Saying the right thing at the right time in the right way

This is Oliver. Standing in the plant. Where we don’t want him to be.

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?

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10 comments

  1. didiwright says:

    First of all, Oliver is a very handsome boy and a wonderful poser. I reckon he could get away with just about anything 🙂

    Secondly, you’re asking a very good question that I’m not sure I can answer. Most of us (me including) become defensive when faced with criticism, which affects any further communication. I think telling the truth (however uncomfortable) to somebody’s face without offending them is almost an art, and I can’t say I’ve mastered it yet. I’m working on both saying the right thing the right way, and accepting what others have got to say about/to me without feeling hurt. Not easy!

  2. sara says:

    I feel for that plant. As I recognise it as the kind that branches break off with the merest jostle. Jade? Is there a small place cleared off by the widow so kitty can look out without having to sit in a plant? Thats the only remedy I might offer in that case. I can tell by Oli’s expression he knows hes being a bad kitty. 🙂

    I prefer bluntness when it comes to hearing about a fault or critisism. Its so much easier than hints and soft words because it takes doubt out of the picture. I see corection as an expression of love. I love honesty when it is brutal. Alas, I know Im alone in this viewpoint and wish it were not so. I always hold my tounge and dont offer corrections for others because I dont want to break them with my frankness.

    • I think you are very wise to hold such a mature and constructive view that correction is an expression of love. What a fantastic way to look at it. It does take more effort and caring to share feedback, as opposed to just walking away and being frustrating, so I see your approach as very helpful. What is so interesting to me is that you say you hold back. You must be setting a fine example when you receive feedback so well, so perhaps that gives others a model for how they can behave when you offer your opinion.

      You are correct — it is a jade plant. I laughed when I read your first line. My husband and I are always apologizing to the plant for the cat’s constant “attention” they pay to it. Dodger is not as nimble and he stays on the floor batting the leaves off so he can then swat them around the floor. Just two feet from the plant they have a beautiful cat tree with two perchs; they do use it but they love that plant!

      • sara says:

        hmm let me just say, most people prefer not to know the whole truth, so they avoid coming to me if they can. On the other hand, in a crisis… they all come running to me for help. Ive grown accustomed to it. Funny thing… Im actually reading your blog to glean tips on how to soften my own sharp edges. 🙂 Peaple crave half truths because they are so easily wounded.

    • Sounds like you have a gift for saying the right thing at the right time; and while it seems others might be uncomfortable with it, they respect it since they come to you when they really need it. Maybe that’s enough. We could all learn from your talents in holding truth as one of your core values.

  3. Kristen says:

    I know what you mean about Grace getting nervous when you yell at the cats. When I have to yell at Bailey, which is normally just when he is continuously scratching (he has allergies which flare up at times if we just let him scratch, he scratches sores in his neck). He knows that we want him to stop scratching. Normally I will yell at him “Stop scratching” and he will then stop and rub himself on the carpet instead (rubbing is okay, rubbing doesn’t create sores lol). Sometimes if he is so into scratching, I need to yell a couple times to get his attention. It really freaks out Jay. He must think I’m yelling at him.

    Personally, I tend to avoid conflict, which I realize isn’t always the best solution to problems.

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