So next to the zone of conflict (hawk – capricorn) and the zone of removal (owl – turtle) we have a third zone out of which you can communicate, the zone of harmony. This zone consists of the upper half where we focus our communication more on offering and giving, while in the lower half of this zone we focus on accepting and asking.
I would like to reiterate that each communication style, each animal, has it’s time and place and certainly it’s use. So this is not a matter of right and wrong, it is a matter of useful and effective in the current situation.
In nature the lion is known as the king of the jungle, the animal other animals look up to for guidance and leadership. This is exactly what this communication style is about. While communicating from the lion perspective we give vision, information and guidelines which can then be used by the people we communicate with to follow on their own terms. Giving leadership also means helping to create an environment where others can grow and show their leadership as well. The lion is not perceived as a dictator (benevolent or malevolent), but as a natural leader. Giving just the right amount of guidance while keeping the playing field open for everyone to take up their own personal responsibility.
A nice example of communicating from a lion’s area would be something like “I have a concern about your suggestion to do X. I have experienced in the past that this can lead to behaviour Y. I propose that instead of doing X, we start by doing Z and check if this is good enough for now.”
Do keep in mind that when excercising this “leading” style of communication with people that are not used to this, it might lead to fear in others and a perception of you being pushy, bossy and directive. The stronger your message is formulated, the more clear the guidance is you want to give, the more offensive this might be perceived by people who are not ready to follow.
Nearly impossible to tire, always ready to continue the journey, the camel is an animal which is known for following guidance fairly easily. Communicating from this perspective means to be open minded and ready to accept guidance from other people. You ask for information and guidance and are fully open to accept it when given and ready to work with this new information. Don’t be mistaken, a camel will not blindly follow any order, it is not a mindless zombie (it might even just be the greatest mathmatician in the universe). For me it is very similar to the concept of the beginner’s mind. Communicating in a way that makes other people feel you are ready to integrate the information they share, to follow the guidance they give.
When someone offers you guidance on something you are not experienced in, you might as they say “give them the benefit of the doubt”. Letting go of control and saying “I will follow you in this decision” is a good example of communicating as a camel would.
Have you ever seen how beavers take care of their young? And how meticulous their work on damns can be? The beaver here represents the caretaker, offering goods and services to help the people they are communicating with. While communicating from this area, we will focus on helping out and taking care of the others. Making sure they have everything they need to be comfortable in the conversation. This might include such well known things as asking someone if they would like a drink, a snack, a short introduction of the topic at hand. While using this communication style in a healthy way it can be very disarming when meeting new people or opening a difficult conversation. Taking this one too far, could lead to a feeling of pampering which might harm the conversation.
We have two cats running around our house and I can relate to this very clearly. A typical cat loves nothing more than to enjoy things and attention. So when communicating from this area, we tend to be very receptive for being taken care of by others in the communication. Letting yourself be catered to when someone offers you to get you a drink for instance. We all know that dogs like to enjoy as well, but I believe the cat is a better metaphore because you can also take this communication style too far. An unhealthy extreme of this style might create the perception that you are needy, that you so deeply need someone to take care of you that you are not really able to take care of yourself.
Are there any animals out there that are more known for presenting themselves? Don’t be mistaken, communicating as a peacock does not mean to brag and be the only person on stage. It is about giving your full attention to a certain communication instance. While communicating from this area, we are fully present in the conversation. We make it clear that we are there and that we are open and participating fully in the current situation. There is nothing wrong with showing yourself and making a clear statement that you are there and are ready to participate.
To finish up, let’s take a look at the area of the raccoon. Here we focus more on accepting and appreciating a person that is present. It’s important that this appreciation is not targeted at a certain action or thing you got from this person, that would take us more into the area of the cat. As a raccoon we would appreciate a person, just for being present and the way they behave in this situation. A nice protocol I first practiced at Problem solving leadership training last year in Albequerque is the following: “Jane, I appreciate you for being so easy to talk to.”
And now what?
So there, you now have a little explanation about the entire model, looking at it from different angles and going a bit deeper into each specific
animal behaviour communication style. “What’s next now?”, I hear you ask. Now it is time for you to practice these different styles. And like with many things, I believe the best way to do this is by following our simple ABC model:
Awareness, train yourself in identifying your communication style in certain situations and observe the effectiveness of this style. Become aware of how you communicate, what the styles are that you use under pressure, while talking to your friends, while talking to your parents-in-law, while going for job interviews, you name it. The easier it is for you to observe yourself while you are communicating, the easier it will become to communicate in a more effective way.
Basic skills, understand each of these different communication styles and deliberately practice these in your life. Look for ways to use a different style than you are used to and observe the resulting behaviour in the people around you. Maybe choose a specific animal that you want to focus on today, or this week, and look for ways to deliberately communicate from this perspective where this does not typically come naturally to you.
Collaborative practice, find people that are willing to join you in your communication experiment. It is always nice to get feedback from other people, to share learning experiences and improve together. Most of the time it is easier for us to observe someone else than it is to observe ourselves. So don’t use this collaborative practice as an excuse to not work on your own self-awareness. Use it as an expansion of your own observation skills and a way to improve on your self-awareness and communication at the same time.
And leave a comment below to tell me all about your adventures, about your insights, your thoughts on this model. It would be great to hear from you.