Can’t We All Disagree More Constructively?

I saw a t-shirt the other day that said, “My favorite sports team is better than your favorite sports team.”  I laughed but later thought there’s a lot of truth in that.

It’s not necessary to have an iron clad reason for rooting for a given team. Maybe it’s your alma mater. Maybe you have fond memories of watching games with family when you were young. Maybe following a certain team reminds you of a simpler time. Or maybe you pull for a certain team for no other reason than that’s what you’ve always done.

We’ve become a society of teams. How many times have you wondered if elected officials are only interested in voting the party line? During TV talk shows, do any of the roundtable participants really listen to the other points being made?   

On food system issues, how many times have you witnessed two sides lobbing allegations back and forth in unproductive debate? All are passionate and determined to make the other side see that their position is correct.

Social Psychologist Jonathan Haidt says when people share values and morals they become a team. Once team psychology is in play, open-minded thinking can become difficult. He asks, "Can't we all disagree more constructively?"

Today’s food production systems have received a lot of attention in recent years but there really has not been a meaningful national discussion. Two camps, each convinced they are right, have gone back and forth on topics ranging from proper care for farm animals to genetically modified organisms.

The public senses change in the way food is produced but does not have a deep understanding of why or how it happened. Lack of understanding creates opportunity for conflict.

When engaging with concerned consumers on complex topics there must be a willingness to look for areas of common interest even if it seems unattainable. After all, food is a very personal subject and people have a right to expect that what they eat and provide their families is being produced responsibly.

Consumers want permission to believe that what happens in food production is consistent with their values and expectations. We can provide that by communicating our values and commitment to the right thing. 

Posted by Cliff.



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