The Puppiness Project – You Don’t Always Have to Share Your Opinion

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.
Wet Golden Retriever on Cayuga Lake

I'm interested in the conversation but I don't need to join in. There's enough barking going on without me.

Whenever I have a spare minute, I like to sit by the lake shore and watch the clouds blow by.

I’m not the only one. On a bright, sunny day you’ll see fishermen, kayakers, picnickers, swimmers and others gathered along the shore. And dogs, lots and lots of dogs.

Yesterday we spotted any number of unknown mixes along with a Newfoundland, a Schnauzer, a Labrador Retriever, a Yorkshire Terrier…. Well, you get the idea. Lots of people. Lots of dogs.

It’s a pretty mellow vibe–both the people and the dogs are relaxed and quiet. But every once in a while you have a barkfest. Yesterday, the Labrador was barking at the swimming Poodle. The hound mix was barking at the Labrador barking at the Poodle. And the pibble mix was barking at the hound mix barking at the Labrador barking at the Poodle.

Honey was right in the middle. And she remained quiet.

She was definitely interested. Honey checked out all the dogs to see what was going on with them. But she didn’t feel the need to add anything to the conversation. It seemed to be going just fine without her.

You’re learned a lot about my neuroses in the course of The Puppiness Project. Just one of them is that I tend to speak quickly without pausing to think.

Related to that, I feel the need to interject my opinion into every conversation. But I don’t have to. I can sit back and observe and listen while everyone else comments (or barks and growls).

After all, if Honey can listen to a three dog conference call without joining the hubbub, so can I.


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  1. Such a good point… sometimes I forget that I might be better off listening than talking first!

    • This is something I’ve been working on for years. It really came home to me when I realized Honey wasn’t adding to the cacophony of barks all around us. :)

  2. As I have struggled with my shyness and my introversion, I have somehow found myself going in this direction as well. Sometimes I want to make sure my voice is included, that people don’t see me as a non-contributer – as has happened in the past – that I go too far and over-compensate. A good reminder for us bloggers too. Sometimes listening is more important than voicing our opinions.

    • You also remind me that it’s good to look at why we’re contributing.

      I don’t think every comment on every blog post is going to set the world on fire. But I try to share my appreciation for what people wrote and share why it interested me. Maybe I over share. But I hope my comments are seen as little posts of thank you and not just more barking. :)

  3. So very glad I am not the ONLY one with issues on speaking too quickly. I also have a habit of sticking my foot in my mouth. I’m going to take a lesson from Honey and try just listening for once and see what I learn.
    Great post Pamela!

    • Do you think if we practiced a look of silent wisdom, we could impress people around the table without talking? Or is that just too ridiculous?

  4. “Better remain silent and be thought a fool than open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” Clearly, Honey is no fool!

    My mouth is always getting me in trouble. But I’m trying to learn as I grow old.

    • Ooh, a Biblical proverb by way of Abraham Lincoln. I think you’ve just elevated this entire discussion. :)

      I hope a lot of things about me will get better as I get older. I’m just afraid I won’t live long enough to learn all the lessons I need.

  5. I think that’s a good point! I often find I get a lot more from conversations by listening rather than talking.

    • I can’t say I get more form the conversation because it’s such a struggle to stay silent and listen.

      I do, however, enjoy asking people questions a lot. I just realized that I do in my blog the same thing I do when I meet new people–ask them questions.

  6. Mike Webster says:

    Great post, sweetheart! (IMHO.)

  7. So true. I see this so much in the digital world where people feel the need to comment on every little thing, despite the appropriateness of the comment or their expertise on the subject matter. Sometimes, after seeing things I think are particularly unkind or off-subject, I just want to scream, “When did it become impossible for people to just walk on by when they don’t have anything positive to add?” But then I’d become the cliche I’m so desperately trying to avoid.

    Sort of like commenting here :)

    • Do you ever wonder if people who comment at random on gigantic websites (like Yahoo) are just being like the Whos on Horton? (“We are here, we are here, we are heeeeere!”)

      I do think that’s different from commenting here. We’re a pretty small group and you know you’re being heard. :)

  8. I’m a great one for putting my foot in it at times which probably makes me quieter than I need to be. But you can learn a lot by listening … and you don’t get yourself into trouble:)

    • Unless, of course, someone says, “If you want to chaperone 20 randy teenagers, show your agreement by remaining silent.” :)

  9. Thanks for the important reminder, Honey. I also suffer from the impulse to interject, even when it’s not helpful. I am on a journey of learning when I should be involved and when not. I ahve a feeling it will be a lifelong one for me :)

  10. Very gentle way of making an excellent point.

    • Thank you. I’m very pleased to hear that.

      One of my sensitive spots is that I’d like to be seen as a kind and gentle person but I don’t think those are the first words people think of to describe me. I guess we don’t appreciate what we have and always want something else.

  11. I like this post … and it’s a good thing for me to remember. While comments on blog post are most often appreciated, adding my two cents to every conversation is not a necessity. I think this is something that has grown on me with age.

    • Blog comments are interesting for me. I don’t leave as many as I’d like (sometimes because it takes me so long to read posts that the topic is quite old by the time I get there). But I like to let people know I appreciate their work and that it made me think.

      Perhaps I need to find someone who can design a widget that just leaves applause at a website without me having to write anything. :)

  12. What a great reminder – thank you :)

    • If you look back at a few Puppiness Project posts, you’ll find it turns up in different iterations because this is a lesson I often need reminding with. :)

  13. This is a sweet post…makes me want to sit in the sunshine and not hear myself talk for once. 😉

    Tell Honey thanks for the reminder – oh! and tell her she’s quite a beauty these days! Or don’t…we wouldn’t want it going to her golden-head. :)