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  • Philippa

Life lessons learnt from a dog





We have a dog. He’s very small, fluffy and looks like a soft toy. Little children stop in the street and say ‘mummy, look at that lovely fluffy doggy, he’s so cute’ that is how soft and toy like he is. When he’s out with us, he’s very very good most of the time. He’ll let people stroke him and will not run away when he’s off his lead and will come when we call his name. When he’s at home, he is master of the universe, king of his domain, a very small (toy like) ruler of the roost. This is because he’s insecure. On his home turf, let’s just say, he’s territorial. If you go near his bed, he will run up to you watching your every move until you back away. I have also learnt that a sock is his favourite thing. If he picks one up (and he does go looking for them) he will growl at you if you come too close when he has that sock in his mouth.


Many people can be like this. Insecure with the ability to act out, especially when they feel that they're in a position where they feel that they can get away with it. This ultimately is the role of a bully. Not that my dog is a little diva in the making but how do we as individuals cope with people like this? Or, more importantly, how do we manage our own insecurities so we don’t ‘growl’ over our own sock issues?


1) Challenge. Challenge yourself and take yourself out of your own comfort zone. We need to be challenged once in a while or else we stagnate where we are. The scariness of a challenge also means that we don’t have the time or the energy to react to anything other than the challenge meaning that those sock issues should disappear.


Challenge others especially the ‘rulers of the roost’ with questions/actions to ensure they themselves are out of their comfort zone. They may be on the back foot and you’ll need to plan in advance for this. Whether this is about a project or a issue at work, by taking back the power and removing their ‘sock’ you have more control of the situation.


2) Change your way of thinking through learning. I try time and again with my little furry ball dog to get him to drop his sock for me without the aggression but know that the only thing that’s ultimately going to work with him is if I stick persistently and rigorously to a set training plan that works for him. My problem, and I’m sure many will relate to this, is it’s really hard. He looks at me with his big brown eyes and I can feel myself waiver. This is not teaching him and my job is to help him change the way he acts. We need to apply this to ourselves by learning how to do things differently. Sometimes be firm with ourselves and others and say no convincingly where necessary. With conviction there is often also no need to explain why, no just means no.


3) Communicate. By talking to the dog (yes, I know, definitely a sign of madness) but by also looking at him when I’m doing something like going near his bed seems to help him deal with my presence their. Eye contact and communication - who would have thought that these 2 things would help him so much but they do. He may still be on high alert but he knows what I’m doing and what my intentions are where he’s concerned. Talking things through and making sure each party, whether that’s in a team, with your boss or at home, understands what’s going on is so important but quite often eye contact and clear communication gets lost. If that insecure person you know who’s been making your life harder knows exactly what’s going on, especially if it’s written down and you’ve communicated your intentions clearly, they have no excuse and there is less of a come back to you if things don't go according to plan. Talk about your own concerns, speak up and out and discuss your worries with those that care (with a friend or a coach) then everyone’s clearer where they stand and there is quite often not so much need to growl over things.


4) Most of all, enjoy the simple things. I could spend the whole afternoon throwing a ball for the hound and he'd be happy chasing after it and bringing it back to let the process happen over and over again, with his little tail wagging with glee every time. We have to make time for these little things and not feel guilty that we should be doing something else. Whatever it may be, enjoy them in the moment, do it time and again and then the insecurities of others may not seem to matter so much.


Ultimately, be more dog.

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