Just a few days ago, I went online and Googled a few friends and people that I have not been in touch with for some time. Time flies and it’s easy to lose track of people in our lives, but one thing has become clear over the years; our dogs and the people we love to hang out with are the core of our happiness and also learning.
What is the difference between relationships with dogs and people?
Dogs are almost never a pain in the butt—except when they are naughty, but they are so easy to forgive. I just remembered the time when Skai stole a meat roast from a counter at our friends' home when they were dog-sitting. Ooops!
When it comes to people, forgetting and forgiving can sometimes be hard, but interacting with others makes us learn and grow. Every human has a different story playing in his or her head. We are sensitized to different situations and often foolishly expect others to know what these sensitivities are.
It is like expecting other people to know what music we like and then getting upset when they get it wrong! When we are upset, we may be embarrassed or uneasy to openly communicate this. Instead, many people just say nothing, secretly brewing their resentment or perhaps expecting others to be clairvoyant and read their minds.
Isn’t it crazy?! I think it is but I confess that I too have been guilty of this behaviour from time to time.
How we address this human condition on our team
There are currently about 20 people on our team now, and learning how to form a culture of excellent communication was not easy. We also provide free support and answer questions from thousands of dog lovers on how to give their dogs healthier and longer lives. Sometimes people are worried and emotional about their dog's situation and good communication is the most important part of helping their dog.
This year, we will be celebrating 10 years of our company, and I am very grateful we have gotten so much positive feedback, not only on our five star rated products but also on the quality of our customer service.
Most often, I share holistic healing health tips and news with you. Today, I decided to mix it up a little and give you a kind of backstage insight into how my team and I learn to communicate. Perhaps you may even be able to apply these principles in your own life!
What are the key values?
When it comes to companies, I see many of them focus on the bottom line and their shareholders, but we are different.
First, we have no shareholders, which allows us to focus on making things better and not necessarily bigger. Your dog is a V.I.P. (Very Important Dog) and as such is the pinnacle of our values. In other words, everything we do is dog-centric! If it isn’t good for dogs, it has no place in our company. If a customer or a team member comes up with a new idea, the first thing we do is ask if dogs will benefit from it.
Second, if we would not use a product ourselves, we simply wouldn't sell it. I have heard executives of pet food or drug companies saying off the record that they do not use the products they make. I wonder how they can sleep at night?
In our company, the team and I use our products on our dogs, but many of us take the essentials for dogs ourselves! I know it is funny, but when it comes to whole food nutrients and supplements, they are the same for people and dogs. The only exception is GutSense certified probiotic for dogs, which is formulated for the canine microflora.
Third, our customers and the team are on the same level. I gather this may seem counterintuitive at first. Most companies go with the mantra “the customer is always right,” but we all know this is not always true. We can offer you a five-star service only with a happy team. If a customer is polite and courteous, we do our best to understand and help, if trolls hit the roll, I don't let them abuse my team!
How to communicate effectively and avoid a conflict
My dream is a world in which everyone does their best to understand what the other side is saying. This does not mean agreeing with everyone; it means doing our best to understand their point of view. In fact, this simple rule would prevent most conflicts and even wars!
I want you to think of a conflict or an argument stuck in your memory (take a break and think about it for a few seconds).
Here is an example of effective communication:
Person X comes and tells me that he or she does not believe in raw diets and that kibble is the best.
Naturally, I disagree, but I show interest in this opinion. “Thank you for sharing this with me. I understand you are concerned about the safety of raw food. Tell me more about it.”
"Well, I think it is dangerous” the person goes on to say.
“I understand. Please tell me why.”
The conversation may go for a few seconds or a few minutes, but can you imagine how the tension would decrease? I didn’t necessarily agree with the other person, but I was curious about their different point of view, and I wanted to learn more.
When the person finishes presenting his or her objections and sees you have listened, perhaps you can even ask if he or she is interested in learning why you feed raw food to your pet.
If they say no, you just say, "Okay.” If they say yes, you can present your reasons, and because they make sense, the initially opposing person may even start thinking about raw food or reading kibble labels.
Now imagine if you started the same conversion by saying, “You got it wrong!” Even if it was true, the person will likely become upset and defensive, and you will lose an opportunity to explain why raw food is beneficial.
In the deep sense of the word, there are no rights or wrongs; they are relative and completely in the mind of the beholder.
A few practical steps to be more effective at communication
- Listen (this is the key, forget about what you want to say).
- Empathize (try to see things from the other’s point of view; e.g. try to understand why people still feed kibble).
- Ask if there is anything else they have to say and invite them to tell you more
- Acknowledge the person’s point of view. For example, "I can see why you see things this way. It makes sense."
- Ask if they would be interested in your point of view. If they say no, just accept it, but most people will give you a chance to talk because you did too. You can state the reasons why you disagree if you do.
- If they disagree - repeat steps 1-4 again, and let the magic of communication evolve.
- If you are the one who wants to be heard, and your friend does not know what you have just learned, share this article and see what happens.
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM