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Understand the conversation you're in.

Updated: Apr 22

This morning I watched this interview. (I found it so interesting that I'm gonna have to buy the book!)

Supercommunicators aren't born genetically programmed to be super, they've worked hard to become that way. They have all found communication difficult at some point in their lives and have chosen to do the work that's needed to become better at it.

The interview talks about understanding the types of conversations we're in.

There are three main types: social, practical and emotional.

They'll overlap. Everything does, and emotion colours everything. Our goal is to find which is the main type in the conversation we're in.

It's important because then we can meet the other person in the same type of conversation. Otherwise there's a mismatch and miscommunication.

Even if we disagree with someone else's viewpoint, we can make an effort to understand and acknowledge it. This then makes it much more likely that they will do the same thing. The lines of communication stay open and relationships are maintained/ enhanced.

It's only a conversation if you're open to recognising another viewpoint.

If you're determined to be heard but not to listen - it's not a conversation.

As usual I wondered how this could be applied further. How would it work with dogs?

Here's what I came up with.

Sometimes we might want a social conversation with our dog and they would rather be doing something else. Dogs vary a lot in their desire to be handled and held close, and even the most tolerant dog will need some down time.

Sometimes the opposite happens and the dog wants attention when we are just too tired or busy to provide it. Our wish for a social conversation might not match the dog's. It's important we try to strike the right balance, so that humans and dogs get enough suitable social interaction for their needs, as well as social breaks.

An emotional conversation requires empathy from the listener. Sometimes we ask our dogs to do things that may be difficult because of their emotional state e.g. fearful, frustrated, confused, anxious, over excited. When we empathise, we see the emotion and take steps to help them work through any discomfort. Instead of expecting them to just deal with the practical or social conversation we want them to have, we recognise that they can't right now. We might take them away or ask others to give them space, or give them time to just check everything out at their own pace, or do something else to help them settle.

When we want a practical conversation (e.g. training/ performance) our dogs need to be able to be in that conversation too. They'll have to pay attention, problem solve and take appropriate action. They need to be physically, socially and emotionally able to participate.

I also work with horses, who are highly emotional creatures and are big enough to do a lot of damage if things go wrong. I'm learning about them all the time.

All the points I made for dogs will apply to the horses too.


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