Family Farm Disputes

Mar 27, 2024 | Relationships

Ahh, the disagreements that can happen within a family farm. Often stemming from family dynamics, but including all types of working relationships. Sometimes between generations, sometimes between partners, sometimes between heirs… these conflicts are a tale as old as time.

Recently, we had a SOIL Gathering and an interesting dispute resolution approach was brought up. A member from Ireland (that’s right, there’s ag people from all over the globe who we get to meet & learn from in our virtual member meet-ups) mentioned an approach to conflict/dispute resolution that I hadn’t heard of before.

He said in the Irish Labour Court they have an approach that goes something like this:

  • In a disagreement, one side states their argument.
  • Then, the opposing side MUST repeat that argument to the satisfaction of the other side, before they make their argument.

Seems like this would accomplish a couple of things:

Ensure that each side is actually listening to the opposing side’s argument, instead of the common approach of merely not paying attention and formulating your argument in your head while the other side is talking. (I’m guilty of that)

Gives an opportunity for one side to clarify the other’s understanding of their argument before they proceed.

Side note: I’ve been known to misinterpret what someone says from time to time. Someone says X, but I heard Y. Then we’re not on the same page and things generally spiral downhill from there. An approach I’ve been trying to adopt in the past is to say, “This is what I just heard, [insert my interpretation], is that what you said?” Often, I find myself mistaken.

Anyway, I did some brief research into this approach, and it seems to align somewhat with the Rogerian Argument method.

The Rogerian argument emphasizes understanding and finding a middle ground between opposing viewpoints. Its essence lies in creating a discourse that fosters compromise and mutual benefit, diverging from the traditional win-lose paradigms of argumentation which focus more on empirical or theoretical victories rather than practical resolutions.

This argumentative style is particularly effective in personal and professional settings for resolving conflicts by acknowledging the positive aspects of each party’s stance to reach a solution that incorporates elements of both.

Key components of the Rogerian argument include:

  1. Introduction: Establishes the issue or topic under discussion.
  2. State The Opposing Position: Demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of the opponent’s viewpoints or goals, emphasizing empathy and acknowledgment.
  3. Re-State The Context for Opposing Position: Illustrates the circumstances under which the opposing viewpoint is considered valid, showcasing an appreciation for its merits.
  4. Your Position: Introduces your own perspective, highlighting how it diverges from the opposition’s without dismissing it outright.
  5. Context for Your Position: Provides an objective explanation of the situations in which your viewpoint holds validity, aiming for clarity and fairness.
  6. Benefits: Suggests a compromise that includes benefits for the opposition, appealing to mutual gains and shared goals rather than purely individual victories.

The primary objective is to convey understanding of your opponent’s position before making your own argument. This may, allow for needed clarification from each side and provide an opportunity to weigh the merits of each argument. With the ultimate goal of achieving cooperation and a mutually satisfactory solution.

Now, I can see how this method has its limitations, particularly when facing opponents who are unwilling to compromise or who argue in bad faith. But, those limitations would exist for many dispute resolution methods.

It might be a tool you could try and use when navigating future disagreements on your operation.

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