I saw a post recently on Facebook that made me wonder what makes people in uniquely qualified to answer questions. When you think about agriculture there are so many elements, so many diverse ideas and actions that cannot be determined by a small group of experts. Where you live in the world and your decisions made effects what happens in your business and on your property.

Someone posted on the British Farming Forum recently (during May) asking why people are asking questions on Facebook about their sick livestock expecting an educated response? I want to ask that question too. In a world of fake news and off the cuff advice, how can you decipher what is true and what is a guess? How do you know that someone is uniquely qualified to give you information that will help you to make an informed decision? The woman goes onto say that if you can’t afford a vet then don’t keep livestock. I believe she’s right in the way that a vet is uniquely qualified to provide advice on sick animals, but the majority of people on the forum are most likely not.

I went to university for 3 years to study Information Management. At the end of that degree, I walked into the world of administration with no idea how to work in the real world. I took years to build up experience and knowledge, 15 years and counting. What made me a good administrator was a willingness to learn from others, learn from my mistakes and be honest in what I know and don’t know. It seems people start in business for 6 months then announce how excellent they are and that they are brilliant at business and are experts. What makes them uniquely qualified to stand up and say they are the best at something after such a short period of time?

Another comment recently was posted that people claim to be the number 1 something or other….. The person in question removed the post from his feed because it generated such debate, and in some cases anger. This person is a professional speaker and successful businessman and I’m sure he has been in rooms with some of the brightest people in the world. There are a number of people in the world I feel are uniquely qualified to advise they are the best at something…Stephen Hawking comes to mind…but at what point do we trust that people know what they are talking about?

I don’t have an answer for this and know it’s often personal perception. Nobody is everybody’s cup of tea. The saying ‘you can’t please everyone’ is so true. I believe the following things:

  • Do your research and dig deep into what that person says, how they say it and where they say it.

Forums are incredibly difficult places to sort the qualified from those that like to give their opinions, whether they are right or not. So many people seem to be an expert these days from politics to how to run a business. But, it’s opinion that’s the difference. I would be more likely to trust a person who has spent years studying politics, putting themselves in a position where they have learned and engaged, than Joe blog who goes on a forum to pitch ideas but has no qualifications, has never engaged before on the topic and tries to bring

  • Engage with the person, see what that person is about, get to know them

There is a wonderful saying of know, like, trust. If you find out about something and they seem genuine, you need to spend more time with them getting to know then in order to confirm that assumption. There is a feeling you get in your gut about people – trust your gut. What makes some make you want to give them your time?

  • Make sure that they are legitimate.

There are people who go on social media sites to generate reactions. They love it when someone gets into an argument with them. I’ve been in a couple of groups like that where I’ve left the group because of this. It can ruin it for others and yet I bet those people do not care. But, what happens if someone takes their advice because the person is on so much they seem qualified? Legitimacy has to come out in this process, honesty.

Finding out what makes someone uniquely qualified to speak on a topic and for you to trust what they say takes time. In our fast-paced world these days I imagine far too many people don’t take the time to check if the person speaking or advising knows their stuff. We want instant answers and we want our questions answered clearly device decisively. I ‘Google’ as much as the next person, but I also triple-check the sources of that information before I agree that it seems legitimate.

Let’s talk for a minute about Bob from down the road (Bob does not exist, but the idea is real). Bob has been a farmer for 45 years. You look at Bob’s farm and think he has the best fences anywhere in the area. Have you ever had a chat with Bob about fencing and whether he was taught how to fence? I’m fairly certain Bob would tell you that he is just another bloke who fences and that he’s just been doing it for years and knows what to do. But it’s his knowledge and experience that makes him uniquely qualified to talk to you about fences – you can see what he’s done. Bob has probably never really thought about his expertise or trained anyone. I would bet Bob has never been invited to assist others in how to put up fences but Bob is the most uniquely qualified person you want to be advising you on how to put up a fence.

My point is what makes someone an expert in their field or uniquely qualified to talk on a topic? Is it their years worth of training and experience? Is it a qualification that shows they have taken the time to learn? Is it their appearance as someone who is knowledgeable? People pop up on social media and claim they are brilliant and know what they are talking about – I would suggest that more times than not they are not qualified but enjoy sharing their opinion.

I don’t have any answers that will help to make a decision on why someone is uniquely qualified, but I do know that I’m starting to trust less and worry more about the fast responses from people who seem to have no connection to a topic, have come out of nowhere on an issue or topic and want to guide people on their point of view. I do, however, trust those that demonstrate understanding as well as their experience and ability to learn and grow, are willing to explain themselves and engage thoughtfully, and are honest.