The cycle of dog behavior goes like this in our house. Gadget, our newest foster dog, sniffs L.N. (our middle girl). L.N. growls. Gadget whines. L.N. barks. Gadget looks at me as if to say, “I just wanted to play”. Dave and I get frustrated.
No more! We have introduced “the can” to this pattern. The theory of the can is that when you shake the can filled with rocks, the dogs don’t like the sound and they will stop what they are doing (chewing, barking, stealing an entire container of spinach dip from the kitchen counter---oh, wait, that is another blog for another day).
Prep for the can? Easy.
1. Grab an empty aluminum can.
2. Carefully cut off the top of the can.
3. Put enough rocks or pebbles in the can (1/2 full maybe?) that the can makes a really annoying noise when shaken
4. Tape or somehow cover the top of the can.
5. Ta-da! Ready to train your dog and annoy your spouse.
Honestly, it is a bit Pavlovian. After a couple of times of shaking the can (and Gadget looking at me with fear in his eyes that perhaps the can contains a trip to the vet or being shunned from his home), no one is growling, no one is whining. Life is silent again. The next time one of the dogs even thinks about whining or growling, all I have to do is lift up the can and I have immediate radio silence.
So, I got to thinking. What if there were such a can for us, as humans? Whenever we started to say something not quite appropriate or a bit sarcastic or snarky, some gentle hand would whip out the can of rocks and shake it in front of us in an effort to remind us that those words might be better left inside our heads.
Alas, I don’t have that can for humans yet.
Dave and I have been waiting three years for a check to be mailed to us from an estate in which we were named as beneficiaries. Finally, this spring, I received notice that all was completed and the check would soon be mailed. Just one more thing…could you verify once again (I’ve done this three times, already) your mailing address? And, oh yes, could you get a notary public to verify that you are sending us your correct mailing address? 'Ummmm….I’d like the check, please. Why in the WORLD would I send you an Incorrect mailing address?" I’m thinking that, not saying it, so the can of rocks doesn’t need to come out, YET.
I travel across town, get the form notarized, send it in, and…..nothing. For three weeks, nothing. I finally email the law office again, just to ask what the delay might be in getting the check sent to me. This is the reply I received:
“I was very concerned to discover you had not received your distribution as it was sent Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested on March 11, 2015. However, after reviewing the file, I see that I sent the distribution to the XXXXXX, Florida address. As of today, it has not been returned as undeliverable.”
No, no, no, that cannot be. You couldn’t possibly have sent it to the Florida address---we haven’t lived there for THREE YEARS!!! Not to mention, I just got finished mailing you (with a notary public stamp attached, no less!) the third verification of our Arizona address. (I’m still thinking this, not saying it. The can of rocks is still silent.)
But, sadly, even though I have written a bit about communication, I committed one of the big no-no mistakes in communication. I fired off an email without taking enough deep breaths. This, of course, is where the can would have truly come in handy.
I started the email with “Wow, really?” which is never a good thing. I made sure the law office was aware of my frustration. Did this get the check mailed to me any faster? Likely not. Yes, it is true that they made a big blunder by getting me to verify my address and not even mailing it to that address. But what good does it do me to rant and sarcastically make my point?
The good news is a check arrived at our correct address a couple of weeks later. The bad news is I didn’t have a can of rocks to remind me, as I remind folks all the time via communication books, articles, and workshops to think before your speak. The next good news is: I suspect I’ll have many more chances to practice good communication skills in the future, and you will, too.
Just for today, maybe we can focus on thinking before we speak or act, without needing a can of rocks to remind us not to growl.