Dogs don’t say goodbye


There is no other force on the planet with a more robust and comprehensive communications strategy than a dog.   The dog knows what is important to say, how it wants to say it, and how often to say it.  We could benefit from learning some communication lessons from the average dog.

While dogs do not say goodbye, they are masters at saying hello.  Whether a dog is happy to see you or unhappy, you will most likely receive a robust greeting.  If the dog is happy to see you, this greeting will include an expression of gratefulness for your health, curiosity as to where you were and if you have brought anything of value to the dog, and finally an invitation to visit.  If the dog is unhappy to see you it will include a warning against your current actions and a firm statement of the consequences if you continue.  The dog will quickly request assistance from the other resources available to deal with you.

About now I believe you are gathering your memories from your greetings with the dogs in your life, whether they be positive or negative, most of us have several.  Consider how this could apply to our communications practices in our lives, both professional and personal.  Do the people in your life know you are happy to see them?  Are you genuinely expressing your gratitude for their health and well being?  These simple acts do require you wear your heart on your sleeve at times.  While there are obvious boundaries with our work relationships, there is nothing that precludes you from placing value on our expressions of humanity.  It may sound selfish on the face to ask someone if they have brought you anything of value when you greet them.  However, consider the team member who answered the phone on their day off and came into work to aid the crew.  Just their presence is an item of value for all.

When it comes to the critical conversations we all must have, like the dog when it is unhappy to see you, there must be unbridled honesty upfront.  Generally the dog is only interested in the behavior, which is a clear portrait of fairness.  Apply this to your supervisory appointment with staff who are in need of corrective counseling.  Have the courage to make this a priority and be honest.  Spend some of that time discovering the causes, motivations, and sharing the consequences for everybody.  Your crew member may not leave the room with their tail wagging, but they don’t have to be tucked either.  Like the dog request assistance from your peer group in calculating the remedy.  The round table  will help you to stay focused on the behavior or situation and not the person.

All of this is not to say the dog is careless with critical information.  A dog can be quite tactful and discrete when the situation calls for it, I never did find out what happened to that poor trash can.  A dog has a long memory.  Willfully mistreat it and it will be slow to forgive, however invest in the relationship and the dog will give you the same robust greeting after a decade apart.  A lot of this is fun and any metaphor will break down if pushed hard enough.  Just consider the fine example of the dogs interpersonal communications instinct.  Make sure the people around you know, with appropriate gestures, how you feel, be honest.

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