A few weeks ago, Successful Farming featured a blog highlighting 3 Steps to More Effective Conversations with Consumers. Look East‘s vice president, Roxi Beck, touched on three specific behaviors that she believes are undermining trust and why agriculturalists should stop doing them. Throughout my read, I continued to find connections with the communication of scientific information to nonscientists. Scientists have been missing the mark, but like Beck states, that can be changed.
“All too often, when someone makes a false statement, we immediately engage, correct the misinformation and call it a win. Then one day, we realize the person no longer speaks to us. Inundating consumers with an information dump won’t change their minds. Facts used to drive everything. They’re still important, but if the goal is to build trust in food and agriculture, they’re not the most valuable element.”
When googled, a scientist is described as a person who is an expert in science. They often find comfort in data, numbers, statistics, and experimentation. Communicating their findings to a group of people who lack knowledge on the subject is where scientists struggle. Beck states, “Science addresses whether we can do something, but consumers aren’t asking if we can, they are asking if we should. That’s an ethical question.”
Factual information must come from someone who’s worthy of trust. Beck says these three steps might be undermining trust and should be stopped immediately:
1. Stop persuading.
2. Stop correcting.
3. Stop educating.
Instead, try a different approach with these three steps for a more effective conversation:
1. Start listening without judgement.
2. Start acknowledging their concerns and asking questions.
3. Start sharing who you are when you talk about what you know.
It’s time to embrace the skepticism surrounding science. “The person on the other end of the conversation wants to be heard and acknowledged, and wants to obtain credible information from a trusted source with shared values,” Beck says. As a scientist, you need to be ready to join the conversation.
By: Kylie Peterson