Matt Bacon2022/02/12


Almost every week for a little over a year I have had a helper named Aksel. Right now we work together for about two hours, twice a week at the farm. According to Aksel, that’s the perfect amount. He doesn’t say much, but when he does, it is direct and to-the-point. There’s no room for feelings and interpretations. It took a few months of working together on various tasks to understand his speech patterns and behaviors, but it is getting better.

Over the past several months I have been able to have two-sided conversations with Aksel and have even witnessed similar interactions with Aksel and other workers. When we first started, we were both sort of uneasy and didn’t understand each other. As an example:

I might say, “Aksel, can you rake those leaves into a pile.” Which would result in a curt, “Of course I can (explative)!!!” I now know to avoid asking such questions and just tell Aksel to rake the leaves into a pile. It is unnatural for me to make demands, especially from someone I am trying to be nice to. It is just as unnatural for Aksel to say, “Sure thing boss.” 

So, if I provide the improper input, then I don’t get the output that I might have expected. You may think of it as being overly literal if it helps get my point across. It’s really hard at first to avoid using jargon, idioms, metaphors, rhetorical questions, etc. I had to train myself in order to train Aksel. Learning that a swearing Aksel is the very small (usually loud) transition from calm to upset Aksel gave me a way to quickly identify when something wasn’t going right in his eyes. After that realization, I was then able to sense other changes that would give an even earlier indication that something was awry. Like I mentioned at the beginning, it’s been a little over a year of working together, learning from one another, and being a part of something bigger.

The moral of the story is be patient and mindful when doing something new. It is sometimes better to go by the drop than by the bucket, it just depends on the vessel. 

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