GPS Navigation for Starting The Conversation

I’ve talked to a lot of kids. A lot of kids. They are the reason that I first got on Facebook. They are a real inspiration to me. But being a kid these days is a tough deal. Much more difficult than it was when I was young. Any parent who say otherwise is not seeing the whole picture. But that’s not the reason for this blog.
A good friend of mine, Ray Prock, noticed several of my Facebook status and commented that a lot of the similarities exist between what I do with young people and what we do while engaging the public about farming.  It turns out he’s very right. (It pained me to write that down)
So after some though, I’ve narrowed it down to a few points to help start a conversation.

The best opportunities take time.

Rarely do you sit down and have a heart to heart of the first conversation. No one trusts you completely the first time they talk with you. To gain a certain level of trust is something that takes time, it’s something you earn. Relationships are that way, they take time. But you need to really care about the other person, beyond just the conversation.

The best conversations came from a connection that wasn’t forced.

Most of the time we just talk, share some laughs, talk about what is important to them. The very first agricultural conversation I had with a young person was based on some youth ministry stuff that I volunteer for. Really nice young lady who I knew nothing about. For a year all I knew was her first name. She was, might still be, a supporter of PETA. We had some great conversations. It was an easy give and take that lasted for a year.

If they want to talk, and you can make it work, you need to make it work.

Timeliness is important, sometimes immediacy is really important, but when they want to talk, talk. A lost opportunity may be exactly that, lost. Now the things that we discuss with customers of Ag products might not be as urgent as someone struggling with cutting, depression, or suicide, but everyone wants someone to listen. If you can be that, the rewards are amazing.

Never, I repeat, NEVER, lose it. 

When a young person is having a really bad day, possibly because of a bad decision, the last thing they want to hear is someone telling them they are an idiot. They are hoping to hear the voice of reason. Our consumers are wanting the same from us. The comments they make might be made to get a reaction, be careful what that reaction is.

Practice helps.

The more conversations I have, the harder it is to surprise me. It can happen, but repeated conversations lets you anticipate some of what is coming. Knowing what questions to ask and having an informal game plan in place, all make the interaction less stressful for both parties.

Sometimes it won’t be a conversation.

There are times when I just need to shut up. I’m a salesman. It’s my job to get people to talk. But sometimes they don’t want, or don’t know how to express what they are feeling. That’s a reality of life. Not that an attempt shouldn’t be made, but I try not get upset or frustrated if they don’t respond by baring their souls. Ag conversations are the same way. We think we know the answers, or are willing to be a listening ear, but that may not be what is needed at that moment. It’s a reality.Well, that’s all the wisdom I could extract. I hope it makes sense come morning…..
Mike Davelaar has been selling molasses for cattle feed and advocating for agriculture in South Dakota for more 20 years. For the last decade, he’s been mentoring young people offering them someone to talk to and often a shoulder to cry on.
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5 comments

  1. Just Farmers says:

    Today's conversational tips come from Mike Davelaar who has spent many hours being a friend to kids who need someone to be their friends. http://wp.me/p1S12x-iM

  2. Just Farmers says:

    Today's conversational tips come from Mike Davelaar who has spent many hours being a friend to kids who need someone to be their friends. http://wp.me/p1S12x-iM

  3. Just Farmers says:

    Today's conversational tips come from Mike Davelaar who has spent many hours being a friend to kids who need someone to be their friends. http://wp.me/p1S12x-iM

  4. Great post, Mike! As someone who's enjoyed your mentorship and moral support many times in the past, I can think of no one better to speak to this topic. You're a blessing to your communities, whether it's through your youth mentorship or your involvement in agriculture.

  5. Great post, Mike. A lot of people want instant results from these relationships and it just doesn't work that way – not in real life and not in the digital one.

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