One of the things I like the most about observing Grace is how literal her communication is. The same is true with our cats. Their body language tells it all. If we could observe human interactions with that level of objectivity and detachment, I think we’d often behave differently.
There are two instances that illustrate this perfectly. One happens frequently in our house, the second happened for the first time (that I was aware of) the other morning.
In our living room, we allow Grace on the furniture, but she often chooses her own bed in the evening. Once the sun goes down, she’s ready for bed. If Dodger walks by the edge of the sofa and lingers even for a second to attract my husband’s attention for a quick head rub, Grace leaps out of a deep sleep, prances over and positions herself between Dodger and Pete. She then nudges Dodger on his way, as if to say: “This is MY space. Get out!” And Dodger does. We’ve seen this scene play out on many occasions, so I was amused to witness another side of it the other morning.
I was in the basement plodding along on the elliptical machine. Oliver and Dodger keep me company, skipping around the room, chasing numerous cat toys in and around all the kinds of obstacles you might expect in a somewhat cluttered basement. Dodger had paused for a few bites of his breakfast and Grace sauntered into the room, just to say hello. Dodger’s next move was so obvious – so clear – he jumped down and raced to Grace, physically bumping into her and cutting off her route. With each turn Grace took to avoid Dodger, he continued to place himself in front of her, changing her direction, edging her out of the room. He was saying: “This is MY space. Get out!”
My first reaction was to chuckle. New room, new rules. Dodger felt he could be the one in authority in the basement. Then I thought, how interesting, since there are many times when I see Dodger respect Grace’s space. Never have I seen either cat in Grace’s bed, for example. My guess is that Grace’s actions are motivated by jealousy; Dodger’s ego and opportunity to be in charge drove him to be territorial.
And so it is with organizations. We call it working in silos when individuals or departments insist on working in isolation, preventing collaboration and integration of ideas and efficiencies. Sometimes this is done intentionally, but often I think it happens unintentionally, without being aware that we’re yelling out: “This is MY space. Get out!”
If we could recognize when we’re being defensive, it would be easy to intellectually see that we’re creating walls instead of building bridges. There is plenty of space and ample love for three animals in the same room at the same time. And I’m sure there is opportunity for us to be more collaborative in the workplace.