As we are aware, effective communication is an essential ingredient in any relationship. At the same time, whether it be friend to friend, parent to child, employer to employee or human to animal, 93% of the transference is non verbal and subconscious according to social scientists. We think that what we SAY is important when, in fact, that is the least significant element in the dialogue.
The other day, during a visit to the barnyard, I happened to observe someone in the act of greeting one of the donkeys. Clearly, the person meant it to be a positive, affectionate interaction because her words conveyed delight. At the same time she strode over to the animal with arms outstretched and moved them around the donkey’s nose and eyes as she talked. Of course, the donkey reared back and, in the process, the person exclaimed that the animal was being standoffish.
But that was not really the case. In the moment, I put myself in the donkey’s place and imagined a person approaching me, making unintelligible sounds and with fast-moving hands and arms coming towards, and then rubbing all over my face. It would be an unpleasant experience, to say the least.
I guess that people do things like that to the other animals because our instinctive urge is to control and there is nothing that says that more strongly than the attempt to grab at the head. This urge, this habit is demonstrated in most human/animal interactions, be it with dogs, cats, equines, cattle but if we were to stop and think about it we could see that the EFFECT of the action is contrary to the verbal intent.
There are so many dimensions in human/animal communication and we have only in recent years come to appreciate them. Undoing a habit can be tiresome but the benefits in the long run – better communication – make the effort worthwhile.
Sandra Pady, Founder