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Growing in the Green: April 2010

April 30, 2010  By Melhem Sawaya

It’s not really a problem, unless you become frustrated and annoyed by the fact that you seem to disagree so often? In almost 21 years in my consulting job, I have discussed many things
with growers. On many things we agree, and on others we don’t.

It’s not really a problem, unless you become frustrated and annoyed by the fact that you seem to disagree so often?

Most Canadian greenhouses are family operations, a winning recipe of experience receptive to new ideas.



In almost 21 years in my consulting job, I have discussed many things with growers. On many things we agree, and on others we don’t.

A simple principle I try to adopt is to never expect the other person to agree on what we are discussing; on the contrary, I will invite disagreement. This promotes more discussion that most of the time opens the door for better solutions.

This did not come to me easily, but an article in a book entitled, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff really made me appreciate this simple principle that my mother lived by and I was too blind to see until lately.

About 97 per cent of greenhouse operations are family operated. More than one member of the family is involved either on a daily or part-time basis. If you wonder why your brother, father or son doesn’t always agree with you, don’t fret. You are in the majority.

We should take this a step further and have the same “disagreeing principle” apply to employers, employees and, of course, everyone in the household.

Each of us is unique and sees life a bit differently. We have our own experiences and preferences, and interpret things in our own special ways. Since we were raised and taught to think in certain ways, we have our own subtle ways of resolving conflicts, as well as our own theories as to why things happen. Each of us places varying views on what’s really relevant and important, and we can almost always find fault with the way someone else is thinking or behaving.

We can usually validate our own versions of reality by focusing on examples that we believe prove us to be right. In short, the way we see any job, decision or life in general will always seem justified, logical and correct – to us.

The problem is that everyone else has the same assumption. Our employees, employers, spouses, children, parents, friends, neighbours and everyone else are equally convinced their versions of reality are the most accurate. It’s absolutely predictable that the people in your life will not understand why you don’t see things the way they do and will think that if you did, all would be well.

Knowing this is true, why then do most of us continue to be frustrated and annoyed by the fact that we seem to disagree so often? Why are we so easily bothered when someone we know or love expresses a different opinion or viewpoint, interprets something differently, or thinks we are wrong?
I believe the answer to these questions is very simple: we forget that in a psychological sense, we all live in our own separate reality.

The way we interpret life and the events around us has been influenced by a variety of factors that are completely unique to our own life. My childhood and life experiences were and continue to be different from yours, so my take on life is going to be slightly different. An event that annoys me might seem completely insignificant to you, and vice versa.

Seacliff Greenhouses in Leamington is a good example of workplace teamwork, which includes good listening skills and effective communication.


The trick to becoming more peaceful and less reactive is to remind ourselves that it’s OK that we’re all a little different. Rather than being surprised by this fact of life, you can learn to expect and even embrace it.

Rather than becoming upset when someone you care about disagrees with you, try saying to yourself, “of course he/she is going to see this differently.” Instead of becoming defensive when your interpretation of an event is different from someone else’s, see if you can be grateful and delighted on those rare occasions when you do see things the same way.

You can “agree to disagree.”

That doesn’t mean your own point of view is any less important or correct, only that you don’t see things in the same light. In many instances, you may want to stand firm on your own opinions and values, and that’s fine. But you can do so with genuine respect and understanding of the other person’s opinion. As well, when you do this, it eliminates a great deal of stress and a good number of would-be arguments.

In most cases, the person you are disagreeing with will sense your heartfelt respect and will probably be less reactive toward you as well. In addition, as you incorporate this less reactive attitude into your interactions with others, you will find yourself becoming more interested in the opinions of others, which will make you more fun to be around. You’ll learn to bring out the best in others and you’ll allow others to bring out the best in you! Everyone wins.

This simple shift in perspective helps many marriages, friendships, family relationships and businesses. It’s very simple and makes life a lot more fun.

So starting today, see if you can agree to disagree.

It’s worth the effort. ■

Melhem Sawaya of Focus Greenhouse Management is a consultant and research coordinator to the horticultural industry. Comments on this or any other article are always welcome; please e-mail , or visit or

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