Seed World

Three Words Could Revolutionize Science Communication

Help me understand.

Three simple words could change the way consumers understand science.

“Help me understand. When I talk to anyone who has serious questions about technology and seed or anything in plant biology, I first ask help me understand,” says Kevin Folta, professor of biology in Florida. “And I listen to where their fears come from.”

This statement is critical for two reasons. One, it creates a dialogue that allows the other person to feel heard, which builds a bridge of trust. Two, it allows Folta, or whoever asks, to address fears and misconceptions head-on by understanding where the root of the fear lives.

If you want to take it one step further to understand the perspective of the person you’re talking to, add five more words: Let’s look at the context.

“I have to understand where that person is coming from and what does that person want,” says David Zaruk, professor at Odisee University in Brussels. “Once we understand the context, then we can frame the debate and put stories into the right context.”

Common Ground

This practice, understanding the context from which someone is making decisions and trying to understand how they feel builds a bridge. It helps you identify common ground, which often makes conversations less contentious.

“At the end of the day, the differences between me and the folks who are  — say advocating against genetic engineering or whatever are — probably on the same page on 90% of issues,” says Folta. “Whether it’s social issues, economic issues or environmental issues we could be very much in line and just disagree on this one place.”

So, what’s one way to bridge the divide even more? Folta and Zaruk say to relate the controversial issue to how it helps create a solution for other problems you and the other person agree on.

For example, if someone is passionate about creating a more secure food supply, you could talk about how genetic engineering could be a part of the solution.

Check out more from Folta and Zaruk about how to communicate with others about science and what they think the most common barriers to communication are, here:

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