Cyndi's Two Cents

Polish up on communications skills

As I prepare for my upcoming summer staff meeting, I spend some time going over notes from the previous gathering. This time, due to COVID restrictions, the previous gathering was in 2019, not 2020. With a team of twelve scattered across the Midwest, it is a rare opportunity to gather them all together in one location.  Making the most of every minute together is my goal.  The time is spent re-tooling, sharpening skills and building better relationships with one another as individuals and as a team.

One of the exercises we engaged in during our most recent meeting focused on identifying those things that are holding us back as individuals and as a team.  Over the course of the 3 – 6 months following, we discussed and measured progress in overcoming the obstacles that blocked our lane or at least slowed us down. 

Some of the issues that arose were quickly resolved or made manageable.  Others are so ingrained in our fabric that we’ll probably deal with them for many years to come. 

Topping the list of obstacles facing our team in 2019 was “communication.” 

It seems ironic that people in the business of communicating information to others through radio programming, web, mobile and digital platforms could struggle with communication between members of their own team. But I’m not at all surprised. 

Communication is one of the biggest roadblocks in nearly every relationship – personal and/or professional. 

Merriam-Webster’s simple definition for communication is “the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else.”  That sounds simple enough, but how we individually and en masse interpret that which is being communicated to us is often unpredictable. 

There are approximately 6,500 spoken languages in the world today.  I wonder how many unspoken languages exist. 

My team of agricultural journalists is charged with presenting information to farmers and the general public.  Oft times, people involved in agriculture use terminology that is unfamiliar to those not directly involved in agriculture.  At the very least it can be confusing.  At the worst it can put agriculture in a poor light and destroy consumer confidence. 

Words are powerful. 

Activist groups with deep pockets pushing an anti-agriculture agenda have been effective in planting seeds of doubt in the minds of many.  Many people are misinformed, thus mistrust agricultural practices in the United States.  Underlying fears and doubt cause otherwise intelligent people to be skeptical even when presented with sound science. 

Assembled in a big conference room in our home office, members of my team are able to look across the table or to the person sitting beside them and communicate effectively.  We do not have the luxury of face-to-face communication with one another every day, and even if we did, we wouldn’t get it right every time.  But we will keep trying.  I hope you do as well.

Much is at risk.  Use your words wisely. 

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