This morning I took our dog Bella for a walk and thought I would drop into our local cafe for breakfast. I like to have some time alone to relax before the world truly wakes on a Monday, sometimes a Sunday, and plan my helicopter view of my week. I find this very satisfying and so look forward to these moments. Our cafe is dog friendly and I sat her by the window right next to me. But this morning was to be so different, and a great learning in life in how to heal.
Now Bella’s a Staffy/ Ridgeback cross rescue dog with 6 years of bad habits and abuse. We only got her 8 weeks ago off death row, and have made great progress in training her. Following instruction from a qualified dog trainer who trained the K9 unit in the Israeli military, we have been firm and consistent with wolfpack leadership training. She no longer tries to bolt at the traffic lights, sits when asks and heels at walk most of the time. She’s starting to feel much more secure and less prone to fright, fight and flight. She’s still jumpy though, and can take off like a rocket bolting for another dog.
It has been annoying the amount of people who interject in the street who consider themselves experts or feel the need to advise or project concern, advice or interest as we train her. Everybody knows best. But this morning delivered quite an incident. Bella saw a dog from inside the cafe and took off. As my table started following with the lead tied to it I grabbed her by the scruff of her neck. She yelped, as she’s quite a baby, but mainly, because her skin pulled at her ears which still have a shocking yeast infection that she has had for years and which is under treatment.
Once she had settled we had a loving chat and she settled quickly at my feet. But I then noticed the glances. From one 24-ish something girl with headphones at the coffee counter. 2, 3 then she sent me another. I had had enough of the covert hostile and if you know me, you know it is in my nature to pursue enlightenment and engage at most opportunity.
I caught her stare, held it, and said “do you have something you want to say?” She replied, you should never hit a dog, you need to learn how to look after dogs” in an agitated tone. I was so surprised to come across her judgement, assumption that I had hit Bella, and really, she knew nothing about me, Bella’s (and ours) professional dog training, Bella’s history of bolting, or her ear infection. Despite my attempts at responding she shut down, repeated her statement with her headphones in. Then another customer said “she’s right you know, I have dogs too”.
I am sure you could understand how she felt she had to say something. But isn’t the human condition interesting. Develop a view. Judge others. Protect your need to be right or stay attached to it at all costs. Seek validation and speak louder. Shut down explanations from others. I’m right, you’re wrong. And is how conflict starts in our society. Is this not even, how conflict on a larger scale starts?
All in the microcosm of my local cafe, over Bella’s ear infection.
So what did I learn? Well, there’s a gift in everything and look for it, don’t take it personally but be a beneficiary of the situation, not a victim and complain. I realised that by going into justification immediately to her I had failed. Being a victim and complaining gets me nothing. So how do I respond to someone what is judgemental and has a need to be right?
The short answer is, I put a question to them to see if they have the capacity to be open, and if they do not connect, don’t waste my time. If they are not open, they will fight for their attachment to be right. Eventually the Universe will hit them so hard that they will learn that this arrogance does not serve them, slows them from progress and prevents them from being open to other possibilities in life.
For me, it renewed my vigour to improve my PR skills in how to handle hostile press with loaded questions who seek to trip you up, rather than understand. Yes, I am launching a contentious program soon and this morning was a great reminder of the skills necessary to mediate and handle fierce public judgement. Getting people to have compassion for others, be curious, open and listen to different views are the first steps towards mutual respect and world peace.