FIGHTING LIKE CATS AND DOGS
The comic strip Garfield demonstrates that our opposite communicator type can prove difficult for every communicator. In fact, there are two types of communicators, Empathizer and Instigator. Our beloved skinny, drooling, jumping-up-on-you-want-to-hug-and-sing-kumbayah around the campfire, everybody’s friend Odie, is an Empathizer. Conversely, our plump, stay-out-of-my-space, don’t-get-overly-emotionally-excited-about-anything, assertive, tell-it-like-it is and let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may Garfield, is an Instigator communicator.
WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?
Just goes to show you can’t compare apples to oranges any more than you can compare cats to dogs. On the back of my book, TALK TO ME, is a picture of a face-off between a dog and a cat, with the caption, “Can’t we all just get along?” No, we can’t. Not when invisible prejudices between the two communicator types, ahem, cats and dogs, are like invisible highway concrete dividers that we crash into as we speed along on the two-way communication highway, without knowledge of communicator type prejudices.
CATS’ (GARFIELD THE INSTIGATOR) VIEWPOINT OF DOGS (ODIE THE EMPATHIZER)
These are real life lessons gleaned from a recent TALK2ME© group exercise. According to I-type cats, E-type dogs…
- Are too emotional
- Are very sensitive
- Take everything personally
- Dwell too much on things of the past
- Are not upfront with feelings
- Talk in too much detail…yada yada yada
- Never gets to the point
- Are definitely passive-aggressive – Just get it out on the table!!
- Bring personal problems to work
- Want everybody to be friends
- Are needy; very needy
- Feel whatever you say is about them
- Need lots of eye contact during conversation
- Are cry babies – they cry about everything
- Are touchers – they want hugs
- Are space invaders
- Appear to be weak
- Need to be liked
- Suck-the-life-out-of-me space-invading vampires
- Over-analyze everything
CRASHING INTO CONCRETE DIVIDERS ON TALK HIGHWAY
The above prejudices act like invisible concrete dividers on Talk Highway. Just when you’re traveling along, minding your own business, you crash your car into a barrier that appeared out of nowhere…just like that! Likewise, these secret/invisible prejudices keep the drawbridge up between the two worlds of communicators, so you can’t build trust, and improvement in problem solving isn’t even an option. If you plan to bring the bridge down and move the concrete dividers to the side of Talk Highway, you must be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of both types, and you must make a conscious decision to not step on toes.
EMPATHIZER ODIE’S VIEWPOINT OF INSTIGATOR GARFIELD
Fair is fair. Each type has critically pigeonholed their opposite’s strengths and weaknesses. So, why isn’t the comic strip named “Odie?” (Human Empathizers always feel like they’re in the passenger seat while the Instigator drives.) According to E-type dogs, I-type cats …
- Tend to be aggressive
- Are sort of like know-it-alls
- Like to start trouble
- DON’T LISTEN
- Are abrasive
- Are intense…hard core.
- Come across very cold; not emotional
- Always appear to be hurried
- Think they’re judgmental
- Think they always have to have the last word – and the first!
- Are blunt. They’re bullies
- Are too focused on product vs. process
- Are straight to the point. They want concise answers.
- Are bold; in your face
- Point their finger – literally
- Use strong body language
- Come off snobby…like they’re better than you
- Don’t take feedback
- Don’t want to own it if the plan doesn’t work
- Are not personable. They come in, say what they want, and then leave.
- Are buttinskies!
Prejudices about “THEY ARE THIS” or “THEY ARE THAT” cause many deaths relationship deaths on Communication Highway. It’s driving under the influence of ignorance.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR ADMIRED STRENGTHS?
Empathizers most admire about Instigators… (Odie admires about Garfield.)
- Speak up more…
- Are focused and they stay on task.
- Show initiative
- Are DECISIVE
- Possess an air of self-confidence
- Move from task to task with ease
- Detach from crises
- Don’t need every detail
- Are able to depersonalize: Leave work at work
Instigators most admire about Empathizers… (Garfield admires about Odie.)
- Are nice…
- Are able to emotionally connect with others
- Are able to express feelings more openly
- Take time to do the “extras” or “feel goods”
- Are patient
- Are loyal to their friends and beliefs
- Appreciate that they are different from Instigators
- Are approachable
- Are very giving
ADOPT A STRENGTH OF YOUR OPPOSITE TYPE
So when I counseled Garfield and Odie during a dispute, I encouraged them to understand how different Instigators are from Empathizers, and to actively adopt an admired strength of the other. What was the outcome? Odie decided to adopt the strength of DECISIVE and Garfield decided to adopt the strength of being more PATIENT. Who says cats and dogs can’t get along? Only in extreme cases might that be true….
Dr. Dennis O’Grady is a Dayton psychologist, family business consultant, couples counselor, and effective communication expert. He can be reached at 937-428-0724.