Ugh! They Just Don’t Listen! Tips for Communicating with a Different Generation

Ugh! They Just Don’t Listen! Tips for Communicating with a Different GenerationEvery message has a delivery and a reception. But there are a lot of things that can get in the way.


If you’re serious about making a difference in the quality of communication at your farm, employ these five common-sense tips consistently, and you’ll notice a big difference in the way you’re heard.

1. Trust and Respect

Without fail, these are the two most important parts of a multi-generational relationship. The younger generation is looking for trust in the abilities they’ve amassed and want to be put to work for the good of the business.

The older generation wants respect for what they’ve built. Maybe it’s not the biggest or most modern farm, but it’s here and still thriving after all these years.

It’s not the thought that counts, it’s the action. Earn respect by giving trust: most of us learn more from our mistakes than our successes. How can you minimize risk to the business and give the younger generation a chance to try out their skills at the same time?

2. No matter what you do, you can’t change the other person

You can only change yourself. Are you willing?

Last year, we got a puppy. The training book repeatedly mentioned the need for clear instructions, repetition, and consistent reinforcement. But the comment that really stuck with me was “When there’s an issue, it’s usually with the two-legged animal, not the four-legged one.”

Ask yourself: “What am I doing that is getting in the way of communicating clearly?”

I’ve since noticed that many dog owners aren’t consistent with their commands. Does “down” mean lie down or get off the couch?

3. Set clear expectations

If you don’t clearly state what you want, and you get something different, that’s on you.

My husband offered to refill beverages at a recent family dinner. My aunt said, “Great! I’d like this much champagne mixed with this much pink lemonade, and three ice cubes,” and she demonstrated exactly what “this much” meant.

My uncle immediately said, “Stop being so bossy!” But was she?

Now my husband didn’t have to wonder or worry that he poured the right drink. My aunt got the drink she wanted, and nobody wasted any alcohol.

4. If you’re not sure, ask

We know what it means to assume, yet we do it all the time. It’s almost always worse in your head, and you can’t lose something you never had.

It’s time for one of my clients to renew the lease between generations. The landlords (older generation) proposed a one-year term.

All the lessees (younger generation) heard was we’re not with you for the long haul. You don’t believe in the future here, and maybe you’re planning to sell.

One of the older generation was thinking, “I don’t want to work here for more than a year,” and the other was thinking, “I’m doing some estate planning, and I don’t want to have to redo documents once I put this property into an LLC.”

What could we accomplish if we actually talked this out?

5. Why Are We Doing This?

In a labor force where 6 million people are looking for work and there are 7 million jobs unfilled, you’re in competition to get and keep the good ones. What makes you stand out as a good place to work?

Thinking big picture means having a clear statement of purpose, a clear vision of what success looks like, and a way to know that we’ve accomplished it.

So many of us are good at the what and the how, but we’ve never spent any time on why. It might have been a good idea at the time and we kept doing it, but that’s not going to cut it anymore.

A clear purpose will give you the chance to double-down on what you’re doing and get your team excited about being part of it. It will also give those who are not excited a chance to exit the scene, because believe it or not, you’re better off without them. Spend the time developing a clear why. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.