Don’t Hey Me!

Oh, the lessons I continue to discover thanks to my adopted pup Louie. While we’ve learned a tremendous amount and understand each other’s idiosyncrasies, there are a few behaviors of his that still puzzle me.

For example, I never know which humans he will growl at or who will get a tail wag from him. Since being together for over three years, I’ve concluded there is no rhyme or reason to his selection process. And then it hit me one morning as I was going through the avalanche of messages I received while being out of the office for a few days. Quite a few were from people I didn’t know from companies I wasn’t familiar with.

We’ve all received emails, voice mails, or LinkedIn messages with the greeting of HEY [Insert your name here]! It’s not the “Hey, Danise” that irks me; it’s the fact that I don’t know these people, and yet they act like we’re good buddies. As they continue their message, I start mentally clicking through my contacts trying to recall a chance meeting we may have had. By the message I received, you would think we were long lost friends. It is a marketing tactic that is running rampant in today’s social media world of superficial relationships.

It may just be me, but this tactic shuts down any possibility of that person being heard because I have a belief that the messenger, though he or she may have great information, is probably not being authentic. While I am perfectly okay with people using informal greetings, I am not okay with people acting like they know me when we’ve never connected.

Louie is no different. When someone he does not know approaches him, talks sweet, and acts like they are friends, he becomes very leery of them. Children are the only exception to his rule. Granted, Louie is cute, and everyone wants to talk to him. But if he doesn’t know them and senses something uncomfortable about them, he will lower his head and step to the side as if to move out of their reach. If that doesn’t work, he will back up and bark at them.

His message is clear . . . Don’t act like you know me when you don’t!

I learned this lesson the hard way over twenty-five years ago. The medical imaging equipment company I worked for acquired a small but very technically advanced company. Along with that acquisition came a regional manager, Joe, who became my boss. Joe recommended that I connect with a friend of his, Wendell, at a hospital in Louisville. I called Wendell on his private line, and he picked up on the first ring with a very gruff, “Hello!”

I cleared my throat, and in my perky salesgirl voice, I said, “Hi, Wendell. This is Danise DiStasi. Joe Hartzog suggested that I reach out to you. How are you today?”

“Fine!”

I cleared my throat a second time. “Great. Well, Wendell, I’m sure you’re busy, so I’ll—”

“Excuse me, young lady! Do I know you?”

“Hmmm, well, uh, I don’t believe we’ve met, have we? I think we may only know each other through Joe.”

“I don’t know you at all. Why do you think you can call me by my first name? I’d prefer to be addressed as Dr. Tyson.”

Needless to say, there were a few awkward moments after that announcement, and the recovery was tough. But I understood Dr. Tyson loud and clear. My boss, Joe, never addressed him as Dr. Tyson, only Wendell. I assumed it was okay for me to address him that way as well, even though we had never met. This was a classic case of being ill-prepared. And Dr. Tyson saw right through me. He didn’t know me, and me thinking that I had an “in” was not going to work with him.

While we may prefer to be immediately relational, what must come first is authenticity, which goes a long way with Louie and with humans. Dogs are incredibly sensitive to people being who they “say” they are, but we humans have to work a bit harder to figure out who people really are. The tactic of someone acting like they know us defies our basic human need of wanting to be truly known and, even deeper, to be known and loved. The superficiality of today is leaving a relational void in so many people’s lives.

I believe it is best to be authentic in every aspect of your life. Brené Brown talks about this in her famous TED Talk about the power of vulnerability. The people she studied who seemed to have a strong sense of love and belonging shared these three things:

  • Courage
  • Compassion
  • Authenticity

In her words, “These folks had the courage to be imperfect. They had a connection as a result of authenticity. They were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they are.”

What you see is what you get when you connect with Louie: No pretenses, no games—just the real deal. He expects that in return from the humans he comes in contact with, and he is confused when he senses otherwise. Thanks to Louie, I have learned to let go of who I thought I should be in order to be who I really am.

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Louie had to say goodbye to his lifelong buddy, Sampson, this weekend. Sammy was a great pal to Louie and was the real deal. We will always remember the fun walks and visits we had with him. Louie will miss seeing and playing with him, as will everyone in our neighborhood. Run and jump, little Sampson. You’re bound by nothing that will ever hold you back from being the fun-loving pup you were created to be.

Louie And Mercy

This is actually a picture of Mercy. As cute as she is, she’s not the subject of this blog, though she will be the subject of one soon. No, this blog is about my little Louie and the mercy I’ve had to grant him over and over.

Louie is certainly a transformed dog since I rescued him three years ago. Most of his bad behaviors are behind us, but he has one persistent habit that just drives me crazy. I have two videos of him owning up to it. Apparently, it’s a habit he’s unwilling to change.

Louie gets into my laundry basket, very neatly removes one item of clothing, drags it onto the floor, and proceeds to roll around on it. We wrote a blog about it a couple of months ago. And this behavior has been evident from day one.

No matter how many times I point to the clothes on the floor after each episode and sternly say NO, he continues to do it. I’ve walked into the room with him happily trotting behind me, and as soon as I see the clothes and turn to look at him, he’ll drop to the floor and roll over on his back. I don’t have to say a word. He knows he’s guilty, yet he persists.

Last week while I was shopping at Kroger, I ran into our dog trainer, Zig, and expressed my frustration about this habit of Lou’s. I explained that he has done well in other arenas, but this just drives me nuts.

Zig paused before saying, “Some things are not going to change. Sometimes it is just too much for him to ignore. The laundry basket is just too much for Louie to resist.” I had to admit Zig was right. Louie was never going to change this behavior.

I continued my grocery shopping and thought about Zig’s wisdom. There was something deeper to this whole laundry basket thing. Was Zig implying that it was my fault that Louie got into the basket? I mean, after all, I kept my laundry basket on the floor. Rather than doing that, I should just take the basket downstairs and do the laundry. And then, having folded my clean clothes and put them back in the basket, I should put them away rather than leave them on the floor.

Was my bad behavior triggering Louie’s? Admittedly, there’d be no problem without baskets of clothes sitting around. It’s too tempting for Louie, just too much for him to resist.

Leader, think about this. Certain behaviors in others just aren’t going to change. But what are WE doing to trigger the behavior we wish would change? Are we using a certain tone of voice, are we overcorrecting, do they not trust us? When they react, we respond sternly, and the cycle perpetuates itself.How we handle the things (people, behaviors, etc.) that just aren’t going to change speaks volumes to our teams:

How we handle the things (people, behaviors, etc.) that just aren’t going to change speaks volumes to our teams:

  • Recognize that the behaviors you exhibit may cause others to react. Be self-aware.
  • Stop hoping others will change. Recognize that some things will never change. Can you live with it? Will it cause the demise of the team? Is the behavior hindering or helping the team / the organization?
  • Address the issues you can control. Take responsibility for what you own. Change what you can.

Mercy is an interesting term. It means compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender; lenient or compassionate treatment. I especially like this definition: “A blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion.” I certainly appreciate the mercy I have been shown by a loving and just God. I’m sure you do as well.

While I have shown mercy to Louie over the years, I have to take responsibility for my behavior that triggers a bad behavior in him. Since my chance meeting with Zig, I’ve moved my laundry basket, and Louie is indeed a changed dog. He’s no longer tempted by the world of dirty laundry in a basket, and he hasn’t found other places from which to pull clothes onto the floor. This has been my lesson as much as his. And now he no longer needs to drop to the floor in an attempt to make amends. We’re good!