If you are a follower of our leadership blog, you know how strongly I believe in authentic relationships. Humans desire deep connections with others, and dogs are no different. Trust is the foundation of a strong relationship, and without it, the relationship is weakened.
When Louie and I first met, he was so full of fear that it took months to build trust. During that time, I quickly realized that Louie had a knack for knowing truth—he’s an amazing pup!
For example, he can tell where I’m going and what I’m doing simply by seeing what outfit I’m wearing. If I am dressed in business clothes, he knows he is not going for a walk. If I put on my gym shoes, however, he knows his chances for a walk are greatly improved. If I combine my workout clothes and gym shoes, he waits to see if I grab the leash or head toward his cushy canine crib, which determines whether he goes with me, or must wait for me to return home.
I know Louie is not only greatly influenced by what I wear, but also by what I say and how I say it to him. If I am dressed for business and say, “I’ll be right back” while sending him to his crib before I leave, he knows that in actuality I won’t be right back, and he reacts to that. Saying “bye bye” to him has a different meaning as well. That means we both go bye bye, to the park or somewhere else for fun. When he goes into his crate and I say bye bye, this does not make sense to him. If I have my flip-flops on and start to walk out the front door and he is not in his crate, when I say, “I’ll be right back,” he knows I will be right back. That action usually means I am going to the mailbox. My actions and my words align.
He picks up on my cues and watches my behavior just as we do when someone is sharing information with us. If their words and their behaviors do not match, we don’t trust them.
I learned early in life not to lie, but this lesson particularly impacted me at age 18. I was studying to be a Radiology Technologist under the supervision of a wonderful radiologist, Dr. Howard Feigelson. He would carefully examine every set of x-ray films I took to him, diagnose what was going on with the patient, and then critique my technique. If my films were not perfect, I had an excuse for everything—the patient moved, the patient breathed, that particular machine overexposes, etc. Dr. Feigelson would sit back and look at me over the rim of his glasses and just say the nickname he coined for me, “Dani.” I knew I had been busted. He was a wise man and could easily tell my words and my behavior did not line up. He then proceeded to teach me proper radiology technique as well as the dangers of habitually justifying poor performance.
As I reflected on these life lessons years later, I realized how Dr. Feigelson combined truth with love. The point wasn’t only proper technique. It was the importance of being truthful and authentic. Although my parents had certainly taught me this, it was “real
world” experience that made it stick. I realized I made excuses because I never wanted to disappoint him. But when I made excuses, I disappointed him even more.
This brings us back to my original point that trust is the foundation of strong relationships, which begins with being honest and truthful. We may not outright lie, but we don’t exactly share the truth. Eventually, people can tell that our words don’t match
our actions. Consequently, trust erodes, and authenticity shrinks.
Learning to BE Authentic takes practice and, hopefully, this may help:
• B: What is the belief at the core of your excuse? Is it fear of exposing a mistake? Is it fear of not being liked? Is it the fear of rejection? Is it fear of inadequacy? Take time to process these questions and understand the beliefs.
• E: What emotion are you feeling because of the belief? Be very clear in naming that emotion and challenging it. Why is this causing such angst? Is it worth the price you will pay in sacrificing the relationship? How will you feel if you “get by” with this excuse versus being honest?
• A: Authenticity is strengthened when you align your actions. To build trust, we must first align our hearts and our minds internally and then our words with our actions externally.
Louie knows that sometimes when I say, “I’ll be right back,” that I will not be right back, and he reacts to that. And people also sense when you make excuses and are not being honest. It is not worth the time or energy to be anything but truthful. While we do not want to hurt others feelings, being honest is the most loving gift we can give to others!