I work at the animal shelter here as a supervisor over the cats.
One problem has been irking me at work. This is allowing people to be right in situations that really matter. For example we will have a cat that is exhibiting a behavior that I am very familiar with and I want to point out what it is, a workable solution to solving it, and the end result. I even have tons of literature and videos over it. Instead of explaining and highlighting what needs to be done, I allow myself to become satisfied with the other workers' opinions whom have no experience with cat behavioral issues and they end up making it worse.
This is the one I am having the most trouble with. Right now we have a hissy-spitty cat, and I am in the process of training him not to bite. I do this by positive reinforcement which includes petting him a little more each day until he becomes comfortable with longer periods of petting and socialization. The other worker believes that smacking them on the head works when they bite, but all the research I have done backs up the theory that cats do not learn from physical punishment. How do I go about effectively tell them when they smack the cat not to do that and explain my method and technique of training the cat?
I'd love to learn from you! We watched the "My Cat From Hell" series where the coach transforms cats regularly by honoring their nature, and it can be amazing! Our cat is a sweetheart, but we did teach her to stay off the table by yelling at her. That was years ago, and some day we might have a new cat—I'd like kinder and gentler ways.
It seems to me there are two things that upset you—that you don't stand up for your own wisdom, and you don't stand up for the cats. Do you know why? When I defer to others who know less, (which still happens, although not so often), it can be self-doubt, not wanting to upset other people, not wanting to offend, not knowing what to say. It can be fear of retaliation. Something in my upbringing developed those qualities in me, and the only way I could grow out of it was just to hold my nose and dive in. Cut yourself some slack—there's a reason why you balk. There is no need to be hard on yourself. But there is also reason to extend yourself a bit more each time.
It will help if you discover why you back off. But even if you know why, there will be risk in speaking your truth. It's unfamiliar, and not a skill you've developed in this kind of scenario. When you practice a new skill, you fumble at first. That's not fun. But it is how you grow.
When I fail to SpeakStrong, I practice what I might have said out loud. It really helps. I talk to the trees when I hike, and tell them what I wish I had said to the other person. It comes out raw at first, but then gets more from the heart. The trees don't mind. ;-)
You are the expert in cat care. You are also the supervisor. You have both positional and knowledge power. What do you, in your comfortable authority sound like? For starters, a man who cares about cats and cares about people.
Your earned authority comes across loud and clear in your email to me. So look at what you wrote to me, and use that to help you figure out what to say to the offenders. If it were me, I'd say something like, "The cat is scared and defending itself. We might be able to get her to stop by smacking her, but we won't teach her love that way. My experience and my research have shown me that there really is a better way. I'm working with this cat and I see improvement, but if we worked together by teaching her to trust, she'll lose her reason to bite."
You can also say, "Yesterday, I wanted to speak up about cat care, but was afraid I'd offend you. I decided to take the risk today."
I got married April 1st. Yay!
My husband's last name is Rose, and I plan to use it, but am not sure just how to proceed, since Runion is how I'm known. What do you think? Who has gone through a name change, and how did you do it? I'd love your thoughts, suggestions, warnings and tales.
Am I Meryl Rose now? (Surprisingy, the domain name was available.) Or Meryl Runion Rose? Or do I use Meryl Runion professionally and Meryl Rose personally?
I'm happy to be a Rose. Just wondering how Rosey to be. I got some great input from my facebook post, but could use some more as I ponder the next step.
A reader writes:
Meryl - I have long been embarrassed about women showing emotion at work, but at the same time proud that we aren't afraid to. I want to control emotions, and I'm not sure that will ever be possible for an authentic person. What do you think?
I agree – you can't be authentic and control your emotions. But you can manage your emotions authentically. Emotional honesty doesn't have to mean lying down on the couch and pouring your guts out. It can be simple things, like, "I'm trying something new and feeling a little foolish about stumbling." "I'm stretching my comfort zone to do this differently, so I'm nervous about how it will come off."
