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23 November 2014 - Listen, then Respond

A few days ago, among the many e-mails I receive everyday, I received one from a farm viewer that really bothered me. It bothered me to the point that I want to write about it this week on Samuelson Sez. It’s a brief one and I quote - “ORION, WE DO NOT TRUST vilsack OR obama” (note he put Vilsack and Obama in lower case). “WE DO NOT TRUST vilsack OR obama TO BE HONEST AND TRUTHFUL, SO WE PUSH THE ‘MUTE’ BUTTON WHEN vilsack COMES ON YOUR SHOW!!!”

I am not bothered by his political leaning, because you are entitled to your opinions about people in Washington who occupy seats of power and authority. But I am really concerned that he pushes the ‘mute’ button and refuses to listen to someone with a viewpoint that differs from his belief. He doesn’t want to hear what Tom Vilsack, our Secretary of Agriculture, is saying. Again, I’m not at all concerned by his politics. Refusing to listen to a Democrat or a Republican is what concerns me.

While I have made my living as a ‘talker’ over the last 60 years, I am the first to say, the most important part of communicating is listening. How can you know what people are saying or thinking if you refuse to listen to them? Until you listen and hear what they are feeling and saying, you cannot effectively, and with reason, respond to their concerns or beliefs. And in agriculture, especially, we have to hear why people are concerned about the way we farm and how we care for animals and soil and air and water. We know; they don’t; and if we don’t listen and respond, they will continue to make rules and regulations that make it more difficult to produce food, fiber and energy.

If you have ever visited the Tribune Tower in Chicago, the building that is my office home during the week, you have seen etched in the Lobby marble walls many quotes dealing with the freedom of the press. One that stands out to me every day is the quote by Voltaire “I disagree completely with everything you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” But how can you disagree, if you hit the ’mute’ button on TV or in real life and don’t hear what is being said. Not listening, and assuming, I think are two of the most dangerous things we do as human beings.

On Samuelson Sez, I don’t expect you to agree with me, but I am hopeful that I might stimulate some interesting and constructive thinking on whatever subject I am talking or writing about. And I learned a long time ago there are at least three sides to every story, your side, my side, and somewhere in the middle is the truth.

In closing, let me again say, in order to be an effective communicator, listen and don’t hit the ’mute’ button. Hear what they are saying and then respond with facts instead of emotion.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.