Are you a dog person or a cat person? Or maybe you favour horses, canaries or gerbils?
Heck, I like the lot of them.
I have to admit that even snakes can be quite beautiful, when they are not anywhere near me or biting my dog.
But what has this got to do with the expectations we place on people and organisations and things?
Well, sit right down and let me tell you a story…
I was out for a walk when I noticed one of my neighbours had a new puppy rolling around on the grass at her feet. Fat as mud, and cute as cute wishes it could be. It went off for a crazy circuit of the yard like it was being pursued by the Hound of the Baskervilles, before coming back to do a short program of tail chasing at her feet again.
Now such a vision is going to get my attention at any time — who doesn’t love a puppy? But I almost got whiplash from the shock, because I know this person is a dedicated cat lover. Not just in the “my cat did the cutest thing the other day” kind of way, but in the “one of the unspecified number of cats who rule my life did the cutest thing the other day” kind of way.
So what is she doing with a dog?
Me: “You’ve got a puppy!”
Neighbour: “Yes. But I don’t know if I’ll keep it.”
Me: “Oh, why not?”
Neighbour: “It’s so dirty, it doesn’t keep itself clean. And it’s noisy and rowdy and it won’t leave me alone. It follows me around everywhere.”
I have had both dogs and cats in my life, and it strikes me at this point in the conversation that what she is describing is a dog from a cat’s point of view. I am too tactful to say this out loud, but I can’t help a followup question.
Me: “So why did you get a dog?”
Neighbour: “Well I always wanted one of this particular breed, right from when I was a little girl.”
And there we have it. She wanted something imaginary. The thing she wanted looked like this breed of dog, but behaved like a cat, cleaning itself, acting calmly, and respecting her personal space.
It was extremely easy for me to identify this flaw in her thinking, as it so often is when we look at the behaviour of others. 😉 But as I continued on my walk it dawned on me that I do exactly the same thing.
I want something imaginary and get frustrated when I don’t get it. Here’s a few of the ones I’m guilty of:
- Expecting a multi-national corporation to act like a small family business and care about my problems
- Believing my knees will cope with that mountain, and pouting when they hurt afterwards
- Wanting the weather in Brisbane to be like Alaska, and getting cranky when it’s hot and humid
- Expecting a risk-averse person to behave like an entrepreneur, and getting frustrated when they can’t see the possibilities.
Do you ever do this sort of thing?
Ah, so many options for cat-n-dog expectations in human life! But you know what the answer is that I am continuing to discover on a daily basis? Brace yourself, there’s a cliche coming, but it’s actually appropriate this time:
It is what it is.
So next time I find myself getting hot under the collar about someone or something that should have behaved differently, I’m going to ask myself: “Belinda, are you expecting a dog to behave like a cat?”
What about you? Do you struggle with expectations that are imaginary? What do you to do to cope with it?