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Lead with emotion

Lead with emotion

Marlene Eick December 01, 2016

B.J. and I really enjoy watching movies. Though we rarely go see a movie in the theater, we made it a point to go see “Interstellar” on the big screen. B.J. had heard great reviews on the cinematography, so we drove to the city to visit one of those cool theaters with the reclining seats, huge screens and fantastic sound.

The movie did not disappoint. Let me give you a quick summary. (WARNING! SPOILER ALERT! You might want to skip to paragraph four if you haven’t seen this movie yet.) Our planet is in a very different state in the not so distant future and we can't grow enough food. Matthew McConaughey's character travels into space with some others in search of a new habitable planet for humans. I'd call him an astronaut, but I'm not sure the term still applies when you leave the galaxy. In one scene, he lands on and explores a planet that somehow exists in a different gravity and time-space something-or-other. When he returns to the ship to meet his team he has only aged a few hours, but everyone else has aged more than twenty years. As they move on in their explorations, a bunch of other super-scientific stuff happens that I may or may not have understood. All the while, Matthew McConaughey's character is wondering if he'll ever return home to see his daughter again.

Then he enters a black hole, maybe a wormhole, in an attempt to, well, I'm not sure I remember exactly, but I'm still hoping he can somehow connect with his family again. An amazing soundtrack swells. Matthew’s character is in another weird time-space something-or-other and he begins seeing images of his daughter. As he longs for home, he actually figures out that he can communicate with her through a watch he had given her years earlier, because love is the most powerful force in the universe!

If it's not obvious yet, I didn't always follow exactly what was happening in the movie. I don't get the time-space something-or-other. I don't know how a black hole works. I have no idea why a tesseract can bring you to another dimension or whatever. I will never be an astronaut. I will likely not travel into space and definitely never to another galaxy. And yet, I was totally crying in the theater. I was overcome with emotion. It didn't matter that I didn't get the science or understand absolutely all the technical pieces. I was completely connected to the movie because of an emotion I absolutely comprehended: the power of love and family.

I think, in agriculture, it's tempting for us to always lead our conversations with science. When we want a consumer to know about their food, we might think about telling them how many pounds of feed this sow eats each day, or how and why this antibiotic works, or why the fans in commercial barns move air in a certain way. Trust me, I get it. These things are easy to share because you know them like the back of your hand. They are tangible. They're the pieces you think about each day. And there's certainly a time and a place to share the science. They are important and they need to be a part of the story we tell.

But the real story, the story that connects, it's not the science or the technical information. I wasn't crying in the movie theatre because Matthew McConaughey's character was using a tesseract to do some crazy thing in outer space. I was crying because I felt joy and relief when his character found a way to reach out to his family. This connection had nothing to do with science. It was all about emotion and it overpowered me.

In the conversation about agriculture and our food, we must learn to lead with emotion. When do you feel joy? When are you frustrated? When have you been disappointed? What thrills you? What makes you feel proud? Those emotions are universal. They connect us to others. When we lead with emotion and values, we open a door and build trust and a connection.

When do you feel joy? I don’t know your role, but maybe, as an agricultural loan officer, you help turn a dream into reality for a first-generation farmer.

When do you feel frustration? As a grower, you might feel frustration as you watch an invasive weed move into your fields.

When do you feel sadness? As a rancher, you might feel sadness when you know it's time for your favorite cow to head to town.

What thrills you? Maybe it’s working a long day at harvest, knowing that you're sending crops off into the marketplace to feed people.

When do you feel pride? Maybe it’s as a 4-H parent, where you watch your little ones run to the barn in the evening because they can't wait to see their animals.

A story with emotion is a story that connects with us, resonates with us and we can feel like we’re a part of it. We feel like “that could be us!”  Not because we see ourselves in that exact scenario, but because we know what those emotions feel like.

Emotions certainly aren't the entire story, but they are absolutely what connects the story to other people, regardless of their understanding of the science. If you want to connect, lead with emotion.

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