Are you living with broken hearts? The deep emotions of “stubborn” farmers need to surface to let healing begin. Farming’s emotional factors are keeping you stuck.
Conflict is not bad. Unresolved hurtful conflict is frustrating and diverting good management energy towards drama.
Just because there is drama on your farm, you don’t have to attend the performance.
- Love doesn’t read minds — Holding “cards close to your chest” isn’t wise. I have no idea what you’re thinking, feeling, needing, or wanting unless you tell me. People need to talk. Everyone needs to listen. Families are meant to be a source of nurture and love, providing roots and wings.
- Talk with a tone of grace and kindness not abrasive swearing or yelling — Honey is going to get you much further than a voice filled with vinegar. Listen to yourself. Do you like how you sound? Abrasiveness and profanity aren’t getting you the results you want.
- Share your intent — Intentions are hidden until we share why we want certain things. How about starting a sentence with, “It is not my intent, mom and dad, to sound greedy or entitled, I just need to know the plan for us as a younger couple to find a way to build equity on this farm. I need to decrease the anxiety over the uncertainty of my family’s future.”
- What does everyone want — This is called the common interest. I suspect you all want a harmonious working relationship and a profitable farm. You also want people to have roles that give them meaning and purpose as they age in place. You likely don’t want to be in business with non-farm heirs. People usually pull together in the same direction when they’re clear about what they want and why. Do you know what you want for income streams? For housing? For fairness? When the spouses don’t want the same things, you’re likely going to get stuck with no plan. One spouse is tired and wants a new life away from the farm while the other isn’t ready to move or let go of decision making.
- Pinches are tensions which build and are not resolved — Facilitated family meetings have surprise announcements when folks start opening up to talk about what they truly want and why some things, e.g., grandfather’s quarters are so important to them. You may not know anger is simmering in your spouse or your heir when hurt has been caused without your knowledge. There may also be fear of failure when founders assume the next generation will not be able to manage debt or risk on the farm. Can you identify what is causing you to feel pinched or tense?
- That was then and this is now — Conflict erupts from unrealistic expectations. Farmers of the 1980s remember the pain of selling land to settle debt. Fast forward 40 years and we now have non-farm kids asking for large gifts of farmland. Fighting about expectations over keeping the farm intact is a conflict issue to be addressed, with explanation of why you want to keep the farmland intact for the farming successors. “Where is written it is your job as parents and founders to keep all your children economically equal?” This isn’t workable. Lawyer Mona Brown uses “poison pill” tools to protect agriculture land so it’s not flipped a few short years after the land transfer.
- Can be you be a reconciler — Every conflict resolution story involves someone being willing to acknowledge wrongs done and then work towards creating a solution. When I ask families about their models of forgiveness, they’re dumbfounded. How do you make things right when there is an offense caused, harm done, things broken? Author Gary Chapman’s book “The 5 Apology Languages: The Secret to Healthier Relationships” says an apology may not be enough. What are you willing to do to make things right? Do you need to change your actions and behaviour? Is restitution necessary? An entire branch of a family tree is severed due to greed, harsh words, and lack of forgiveness, along with no wills being read before the benefactor dies. Do you want to be rich in relationship? What are you going to do to learn the skills of reconciliation?
- Invest in outside help to create clear communication — Independent folks love to fix things on their own. This may work on your favourite old baler, but it’s not good to do it yourself when emotions are running high. A facilitator/coach keeps the family conversation safe and respectful.