By Sulana Stone
Changing a relationship that’s out of harmony is as easy as changing your attitude. Many people don’t realize the enormous power they have to create cooperation—or resistance—in others. Attitude is the key.
Recently Scamp, a spunky cocker spaniel, taught me that when I shift my approach to a relationship, the relationship changes. The spirited spaniel showed me the alchemical power of talking heart-to-heart as equals. She also demonstrated that people have the power to shift any relationship. By our attitude, we can choose to create playfulness and collaboration—or seriousness and opposition.
Scamp is an appropriately named 10-month-old cocker spaniel. The furry munchkin’s favorite game is pouncing on an accidentally dropped object before her human housemate can retrieve it. Then, after capturing her prize, Scamp skedaddles out of the room and chews up her trophy. Scamp’s human companion, Ellen, has given up trying to get objects back from the pup.
My lessons in creating cooperation, instead of resistance, begin as I’m visiting Ellen. While cleaning off a coffee table, Ellen accidentally bumps a rubber doggie bone onto the floor. As swiftly as a falcon swoops in for the catch, Scamp absconds with her newest possession and disappears out of the room.
A while later Scamp bounces back into the room. I see that she’s chewing on something that doesn’t appear to be her bone. I see what looks like sharp metal. Concerned for Scamp’s safety, I approach her to take the object away. However, I’m no match for the merry mischief-maker. Smart, fast and agile, Scamp is not going to let anyone take her treasure from her.
Lesson one: In my knee-jerk reaction of simply trying to grab the object out of her mouth, I create resistance in Scamp. In an effort to be helpful in the unfolding drama, I realize I’ve fallen prey to an automatic programmed response. In my panic I feel that I need to TAKE the object away: “It’s for the dog’s own good!” I temporarily forget that animals—just like people—respond to where we’re coming from. Scamp runs away from me. She feels that I’m trying to control her because I’m not asking for her cooperation or permission. I’m just barging ahead.
The Alchemy of Heart-to-Heart Talk
Because I want to keep the rambunctious rascal safe, I need to get a clear look at what she’s chomping on. I know that Scamp wants to keep her exciting new “toy.” So I talk to the fleet-footed rogue just as I would talk to a friend I care about.
Opening my heart, I speak to her heart. I share with her that I’m concerned she might be gnawing on something that can hurt her. I ASK her if I can see what she is chewing on. And realizing the object is a prized possession, I promise to give it back.
It’s All in the Attitude!
Lesson two: In consciously choosing to talk as an equal with Scamp, I create cooperation. After this shift in my attitude, Scamp brings the object over to me and drops it into my open hand.
That’s when I discover she’s been chewing on a small pair of scissors. In order to keep Scamp safe, I feel I should keep the scissors. Yet, I made her a promise. I pledged to give her the “toy” back. So I decide to keep my vow and give the scissors back to her.
I decide to let Scamp merrily chomp away, while I speak to her again from my heart. I tell her of my concern that she might get hurt. I tell her that the sharp edges of the scissors might cut her mouth. I ASK her if I can have the scissors. I promise her that I’ll find another toy for her. Then I watch for a response from her. Scamp soon gives me a clear signal that she’s listening: she stops chewing.
This time as I approach her, I don’t try to force her to “do it my way.” I treat her as an intelligent being with feelings. I understand how she feels. She’s being asked to give up a toy she likes. Scamp responds to my shift in attitude. She doesn’t run away. The perky pup drops the scissors on the floor and allows me to pick them up. Then, keeping my word, I find a safe doggie toy for us to play with. Scamp’s in puppy bliss.
No Experience Required
From Scamp I learn that attitude is the key to shifting any relationship—with pet or partner. No special training is necessary. By changing our approach, we can change resistance to cooperation.
Here’s 3 tips I learned from Scamp to get you started on your journey to relationship harmony:
1. Talk Equal to Equal
When we speak respectfully as a peer to a person or animal, the response will usually be returned in kind. Conflict is created when we try to impose our will on others and don’t communicate as an equal. Harmony is created when we speak from our heart.
2. Tell the Truth
People and pets are intelligent and emotional creatures. Both understand and respond to the truth. No matter how painful the truth is, share accurately what’s happening as gently as you can. When I explained how she could be hurt, Scamp gave up her treasured “toy!”
3. Put Yourself in Their Shoes (or Paws)
What does the situation look like from the point of view of your friend or pet?
How would you want to be treated and spoken to?
What information would help you understand and want to cooperate?
What would you need to know to help you adjust to new circumstances?
When you talk heart-to-heart to people and pets, you generate harmonious changes.
Tips for Life
By using the tips Scamp taught me, you can shift relationships with your pet—or with your friend, boss or lover. By consciously choosing a heartful attitude, you consciously create a harmonious relationship.