The Truth about Cats and Dogs

For those of you who have pets, or those of you who only occasionally experience other people's pets, consider the attitudes of cats and dogs. When I come home, my two dogs, Coach and Murphy, meet me at the door and check me out to see what kind of mood I'm in. If I'm down, they try to cheer me up. If I'm up they get excited because it means we might go for a walk. They generally listen when I tell them to do this or that.

Compare this behavior with a cat's. When you come home, unless they are hungry, a cat will act like it's no big deal: "You're home. So what?" They decide what they want to do and when they want to do it. If you pick up a cat that doesn't want to be handled, you'll usually get clawed.

In the language of How to Motivate Everyone, dogs are external. In general, they focus on you to tell them what to do. Cats are internal. They take in information and decide for themselves. To get a cat to sit in your lap, you might suggest they can by patting your lap. Then they decide whether they want to or not. To get a dog in your lap takes only the slightest invitation.

When it comes to making decisions, people can be cat-like or dog-like in various situations. Who in your life is more dog-like in their attitude? They need ongoing praise and direction. Children at various ages will be external to you and listen. In the terrible twos and teenage years, they will more cat-like and internal. When deciding what to do on a Friday night, your spouse or significant other may be open to whatever you suggest. At work, your staff may tend to be more external, more dog-like, looking to you for direction and recognition.

Who in your life is more cat-like? They need information and time to decide for themselves. Use phrases like "you might consider…" to invite them to review and analyze the information before deciding. Your spouse or significant other may have difficulty following your lead in certain situations. So, you soften your approach: "Honey, I was wondering if you might consider…" And your boss at work may be more cat-like. With him or her say: "I've been looking at the sales trends and noticed something interesting. Would you take a look? Based on what you discover, you might consider adjusting our strategy to increase sales."

If you give your dog a command, it will usually do what you say. With cats, however, you may have to repeat your suggestion a few times in a few different ways to get them to take action. It takes internal people a number of repetitions to have enough data to become convinced. So if a cat-like boss doesn't take your first suggestion, offer it in other ways: magazine articles that support your view or suggestions from other members of the team.

Engage Cats and Dogs. Internals and Externals. Leaders and Followers. Think about the key people in your life. Are they cat-like or dog-like? Only you can decide how much fun you can have learning to motivate all of the cats and dogs in your life. 

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