I recently got a new T-shirt. It says “2020” on it and it’s a picture of a Dumpster fire.
Fair to say, that’s a pretty accurate feeling for many of us during 2020. Coronavirus, schooling/working from home, racial and law enforcement tensions, presidential election partisanship, Iranian military grandstanding, unsolicited seeds from China, wildfires, hurricanes, and murder hornets! And there’s probably so much more that I am missing. This year can be done with anytime — and so can the divisive society. Doesn’t it feel like this sometimes?
There are too many people offended or hurt by differences. Recently I encountered a girl who was so rude to me based purely on the fact that we are two very different people. We don’t agree on guns, politics, lifestyle choice. And that’s OK! The world would be a very boring place if we were all the same. The problem was: She didn’t like me for it and made the rest of our time in the group together quite awkward. It just wasn’t necessary!
We see this in agriculture all the time, too. People are sometimes afraid to speak out for fear of the “haters.” Who cares? Do it anyway. Advocating for ag is an important and rewarding thing to do, and the rudeness is such a small part of it. Haters also give us something to write or talk about. Heck, if people weren’t misinformed, I would probably be out of a job! Ha.
Why do we as people tend to put so much weight on negativity? Experts sometimes refer to this as negativity bias, and this explains the psychology behind it. Essentially, the link explains that this “is our tendency not only to register negative stimuli more readily but also to dwell on these events. Also known as positive-negative asymmetry, this negativity bias means that we feel the sting of a rebuke more powerfully than we feel the joy of praise.”
We are also usually our own worst critics. A million people could tell you that you’re amazing and one person could say you suck. Don’t listen to that one person, and don’t let it get you down — no need to cater to the 1 percent of jerks! Listen to the majority. Not everyone is going to like you all the time, but just trust and believe in yourself, embrace the different. Sometimes you can even turn that negativity into fuel to keep going and be even more successful. This link explains how, including using the feedback to evaluate yourself, to better understand the differing viewpoint, or to become a more independent thinker.
Here is one example of how to turn negativity into a positive. After I was attacked by vegan animal rights activists, I turned this into a #donatethehate hashtag and donated to my favorite charities and nonprofits that go directly to promoting the animal agriculture industry. Another example is the Burger King scenario and how having a dialogue can open minds and come to a conversation about improving the real story of modern farming.
When communicating and advocating for agriculture, we have to put ourselves in other’s shoes. As difficult as it can be sometimes, try hard to not be rude or easily offended. You never know what the other person is going through. Have empathy and remember that a majority of people are not stupid, and with communication, kindness, and patience, we can change minds and have a positive impact or lessen that division. Our society is divided here in 2020 but it just doesn’t have to be that way.
Look at all sides of an argument and stay optimistic! We farmers are good at that, aren’t we? We get amazing life skills on the farm; remember we can use that work ethic and apply it to interpersonal relationships as well.
Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker, and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm, which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.