There are times when farming is very stressful and requires a lot of self-control. If you are not careful, it is easy to lose your temper.
Jim began his day like most others. At breakfast, his daughter came down to eat next to him. She was preparing to go to the beach at the state park with her boyfriend. Everything was fine until Jim saw her swimming suit It was smaller and tighter than he thought was appropriate for a 16-year-old girl.
Jim told his daughter what he thought of the suit and then cast doubt as to whether she should be going at all. For good measure, he made a comment about the young man she was going with. Needless to say, the rest of breakfast was not a pleasant experience.
After breakfast, Jim headed out to the shop. Even though it was early August, he and the hired man were working on the combine. Last year the unloading auger hit a tree. Jim was driving at the time, so there was little that could be said about the unfortunate accident.
As the morning progressed they needed to back the combine out of the shop. The hired man, following Jim’s directive, backed up and caught the same auger on the shop door. Jim had not fully opened the door before telling the hired man to back up. There were some words exchanged between Jim and the man, and that was the end of them talking to each other for the rest of the morning.
Later, Jim climbed a ladder to reach the top of auger. He was having difficulty getting the bolt into a hard-to-reach spot. He almost had it lined up when his phone started going off. It was a local number, so he pulled his hand back and reached into his pocket. As he withdrew his hand, the bolt dropped out of the hole and fell into the combine — never to be seen again. When he answered the phone, he was greeted by a cheerful voice asking him “would you would like to save money on credit card interest rates?” Jim let out a loud scream!
At noon when he went back into the house, Jim’s wife told him the banker had called and wanted to meet sooner rather than later. He and Jim had been discussing ways to cut back on spending. Jim’s wife was the saver in their family and Jim was more of the spender. This difference often caused contention between the two.
Having already used up any goodness throughout the events of the morning, Jim was not in the mood to compromise. The more his wife pressed him to discuss the issue, the more stubborn he became. It only took a few minutes for the frustration level to explode. Jim said some unkind words to his wife and ended up having his lunch by himself. The coldness of the kitchen overcame the heat of the summer day.
After lunch, Jim’s father showed up as he was preparing to return to the shop. They stood on the steps of the house and Jim related the bad day he was having. His dad listened carefully and then offered some advice for his son.
He told Jim that Jim could be right about being angry, but that it was also possible that Jim was wrong about several things. Right or wrong, the way Jim talked to people was causing the bigger problem. He suggested he improve his presentation skills. Jim carefully considered the advice and decided he would try a different tactic.
Returning to the machine shed, Jim approached the hired man. He knew he was wrong to make condescending comments to his help. He apologized to the hired man and told him it was Jim’s fault he backed the combine into the shop door.
The hired man was surprised. This repentant attitude was something he had seldom seen Jim express over the years. The hired man started to explain that perhaps it was his fault for not looking more carefully, but Jim would have none of it. He continued taking the blame and afterwards felt much better.
When his daughter returned from her trip to the beach, Jim made his way to the house and met her in the kitchen. He asked her how the beach had been. Her response was brief and unfriendly. He continued to ask genuine questions about her day. He then apologized for being so short with her at breakfast. For that he was truly sorry.
His daughter was surprised to hear her father apologize. He seldom admitted to being wrong. He then went on to express his love for her and his concern that she was happy and safe. She told him she was always careful with her choice of friends and that if he only spent some time getting to know them, he would be more comfortable with them. To her surprise, he agreed. He suggested they have a barbecue some night and invite her friends over.
Jim now had two successful experiences apologizing to people he cared about. It did not matter whether he felt he was wrong or right about the situation. Fixing the problem seemed to require the very same solution.
As the day came to an end, there was still the coldness between Jim and his wife. Jim believed he was correct in his spending ideas. He and his wife had been at odds over farm spending for decades now. It had not ruined their marriage, but it had been stressful over the years. He decided he would not discuss this over the dinner table and went in to visit with her privately.
Jim pulled up a chair and sat next to her while she was working on a sewing project. He started out by apologizing for hurting her feelings on a subject which had caused a lot of pain over the years. Like the others, she was surprised to hear Jim apologizing for anything.
He went on to say that he knew he was not always right. He liked to believe that he was correct in all things, but it was apparent at times he had been wrong. His wife looked at him and wondered if Jim had received a concussion in the shop or was having a stroke causing this personality change.
He continued, saying he would like to explain to her why he thought the new purchases were needed. He also said he would be willing to consider other options she thought would be more viable.
The mood at supper was different than normal. Jim’s daughter talked with excitement about the barbecue she was a planning next week. She talked about who she would invite and what activities they could do after the barbecue. His wife, although somewhat skeptical, was in a more cheerful and optimistic mood.
Jim found himself smiling, which was something people seldom saw. He was determined to change the way he talked to those he cared about. He had worn a scowl on his face for years and had a reputation for being stubborn and hardheaded.
While being firm in our beliefs is good, it is also important to be careful in how we speak to others. As Jim’s dad told him, “It’s all in the presentation.” A condescending comment never conveys correctness.
Bob Dunaway and Associates offer estate and retirement planning. Gary Johnson can be reached at 563-927-4554 or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org