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Communicating with Janet

Seeing Eye to Eye with Humans

One reason I have so much respect for my mom is that she is a great leader. If I do something good, she rewards me with a treat or a belly rub. When I do something wrong, she corrects my behavior and gives me a new habit to work on. I’m always clear on her expectations.

On the other hand, when she does things that I don’t like, for instance shutting me in the guest bedroom when the cleaner comes, I have a hard time articulating my concerns in an effective way. She speaks my language, but I don’t speak hers.

However this week I had a breakthrough. After my mom left for work, I was sniffing the kitchen table to see if there were any bacon crumbs leftover from her breakfast sandwich. No crumbs, but I discovered some worksheets from a motivational seminar she went to the evening before. So I guess even humans aren’t that great at communicating with humans. No wondering I’ve been struggling!

I looked over her notes that explained two techniques for giving feedback. BINGO! The first was a Nine-Step Discussion which seemed a little overwhelming, and the second was script where you fill in the blanks to fit your situation: “When you….., I feel..…” I opted to try the second one and see how it went.

After my bedtime walk that night, we were lounging on the couch and I said, “Mom, when you close me in the guest bedroom when the cleaner comes, I feel bored and sometime anxious. There’s nothing for me to do and I spend the whole time pacing back and forth.”

My mom affectionately rubbed my neck and responded, “Gosh, I’m sorry Marty. I had no idea. What if next time I leave you on the back porch with your water bowl and some toys and you can watch the birds?”

“Yeah that’d be great. Thanks, Mom.”

WOW! I couldn’t believe it. It worked so well, I spent the next day studying the Nine-Step Discussion. I had plenty of time because my mom recently got a second job and has been coming home late many evenings, which was exactly what I wanted to talk to her about. Three times this week I missed my evening walk at Tupancy. I have a life too, you know!

I didn’t want to catch her off guard or when she was still winding down from work. I waited until after my walk, so I would be calm and not angry. We were still standing in the kitchen when I took a deep breath and I began:

Step One: Build Rapport.
“Mom, how is your new job going?”
“It’s great. I love the people, but I’m awfully tired at the end of day.”

Step Two: Explain the problem.
“Mom, you’ve been coming home late during the week.”

Step Three: Give evidence.
“This week you arrived home after 7 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Last week you didn’t get home until 7:45 p.m. on Thursday.

Step Four: Relate to the person.
“I understand you wanted to try something new. I get tired of the same old dog park sometimes too. It’s nice to get out there and meet new faces.”

Step Five: Sell why the behavior is not good for them, you or the group.
“When you’re late several nights a week, we miss our evening session at Tupancy. Or we arrive after everyone is gone. This is bad for you because you don’t get that extra fresh air in the evening that winds down your day. It affects me because I don’t keep up with my workout regimen, and I really want to lose three pounds by summer. And it’s a problem for the other dogs and parents because they count on seeing us there. The pack isn’t complete without us and morale drops off.

Step Six: Listen. JUST listen.
My mom crossed her arms, looked at me and said, “Well, I’m doing this for both of us, Marty. The extra cash will help pay off the heating bill. Remember all those winter nights we cozied up on the couch? And I need socializing too. I DO like meeting new people and trying new things. Plus, the days are getting longer, so it’s okay if we go to Tupancy a little later than usual. We don’t have to see the same dogs every night!”

She went on a bit longer and I fought the urge to jump in and defend my side. It was her turn to speak. Finally she stopped and took a deep breath. And I continued.

Step Seven: Fix the problem.
“It’s important for both of us that we go to Tupancy and socialize at least four times a week. Going forward, let’s plan to go to the morning session on Tuesdays and Fridays and the evening session on Mondays and Thursdays.”

Step Eight: What action will they take to fix the problem?
“Mom, what will you do to make sure we make it to Tupancy at least four times a week?”

“Okay, Marty. I’ll see if I can switch my Thursday shift to Wednesday and drop my Monday shift all together. And I will call the dog walker to see if she can be available in case there are times I can’t make it home in time. That way you can keep up your exercise routine. I know that’s very important to you.”

Step Nine:   Reassure them.
“Thanks, Mom. I know it’s a lot for you to handle my needs and two jobs. I am really grateful for all you do for me. We can make this work. I know it!”

Pretty easy, huh? Apparently this works for human to human interaction as well.  You should give it a shot.

I was two for two, until this morning when my Mom was heading out to work. I said, “Mom, when you don’t give me full access to my treat drawer, I feel like you don’t trust me.”

“Nice try, Marty.”

I guess nothing’s foolproof.

**The very helpful seminar Marty’s mom attended was hosted by Petticoat Row with guest speaker Marsha Egan, a board-certified success skills coach, whose company is The Egan Group. 

J Dawg, who voices the paws-on-the-ground perspective of island life, is created by Janet Forest, owner of Nantucket Pet Sitter, which you can follow on Facebook, too.


I was fortunate enough to hear Marsha's presentation at the Petticoat Row event, and it was extraordinarily useful.  So glad that Marty found it helpful too!