As a farmer (ag researcher, ag communicator, etc.), working in an industry that is heavily science based, you are probably someone who makes myriad rational decisions every day, each formulated around strategic business goals and outcomes. But, as Seth Godin, author and marketing guru, points out, “The paradox is that you might also believe that you do this all the time, and that others do it, too.”
The reality is that almost every choice we make is subconscious. Our brain has an efficiently speedy and analytical internal process that compiles and crunches data, acquired from our experiences and worldviews, into split-second decisions. The influences of our social environment and our tendency towards a hive mind (also known as groupthink or swarm intelligence) also have a significant impact.
The latter two sources tap into the more emotional functions of the mind. They carry more weight and frequently tip the balance of the decision-making process towards less rational responses. Therefore, “Every time you assume that others will be swayed by your logical argument, you’ve most likely made a significant, irrational mistake,” Godin says.
Furthermore, rejection of what you say has and always will occur. How you react to rejection is key to how your messages will spread and resonate.
As bedfellows, rationality (or lack of) and rejection can undermine your messaging and advocacy efforts.
How can you overcome the irrational mind and hone better responses to rejection?
- Realize that rejection is not necessarily a reflection of what you said, but often a matter of addressing the right audience at the right time.
- Choose your words carefully. Swapping out one synonym for another can make a critical difference in whether your message is an emotional sweet spot hit or miss.
- Be mindful of how you search out information and make decisions, then use those insights to understand how people absorb information and how they may react. In turn, don’t automatically assume that most people think analytically, rationally, or deliberately just because you make a conscious effort to do so.
- Learn to think critically – and help others to do so as well.
- Recognize when information or a story you’re sharing doesn’t resonate and dissect the situation to learn why. Do better the next time.
- Focus on those tricky cognitive biases that occur in the first five seconds or less. Use the Ladder of Abstraction as a tool to help listeners grasp “abstract statements unaccompanied by concrete examples” – which can lead to automatic aversion rather than pausing, reflecting, and asking questions that lead to constructive dialogue.
To overcome irrationality is to learn to be open-minded, to be a constant learner, and to understand the science behind logic. To overcome rejection is to recognize the right opportunities and to constantly improve your communications. “If you want to teach, to change minds or to cause action, a consistent curriculum is always better than a single event.” (Seth Godin)