To the casual observer, my 75-pound Golden Retriever/Yellow Lab/Border Collie mix mutt is anything but subtle. He bangs on the blinds covering the back door when he wants to go outside. He carries his metal food bowl and drops it in front of you on the hardwood floor when he’s hungry, rattling your skull in the process. If he’s feeling mischievous, you better guard your socks and underwear because they are bound to go missing in hopes that you will soon be in hot pursuit to retrieve them. He definitely knows how to get his point across.
With my background in marketing and advertising, I consider myself somewhat of an expert in communications. But recently it has come to my attention that the loud, über fast-paced, deadline-driven, visually, audibly and chemically over-stimulated world that we live in has actually deadened our communication skills as a society. (Or at least mine.) Subtlety and innuendo are a lost art. If you want to be heard you better shout and it better be in 140 characters or less because we don’t have time or the attention span for anything else.
In the last few weeks, I’ve made a concerted effort to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n, and in doing so I discovered something amazing. My dog is a master of the art of subtlety, but I’ve been too distracted to notice. He gives a series of nonverbal cues as to what he wants and only escalates them to an annoyingly loud level when I don’t acknowledge his previous attempts. For example, when he wants to play fetch he will look in the direction of his toy bin and then look back at me with inquisitive eyebrows, a big smile and a wagging tail. Then, he will bring a ball to me. If I don’t get the hint he will drop it at my feet and stare at it in hopes I will follow his line of sight and engage in playing. If that still doesn’t get my attention he will demonstrate “throwing” the ball by standing on the back of the sofa and dropping it. If I haven’t started playing by now he assumes I must not like his initial toy selection, so he will get a different ball and go through the motions again. It is only as a last resort that he will drop the ball in my lap and start barking incessantly and at an eardrum-piercing level, because by this point it has become apparent to him that I will only respond to the most obvious and painful of tactics. The universe, it seems, uses the same playbook as my dog.
More often than not, I’ve had to learn my life lessons the hard way. In looking back though, there were always numerous opportunities to learn the same lesson through a less painful method. The trick is to slow down, be quiet and observant, and listen. The universe speaks to us in whispers all the time, giving us the advice we seek and steering us toward the right path and helpful people. If we don’t listen to the whispers we can eventually expect a shout or worse.
Don’t wait for life to bite you in the butt. Quiet down, observe the subtle cues, throw the ball and get into the game. Life is a lot more fun that way.