Dali and Oskar can have strong opinions about where they want to go for a walk. Most of the time I will go the way they want because I want them to be happy and be able to make some choices in their lives (I am well aware that I decide much of what happens in their lives, but that is for another blog post). Sometimes, though, I am clear within myself that I am not going to go the way Dali and Oskar want and have another direction I want to take.
This happened the other day. Dali and Oskar wanted to head downtown and I did not. I said “let’s go” and headed the way I wanted to go, but they stayed put and turned away from me, looking in the direction that they wanted to walk. Very clear, nonverbal communication. 🙂 Sometimes I will get frustrated and simply go my way. Typically, Dali will sulk the rest of the walk. She will walk so slowly it feels like she is walking backwards. And she will stop to smell every blade of grass. Oskar is much more flexible and will make the best of the situation.
Instead of going down their route, I said to them, “I know you want to go downtown. I can see that. I know it is disappointing for you, but we can’t do that today. There is going to be a lot of salt and that is going to hurt your paws and we’ll be too far from home for mommy to carry you home and I can’t carry both of you. So, we need to go this way.” They intensely looked at me and then turned and willingly headed in the direction I wanted to go. (Interestingly, research shows that dogs are more capable of understanding things from a human perspective than previously thought (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-21411249).)
People – and other animals – need to feel that someone else hears and understands them before change is possible. As a therapist, I know how true this is. My experience is that if change is to happen, my client and I need to understand together how much it makes sense where he or she is at presently. Then we can start to see doors to open for something different. I also see this in my relationship with my husband. If I feel he understands me, then I can soften to understand him and then we can move forward. And vice versa.
In fact, understanding another’s perspective is one of Dale Carnegie’s principles in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People. He quotes Henry Ford, “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”
When we’re calm and relaxed, it’s easier for all of us to do this. It can take a lot of practice to be able to see things from another’s perspective in the heat of the moment. The more I work on slowing myself down, the more fulfilling relationships I have with my husband, my dogs, my friends and family, and my community. I believe it is worth the effort.
(professional website: http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)