Gretchen Rubin wrote in The Happiness Project about the year she spent “test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happy.” The Puppiness Project is my attempt to learn the same from Honey, my Golden Retriever.
If you read enough dog blogs, you discover that dog parks are either a harmless outlet for dogs to socialize with fellow canines or the puppy equivalent of a steel cage death match with danger lurking behind every tree.
Is conflict a big deal?
To understand the passion of the controversy, read Eric Goebelbecker’s post, Dog Parks and Why You Should Avoid Them (along with two pages of comments), over at DogStar Daily. Eric argued that dogs don’t need to socialize with other dogs to live a fulfilled life. That definitive statement shows that Mr. Geobelbecker doesn’t shy away from conflict.
What I noticed in the post’s comments is that no one stated that dog parks are without conflict. Where the two sides differed was on how to deal with conflict and whether it was a big deal or not.
Conflict in dogville
If you spend any time around dogs, you’ve probably witnessed a scrap or two. Most of the time the dogs resolve things themselves. Sometimes humans intervene. And, in a very few instances, someone gets hurt.
Most dog battles sound worse than they are. Even play battles sound pretty ferocious. But most of the time, it’s a whole lot of growling, mock biting, and slobbering.
At the dog park, you’ll meet mellow folks who always allow their dogs to resolve their issues, high strung people who leap in hysterically and make the situation worse, and a mob of people who fall somewhere in between. The wise dog people are those who head off conflict before it happens by observing the dogs carefully.
I am definitely more on the high strung side of the bell curve but I’m trying to get better.
Conflict in humanville
I hate conflict and will do anything to avoid it. I even step into other people’s conflicts because just observing them makes me tense and brings out my peacemaking tendencies.
This trait has some benefits. I usually understand differing viewpoints, even when I disagree with them. And I can be very persuasive.
I recently convinced a representative from a government agency to accept my interpretation of their regulations after they denied assistance to one of my clients. I did it by not assuming the person was a faceless bureaucrat but someone who really wanted to help people with their funding, who took her responsibilities of stewardship seriously, and by demonstrating how my interpretation of the regulations helped her meet the funding goals.
I was really proud of that one. Can you tell?
But there’s a dark side too.
I recently read a nasty comment on Facebook posted by a friend of a friend. I tried to use humor to remind this person how mean spirited his comment was just to get an even nastier diatribe in response.
A brief exchange with a virtual stranger made my stomach hurt. And kept me off Facebook for two days.
Conflict in perspective
You know the children’s rhyme, “sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me?” Well it’s true.
Coming into contact with the words of a nasty person did nothing to hurt me. Not really. It was just my emotional response to something spewed by someone who probably never gave it a second thought.
I need to toughen up.
It’s not a big deal to avoid conflict with people I don’t know on a public forum. But sometimes I can’t deflect conflict. Some things are too important to back down from. And even if I can’t persuade someone to a different viewpoint, I need to take a stand on principle.