Ever tried to reprimand a headstrong cat? It’s actually quite comical. Depending on the cat’s interest to comply (usually low) and the actual distance you happen to be from the offender at the time of the infraction (if you’re close, better; if you’re far away, forget it), it’s an entertaining, but usually futile exercise.
Grace has two feline brothers, Oliver and Dodger. She is not particularly fond of them, because she’s so jealous of any attention they get from us. She tries to ignore that they are part of the household, so you’d think she would be ecstatic when they get into trouble.
But when we reprimand Oliver or Dodger for their insistence to jump on a counter or perch in the middle of a plant there shouldn’t be, Grace becomes very nervous. She doesn’t like to hear us raise our voice and she immediately comes over to our side, tail down, ears back, and eyes guilty, as if she’s done something wrong. We’re not sure if she thinks she is in trouble herself or just gets nervous because she doesn’t like us to be upset.
I must admit, I find myself tempering my tone when I try to discipline the cats (I know, what’s the point in trying that anyway?) to avoid making Grace anxious.
It definitely makes me think about situations in the workplace when we soften or avoid conflict because we’re afraid of the reaction by the other person. There’s no doubt that voicing an unpopular comment or opinion can make someone uncomfortable, and the regrettable ramification is that it can shut down all constructive conversation.
I just heard a powerful story yesterday about a manager who received a very difficult message about how he was being perceived by his team – yet he took the comment in the spirit for which it was intended, and it worked! He made positive changes in his management style that the team recognized and responded to. We can’t always sugar-coat our message. We just need to be respectful.
Take a strong look at your interactions. Are you making sure to voice the necessary comments and opinions, even if they are difficult for the other person to hear?