I may talk a lot (some would say I talk too much), but clear and effective communication isn’t my strong point. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that when I get nervous I tend to babble on and on about nothing in particular, and completely skip whatever point I actually wanted to make. Also, I don’t like conflict, so when I need to say something that might give offense, I tend to circle around the topic so widely that the person I’m talking to has no idea what I really mean.
But perhaps the biggest problem is simply that there is often a big difference between what I think I’m saying and what the person I’m talking to actually hears. Because all of us have “personal filters” that can unintentionally distort the meaning of what is being said to us, and sometimes words can have different meanings to different people. And as it turns out, the communication issues aren’t just limited to my dealings with other human beings.
One of the many advantages to having a dog live in the house is that dogs usually serve as an excellent alarm system. If someone comes to your door, walks across your property, or even just innocently jogs down the street in front of your house, most dogs will let you know about it. Loudly. And that can be a good thing, especially if you happen to be home alone.
So when we brought our new dog, Finn, home a few months ago, I told him that one of his duties (aside from keeping the floor free of food and ridding the yard of vermin) was to serve as a watch dog. And he took me at my word, quite literally. One night I heard strange sounds coming from outside our front door and went downstairs to investigate. Finn was already there, sitting nearby and watching intently as a stranger repeatedly tried to unlock the door and open it. Luckily, it turned out to be a harmless young woman who was simply at the wrong house, but I still would have appreciated a woof or two out of Finn. Clearly, I should have asked him to be an “alarm dog” rather than a “watch dog.” (Although he is very good at watching. Trust me on this.)
I suppose the lesson in all of this is that I need to remember that effective communication isn’t something I can ever take for granted. Finn’s interpretation of being a watch dog is a great example of how easily our words and meanings can be misunderstood by others, and how we really do need to be a bit more forgiving when others don’t respond the way we would wish. Actions and words that we are so quick to take offense at are often the result of nothing more than a simple miscommunication, I think.
So I will try harder to make myself as clear as I possibly can, whether I’m talking to someone who walks on two legs or four. Which means I might just have a shot at getting Finn to finally understand that the wading pool in the back yard is actually for my grandson….