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Saturday, August 22, 2020

Lessons Without Words

"Backstage" at Junior Rodeo, Willcox, Arizona

In the preface to his book, Life Lessons From a Ranch Horse, Mark Rashid writes that his old horse, Buck, made him realize “that I wasn’t going to be able to get better in my work unless I first improved other things in my life.” In one of his books about dogs, Jonathan Katz recounted a dog trainer’s telling him (I have to paraphrase, since I don’t have that book in front of me) that if he wanted a better dog, he was going to have to become a better person. Finally, I recall reading that at a certain point in his career as a “dog whisperer,” Cesar Millan realized he needed to become a “people whisperer,” also, to achieve lasting results, since when he was done working with problem dogs, their future was in their owners’ hands.

Some people who would never hit a dog will whip or spur a horse. (Does that seem strange to you? It does to me.) There are riding instructors – I know because I had one once -- invariably kind to horses but cruel to other human beings. We humans can see through each other’s inconsistencies, but I’m pretty sure the horses and dogs see through us much faster. 

Calm. Confident. Consistent. Kind.

Not only do we get better results with animals if we approach them calmly, confidently, and consistently, but partnerships that develop between human and dog or human and horse strengthen those desirable traits in us. You’ve heard of a vicious circle. Well, this is a virtuous circle – and who wouldn’t prefer to ride that happy merry-go-round? 

Competing at Junior Rodeo, Willcox, Arizona
And the practice of kindness is very compatible with working on the other three behavioral traits. Now that it’s come to my mind and I reflect further, I realize that a certain quite horrid type of person might manage to be calm, confident, consistent, and cruel, which cannot be our aim, either in working toward partnerships with our animal companions or simply in becoming better human beings! So while I’ve had ‘3Cs’ in mind for 35 years or so, I see now that the addition of that ‘K’ as absolutely essential. 

If we approach them with kindness from the start, our speechless friends usually forgive us our lapses in calmness, confidence, and consistency. Isn’t that wonderful?

So how about leading with kindness -- with our fellow human beings? What do you think? 

It is not always easy! Being kind can be a struggle. Flashes of anger visit almost all of us from time to time. 

Here's a thought: Maybe looking at other humans as if they were horses or dogs would make it easier for us to remain calm and treat them better. Does that sound totally wacky?

Sarah likes my idea. Good girl!


Dawn said...

Excellent idea! I have had times when being kind was hard...or almost impossible. Usually when dealing with government officials. Still, they all are people doing what they think is best (I hope anyway) even if it differs from what I think is best. (Though some of them, I swear, KNOW that they're not getting anything done and don't mind that in the least.)

P. J. Grath said...

Dawn, I feel that it's important to realize not only how important kindness is but also how difficult it can be at times, so we don't beat ourselves up because we have to struggle on occasion.

Laurie said...

Pamela, dear, I DO love this post (as you hoped I would). I am a big believer in approaching people and situations with kindness and friendliness as my leading edge. If I assume I'm going to like someone and they're going to like me, don't I create a more propitious environment than if I assume they're not to be trusted? I think people can absolutely read our intentions, and good intentions call forth a better response than if I'm clearly showing I'm expecting a negative outcome. I like your "3 Cs + K" suggestion very much. Love always, Laurie

P. J. Grath said...

Laurie, you remind me of when I was planning my first trip to Paris. Someone told me I would hate it, because French people hate Americans, and I said, “They will like me, because I will be so happy to be there!” And I loved it!

But in general in this area, you are my role model, so thank you!