Be Nicer

Wingnut and Slice owned by Tracy Custer

There is only one thing that we really have control of in this world: how we choose to act, whether it’s with another human being or with the animals in our lives. True, we get to control the choices that we make, but often, those decisions are forced upon us. We are required to make choices that change our lives when we were quite content with the life we had.  No matter what life throws at us, we are always in absolute control of our interactions and our intentions behind our behavior.

This blog post was inspired by an answer to a question I recently posted on Facebook. The question was: If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?”, the response was “I wish I had been nicer”. No specific situations were given, she had just wished she had been nicer in the past.  I thought back to all of the memories that keep me up at night, the ones that cause me to cringe when I’m reminded of them. The one thing that they all share in common was that I wasn’t nice.  I wish I had handled those situations with more empathy, more patience or more perspective. I wish I had been nicer.

In some of those situations, my responses were fueled by passion. I cared about the bigger picture, the impact on those around me or I just thought I knew better.  I can see now that those reasons were just excuses, a way to justify my knee-jerk reactions.  Other times, I simply lost my patience and had a hard time looking past my own immediate needs, wants or validation.

We see this a lot in dog training. We lose our patience teaching a new behavior or trying to eradicate a troublesome one. We believe that we are good trainers, this dog is just too stubborn, stupid or difficult. We end up doing something regretful as a result when we should have just ended the session to build a new plan.  We also see it on the human side, trainers interactions with other trainers.  Trainer Stacy is trying to educate Trainer Patty on the benefits of a certain method because “the dog training world will be better off using this method, if only they’d learn”.

Our interactions are the easiest thing for us to control.  Too often, they are also the things we regret the most.  I hope to never add to my regretful interaction tally, I hope to remember to “be nicer” in my day to day life.

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