Slices and Stacks

Each human on this planet has a unique life experience.

No two people have experienced the world in quite the same way, not even identical twins.

How and when we meet people and the types of interactions we have with them; what knowledge we come across and how it’s framed; how we learn; and where our interests, preoccupations and opinions are gathered and assessed – all intersect to create our particular slice of reality.

This means that we each receive, process, store, and retrieve information in infinite combinations.

This also means that the act of communicating for educational or influential purposes is all that more challenging – or does it?

A “technology stack” is a collection of different technologies that work complementarily towards a specific outcome, for example a systems foundation composed of several elements required for software or websites and mobile apps to function.

Similarly, we can experiment with and create communication stacks to design a systems foundation for constructive dialogue. Assembling communication insights and tactics to create a model that can be applied to any impromptu interaction will ease your anxiety and start the conversation off on the right foot.

Below are four communications tactics that can be combined to act as your de facto communication stack.

Survival tip

Your experience and expertise as a Canadian agriculture professional is vastly different than that of a consumer. But have you examined your individual experience paths (yours and the consumer’s) for points that intersect? At the very least, are there any lines of experience that run parallel and which, through mutual curiosity and rummaging around in candid conversations, might be drawn closer together?

Leverage those commonalities to spark mutual interest and openness. Sharing your particular slice of reality and being eager to learn about someone else’s helps each of you to re-frame information and re-assess assumptions, moving the conversation into the successive stages of curiosity, trust, and learning.  

Examining individual realities is also an exercise in a type of cross-cultural communications. To help us understand one another, we need to learn to speak our counterpart’s language. For example, if you didn’t speak German and you were trying to communicate an idea to a native German speaker who didn’t understand English, aside from a few universally recognized hand gestures and assumptions, you wouldn’t be able to adequately transfer your knowledge. When speaking to a non-farming audience, choose words and concepts with commonly understood meanings. Also avoid industry jargon. This mires the conversation down in definitions and you risk losing your listener in the heaviness of constant conversational backtracks to explain terms.

Don’t forget to ratchet the conversation down enough levels to meet your conversational partner where they’re at in terms of knowledge about the subject matter. Imagine if your Kindergarten teacher had started calculus lessons on your first day at school. Just because someone has knowledge that seems obvious to them, doesn’t mean that it is to everyone, or that it’s the appropriate starting point. Knowledge is built up in stages and by providing adequate context and learning tools. If you start where your listener is at, you can build the dialogue up and out with the right information at the right moment.

Finally, break your information/messages down into more knowable parts. This doesn’t mean only providing information and messaging in snack-size format (though that’s certainly helpful), but rather teasing out the common threads you’ve pinpointed at those intersections of experience we spoke about above. Knowable means understandable, so again consider the point about cross-cultural communications.

Communicating to share your knowledge or to influence (or persuade) doesn’t have to be frustrating. By stacking the above tactics in whatever order you find helpful, you can create a foundational operating system to identify, assess, and expand opportunities for meaningful connections.   

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