When I first committed to more emotional honesty, it came out pretty raw! Two reasons – I had no experience – didn't have the skill. And I had a backlog of emotion, so a simple thing could stir a huge reaction. My voice would get stuck in my throat – I'd get choked up. Felt like I was five years old. Now I don't tend to regress because I pretty much clear as I go. There are still occasions when I feel the need to control my emotions, but they're rare – and I hate them! I like being able to flow in who I am.
It takes practice. I assure you, I haven't always been perfectly poised when I practiced - but I did find low-stakes places where I could express emotion without being afraid of losing credibility. Phrases help a lot, too - they help you know how to communicate feeling without being too heavy.
Note: this question came from the webinar last week. It's revised from what I suggested at the time.
Meryl, with one of my executives, I find myself completely lost until about 3/4 through the conversation because he will be talking about one subject and then jump to another one. How do I keep up and make sure we're communicating appropriately?
Response - Note the difference in styles. Something like:
You have a remarkable ability to go in many different directions and then tie it all back in to your central point. My mind works more in a straight line that yours does, so sometimes I get lost. Would you be okay if I interrupt you when I stop following you?
Meryl, I have a great direct report who spends a lot of time on the internet. We have guidelines about internet use and another director complained to me about how much she is on it. She gets her work done well, and volunteers for projects, so it's not a performance issue. She complains about being bored.
Response - Clearly the real issue is keeping her busy and using her talents, so while you could force her to follow the guidelines and you may need to, I suggest focus on redirecting her interests. Something like:
I can tell we're not using you to potential because you're over guidelines on internet use. Let's brainstorm projects for you until we come up with ideas that will keep you too busy to hang out there long.
It doesn't make sense to me to require you to follow the internet guidelines when you're getting all your work done, but I might have to. How can we resolve this? I have ideas, but I'd like to hear yours first.
A reader wrote:
Hi, I would like to encourage you to have some articles specifically for teachers. I think that there is a market for it. Often there are power struggles with students that make everything more difficult and could have been avoided with better communication tools by the teachers.
I had spoken to someone about writing a book like that, but there is a phrase book for teachers. You'll find it here.
I’m in the process of writing a phrase book for office professionals and when I finish that, I think I’m done!
I responded by noting that I had apologized, and that I had forgotten about the email trail, and if there was a better reply, please inform me. How else could I have replied?
MERYL RESPONDS: His response sounds scolding and parental, and the natural reaction to accusation is to get defensive. What if you started by telling him he was right instead? What could you have sincerely followed that up with? ..
READER COMMUNICATION QUESTION: Meryl, would you recommend an appropriate response for me regarding "misconstruing" a tone of voice? After coming come from my job one evening, I asked my husband if he had a moment so I could show him something. He'd been watching TV and I was interrupting. He replied in a nasty tone: "What is it?"
I said in what I am sure was a neutral tone", "I don't appreciate your tone of voice. Let's talk when you can spare a moment". He said: "Don't start with me." I said: "I'm not starting anything. You started being rude".
He said: "Your the one with the problem. You misconstrued my tone".
BUT, he immediately jumped up from the sofa and came to see what I had to show him.
As you may have guessed, our communication history does not follow your positive guidelines. His constant retort when I assertively say, without blame, "I feel ____ when you ____" is: "That's your problem!".
MERYL RESPONDS: Did his tone express irritation? I don't know. But what if instead of insisting he started it by being rude, you said,
What if, when he said "don't start with me," you said,
What if, when he told you you're the one with the problem, you said,
What if you refused to get adversarial with this man whom you chose to spend your life with? If you got over any sense of needing to respond in kind when you don't like his tone, and to win - unless it's to win by being the first to get to the heart. If you did that, I think you'd bring out the best in him, and that would be a real win for you.
Send your communication questions to:
I blog daily when I have a lot to say. When I don't have much to say, I stay silent. Kind of how it outta be, don't you think? Lots of great communication tips.
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Collaborative communication skills for today's busy workplace