agriculture, working to engage in dialogue with consumers who have questions about how today’s food is grown and raised. USFRA is committed to continuous improvement and supporting U.S. farmers and ranchers efforts to increase confidence and trust in today’s agriculture.

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