Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What My Rescue Puppy Taught Me About the Power of Together

Recently, I adopted a rescue dog - a one year old German Shepherd - and as is true of most rescue dogs, he was an anxious, insecure puppy. Nonetheless, as I stood in front of him and gently petted his head, I was surprised when he cringed and backed away. Then I remembered that his experience with humans before his rescue had been less than ideal. Much less. Try “chained outside to a post” less.

So I tried another approach. I waited a moment, then stood by his side, facing in the same direction that he was facing. I reached down and petted his head. No cringing. I petted his long neck, and down his back, and soon he was leaning against me, content, no longer insecure.

Ah, the power of together!  A recent management study by Priyanka Carr and Greg Walton of Stanford University showed that participants who worked on a task in separate rooms, had no visual or other contact, but were told that they were working “together” with other participants on the task in question, worked longer, solved more problems correctly, and felt better at the end of the task, than participants who simply worked on the task alone, without any mention of “together.”

When I stood next to my dog, my body language said that I was his ally, one with him, energetically speaking. We were working “together.” What you can do with your mate, your friend, your co-worker, your employee, your family, anytime you want to accomplish something that requires someone else’s participation.

For example, you are at odds with your spouse over something. You don’t agree on the purchase of a big-ticket item, or on the choice of schooling for your child, or even on how to get the housework done. Instead of sitting across a table from each other, or worse - yelling across the room at each other - let your body language signal “we’re in this together.”

Sit side-by-side at the table, or on the couch. Share a single notepad or tablet on which you both jot down your ideas, or fill in the “pro” and “con” columns. These simple physical adjustments are all it takes to get the energy of “together” going in your discussion, which will make a satisfying resolution flow far more easily.

Besides, it’s so much more fun to be facing life side by side, pointing in the same direction, don’t you think? My dog certainly does.

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