Remember The Cliché About Bark Or Bite?
This theme is vital to stop reacting and grow forward!
Had a fascinating experience the other day. To be honest, having my office with a big front window sometimes feels like I am practicing being one of those nosey neighbours or retired ones. I was watching deliveries from the people with UPS. Yes, I’ve seen all the videos online of social media and how they can be very special people and how they treat people, but it’s a different level this time.
I watched him approach the neighbour’s house as they had their dog tied on a chain in the front yard. He approached very cautiously but the dog’s tail was always wagging, and everything went smoothly. I have also seen a dog’s tail wagging and it goes south very quickly.
Then he came to stop at our house, and since he waved as he saw me at the window, I went out to greet him.
I started the conversation by commenting on how those kinds of houses must be a very stressful part of the job?
He simply stated, “I’m a dog lover and when I approach dogs, I try to show them that I like them”. I asked if it always worked or sometimes not so much?
He laughed but his response was fascinating “Yes, I have been bitten a few times. But to be completely honest, a bad dog is a lot easier to handle than an angry human”.
I asked if he ever felt like changing jobs, or quitting when that stuff happened?
His face went serious as he stated,
“With a dog bite, NO — With the human bark, yes!”
How many of us can truly relate to this comment? It is not always the demands of a job [physical, mental, emotional, etc.] that leave the most significant impact. It is the difference between expectations and reality that we humans often get caught on. Let’s be honest, is anyone truly ever shocked when a dog bites? Yet when a human barks, we can get hooked by their anger.
One of the hardest things to be able to live, model, and supportively understand, especially those in a leadership role, is a simple truth illustrated here;
The event is never the real crisis!
I want to introduce a concept I have taught for years; I call it FRONT PORCH THERAPY. My purpose is simple let’s make it common sense [which is not common] and not clinical thinking to alleviate the pressure of this new reality in the workplace, being placed on leadership.
If you have lived in a small community, you get this FRONT PORCH THERAPY already. If you have not, let me summarize it briefly.
When we are part of a small community, we usually get close to a few people, sometimes calling them grandma- grandpa or aunt -uncle even though they are no relation to us. The advantage of these relationships is that we go to their house, sit on their front porch, and tell them how life is. If it stinks, then we can vent and talk about it. If life is good, we can brag and boast. However, the best part of this FRONT PORCH THERAPY is that we are listened to, never judged and nothing gets held against us. When we ‘step off the front porch’ they hit delete to the negative, we feel better, and nothing is shared with people who will use it against us.
When it comes to leveraging this approach in the small community of work the same practices need to be developed.
- The preparation, because being one of those FRONT PORCH people is less about courses, titles, and other official things but mainly about qualities and character. If we want to be one of these trusted leaders it requires us to be walking around as trust takes initiative, it is never a passive activity. The open-door approach has never worked to build trust as it requires the other person to ask for help. Most of us do not ask for help, it is hard enough just to accept it!
- The Training – obviously there needs to be the right training to provide intervention and support for people who are dealing with their crisis. There is little worse to do a person than to make the intervention into a mental health issue or tell them to call these 800 numbers. First of all, the fact that some things bother them is good quality, after all, if nothing bothers them, one should be asking if they care.
The other reality is that very few of us have ever been trained on how to grieve. Sadly, many people still think grief is tied to death. Grief is about loss, not just death [though death is a loss]. Reframing a crisis to listening to people share about their experience of what they think/feel they have lost immediately helps them.
Listening is so vital because is there anything worse than you or I dealing with something and someone comes along and uses one of those unhelpful clichés on us? There is nothing more annoying to me than to feel like I have been patted on the head and told, “there, there, there.”
There is a simple approach I offer here for you to consider.
Sweat, Flush, Fill, and REST [see below for details]
Let me be very clear on the front end please, I am not saying we take up smoking!
However, there are 3 things we need to learn from smokers:
- First when they get stressed, they take a break. What do many of us non-smokers do – we work harder!
– What are we saying when our mental health break is not as good as smoking?
- The second thing they do is deep breathing exercises. Now we will not talk about what they are inhaling, but what about you and me and our stress reduction? The majority of relaxation training always starts with breathing exercises to get the body to calm down, including heart rate.
- The third thing they do? They are outside with social support. They are not outside with people who hate smokers.
– What about you and I taking a break with social support [Front Porch Quality types]
As A Summary Thought
Expressions like sticks and stones, but names will never hurt me, their bark is worse than their bite has changed meanings over the years.
For example, the bark/bite comment basically meant the person was cranky but their words to you would be no harm. Basically, they are all talk, and no action, and the bark will not be followed through into any physical harm.
The expression bark is worse than one’s bite came into use in the mid-1600s and refers to the fact that a barking dog is too busy barking to actually bite you. Dog behaviorists say that a barking dog is afraid, while a dog that is willing to bite is not afraid; he is aggressive and will growl, not bity [https://grammarist.com/idiom/bark-is-worse-than-ones-bite/]
Yet today living in a cancel, gossipy, culture a barking person can cause more damage and harm than a physically aggressive one as at least the majority of physical injuries will heal. The damage caused by an unkindly, untrue word can work like a spark and ignite a raging forest fire that destroys lives and properties. Think about the persons who have been caught by someone’s bark.
I encourage you to be the person that anyone could approach without fear or our bark or our bite. But more importantly be the quality of the person who listens when another feels the impact, whether it is a bark or a bite, as the
The event is never the real crisis!
- SWEAT – doing something physical is one of the few ways to get rid of the stress chemicals that are in the bloodstream. Therefore walking, jogging, and swimming, but doing something that causes one to sweat is not mentally taxing.
- FLUSH – drinking healthy fluids. Things like water, and juices, though these are not always preferred. They assist in addressing these toxins in the bloodstream. Just as an FYI; drinking caffeine or alcohol [diuretics] reduces the water level in the body increasing the percentage of the stress chemicals plus alcohol is also a depressant.
– Healthy nutrition. Again, something is not always desired however it gives the body coping resources for quicker resilience.
– Brain nutrition – be aware of what the ‘inputs’ are mental- Information, data.
- REST – Recreation, Envision, Sleep, and Thanks.
– Recreation – those activities, hobbies, and interests that re-create – rejuvenate
– Envision – visualizing, and setting goals for tomorrow means a small list-plan for tomorrow
– Thanks -gratitude for what you’ve done, noticing things to be thankful for.