Small Bites – Discovering Patterns

Authored by Coaches Polly Shyka and Leslie Forstadt

Small Bites are short, informational articles with practical ideas about stress reduction, improved communication, and farm and family well-being. They are written by coaches from UMaine Extension’s Farm Coaching team. Farm Coaches are available at no cost to work remotely with farmers and farm teams.

Discovering Patterns

brussel sprout stalk

The term “pattern recognition” is associated, these days, with big data and artificial intelligence. It is also used to describe a living brain’s (human or animal) ability to recognize patterns of behavior, smell, or sight and link them to previously experienced stimuli. For example, the fox‘s eyes

and brain are wired to recognize the exact angle of an alert-snowshoe hare’s ears so that when it scans a forest glade, despite the hare’s stealthy camouflage, the fox might recognize that particular slant to “two twigs” sticking up above a small stone.

In self-reflection and maintenance of human relationships in workplaces like farms, noticing patterns and then naming them can be very helpful. In self-reflection, it’s a way to notice if you are reacting to situations or responding. When you are reactive, it’s much harder to have a level-headed conversation. When you notice patterns and are able to respond, you can talk about what’s happening in sometimes less-than-ideal situations.

Discovering a pattern may feel like having a sense of “I have been here before” and it may be paired with an uncomfortable feeling.

Notice — Name it

For example, on the farm you might feel a familiar sense of discomfort when the Monday tasks are assigned. Notice the feeling. Then name it. You can talk to your co-workers, “Last Tuesday was a real push for us. How can we work differently (or rearrange Monday?) so this doesn’t keep happening?”

You may find notice patterns with specific people and types of interactions. Then, in talking with the person, you can name it. “Last time I gave you feedback about the herb bunch sizes, it was a bit awkward, for both of us, I think.”  How can I give you the necessary information in a way that is more comfortable?”

Notice, then name a pattern you see in yourself, “The break room always has dishes piled in it by the end of the week, and I get mad and then eventually just do the dishes since there’s no one around.” This is an opportunity to have a conversation with others about changes that can be made in the schedule or in work assignments.

Patterns are everywhere. What we do with them and how we communicate about them can make all the difference to a day, a workplace, and our relationships with ourselves and others.

Looking for ways to better observe patterns and/or call attention to them? Farm coaches can help!