Forget premarital counseling on finances, religion, or the number of children you may have one day. Before you ever walk down the aisle, talk about your retirement plans. You heard me -- retirement plans. Little did I know that Scott always dreamed of retiring to a ranch with cows and chickens, far away from civilization somewhere in the middle of West Texas. I always dreamed of downsizing to a condo or townhouse within walking distance to shops and restaurants (do I sound like House Hunters??), preferably in a cute little college town and then traveling the world to see new things. So when we got to “that age” and started to discuss our very different retirement plans, compromise became the word of the day (and the month and the year!). After many, many long “discussions,” we finally decided to buy some land for the cows and chickens, near 2 college towns (College Station and Huntsville), purchase a motorhome (at least to travel the US), and someday build a dream house. Compromise at its finest!!
This past weekend, Scott and I fought the onslaught of love bugs to work on this retirement land. We used the tractor (another “dream” purchase of Scott’s) to clear some underbrush from an area near where we store the motorhome. Scott wanted a better view of the grazing field so he can watch the cows in the morning (trust me - he’s totally lost it about these cows!). Anyway, as we were working (Scott would wrap the chain around some of the smaller trees, and I would use the tractor to pull them up), the very curious cows gathered around us to watch. So with very little to distract me (except for swatting all of the love bugs - and I don’t “love” them at all), I noticed some communication lessons we can learn from our cows.
Lesson # 1 If It Ain’t Broke!
Every evening, the cows mosey (just staying with the theme!) over to the same area by our pond for dinner. Every morning, the cows mosey over to the left field to eat breakfast. Every afternoon, the cows mosey to the wooded area to take a nap in the shade. The cows have a routine that works for them. Sometimes we should look at communication strategies in this same way. With our ever-changing technology, we tend to try the newest, greatest way to do things. And don’t get me wrong -- sometimes we need to change. But don’t be afraid to keep the same routine if it is working. If your Monday morning staff meeting effectively communicates information and allows for personal connections, keep it even if emailing might save some time. If sending a handwritten correspondence strengthens your connection with your customers, keep writing those notes even if a phone call or text might be easier. And if you try a new strategy but the old way works better, go back to the old routine.
Lesson # 2 Dive In!
We have 2 ponds on our land, and at this point, they are both kinda brown and murky looking. Scott assures me that over time the ponds will clear up, but right now, I think that they are ugly and gross. Luckily, the cows don’t agree with me. And on a hot (or even sorta hot) day, the cows love to “dive” right in the pond. Okay -- not actually “dive” -- more like slowly and carefully walk into the water. Even with the murky, unclear water, the cows know that cooling off in the pond will make the day way better. Although lesson #2 may seem to contradict lesson #1, there is a time to “dive” in and try new communication strategies - even if they seem “murky and unclear” - especially those designed to make your life easier. I love the app that allows me to save and organize business cards on my phone. I love using the reminders function on my computer and phone to help me remember meetings and appointments. Don’t be afraid to try new technology. But then don’t be afraid (as the movie says) to “let it go” if the new strategy isn’t helpful. (See Lesson #1!)
As with most things in life, when it comes to better communication, we seem to do better with a mixture of the old and the new. I guess there needs to be a bit of compromise (like our new and improved retirement plan!). etc Strategies believes that we should evaluate our strategies and methods and use both old and new ways to communicate more effectively. And never doubt the intelligence of cows (as some people do!) -- we can learn great communication lessons from them.