Before adopting Milo I had never had a cat. I was a dog-lover and had enjoyed taking care of them most of my life. I had always figured out how to get my dogs to do what I wanted them to and at the same time understood what they needed by observing their behaviors. In other words I had learned how to communicate with my dogs effectively. With Milo, however, things were different. I had to learn a completely different style of communication. I couldn’t bribe Milo by offering food; I couldn’t make him do things just because I wanted him to; and, he had no fear of disappointing me. Instead, I found out that he would seek my attention when he needed me for food, going outside, or when “he” had decided to be playful. It took me a while to realize that I could enjoy cats but in a different way. I eventually learned to let him lead the communication. Just like with my dogs, gaining trust was the first step of communication; however, the styles that our cat communicated his trust was confusing for me.
Most of the challenges with our parents, spouses, children, family members, friends, and colleagues stem from miscommunications and the resulting lack of trust. It is amazing how deeply we are programmed and conditioned by different factors in our lives. They make us interact accordingly in our different relationships. Our genes, gender, primary care-givers, friends, family members, media, neighborhood, race, religion, and many other conditions make up the pre-set channels of our communication.
When those pre-set emotional buttons are pushed, we are bound to create certain outcomes. Just like a computer that is computing on the programmer’s instructions, we run based on the information that since birth is collected and stored in our mind-body connection. Trust can be reached when we pay full attention to and believe in such sources of life-changing information as we communicate them. Non-judgmental communication, mutual respect and meaningful connections are the components of building trust.
Our judgments clearly affect the way we talk and show up in relationships. Factors such as sensitivities to our past experiences, fear of confrontation, lack of sufficient information, possibility of being rejected, social status, and most importantly the level of self-confidence and worthiness play significant roles in our judgmental stance.
A person who feels overwhelmed and anxious, or avoids interactions cannot get positive results from his/her communications. Talking about what is important to us is a requirement for mature and healthy relationships. However, how can we talk if we are not certain what is expressed is useful to us or others? It is “effective communication” that provides security, self-worth and mutual respect. We survive difficult conditions when our needs and our feelings are conveyed properly and understood by others. The art of effective communication is based on several principles:
- Clarity of intention is the starting point of any communication. Once we know why it is important to discuss our concerns, then we are able to realize who can help us or provide the necessary information.
- Awareness of the situation is the understanding of the path that leads to finding the answers we are looking for or the direction that we are seeking.
- Genuine curiosity is the key that opens up the entrance to the path of awareness and understanding. It is our desire to learn and grow.
- Timing and organization of thoughts are essential elements of proceeding on the path of effective communication; without them we cannot receive the desired outcome. Giving information requires preparation and receiving them needs organized storing and accessibility.
- Understanding our feelings is great help in organizing our thoughts. Many of us are not able to differentiate among different feelings. Lack of clarification or receiving validation and acceptance for what is communicated will result in confusion and stress.
Being judgmental, disrespectful, and distanced from others are huge obstacles in communication since they shut down the possibility for collaboration and joyful relationships.
When I stopped judging our cat, Milo, and gave up comparing him with my dogs; treated him as he liked to be treated; and, showed him that regardless of our differences I cared to be close to him, our relationship changed. Milo has since grown to be a loving part of my life and we enjoy spending time together in ways that I had not experienced before. My dogs had never physically laid down on my heart and “purrrrred” in peace and joy.
If effective communication and paying such positive attention to our pets create such wonderful relationships, then imagine how amazing it is to connect with other human beings. Being closed minded to the potential joy in relationships is a huge loss. Let’s hope none of us are losing the chances of enjoying important others around us.