New language

dukeSo, we've been fostering a sick kitten from the animal shelter. We found him roaming around the parking lot and took him in to get looked at. He's an incredibly curious little guy who has made it his mission to get into as much as he can. I'm finding kitten hair on everything. And nothing beats the way he chases his favorite Yoda toy around the living room! Heck, he's even learning to use the toilet! Take that, Mr. Jinx! About a week-and-a-half with our new 6-month old roommate and his youthful energy started to pose some problems. We started to find out that he loves getting up at 5am. I get up early for work as it is, but 5am is a bit before my alarm clock goes off. We tried keeping him in the spare bathroom overnight, but he just decided to start yelling at us... The most pathetic, whiny, "please come save me from my miserable existence" meow that you can't sleep through.

We started out by coming over and playing with him for a while, then putting him back and going back to sleep. But multiple 5am mornings takes its toll on you. It turned into a quick pop into the bathroom, a "what's wrong?", a little petting, and then back to bed. Then it became "be quiet", play a little bit, and back to bed. Then it devolved into throwing some food in the bowl, telling him to "shut up" and back to sleep. Through it all, he was nothing  if not consistent.

I thought I was a smart guy. But here I was in my sleep-depraved stupor, wondering how this sly kitten was getting the best of me. And it clicked... He's just a cat... We had gotten used to him and we had started talking to him as if he knew what we were saying. Pet owners do that. And for his part, he followed around and acted like he understood us. So, when we got out of bed to pet him and tell him to stop meowing, we thought we were doing the right thing by comforting him and getting him to quiet down. But the moment we left the bathroom, he's be back at it.

The obvious thing I realized is he doesn't speak English! But more importantly, our actions didn't line up with our intentions; we were sending him mixed signals. We wanted him to stop waking us up at the crack of dawn, but every time he meowed, we responded with a visit. Even though we would pet him and say "No", in his mind, all he needed to do to get some attention was meow for a bit and we'd come running. Without the benefit of language, all he had was our actions, which told him that if he cried long enough, we'd be there to reassure him.

It occurred to me that we humans are a pretty crazy lot. We do this even with other people, who DO speak the same language. How often do we say one thing, but our body language contradicts what we say? Or worse, we actually take actions that betray what we say. Like a bad tell in poker, our actions are giving us away. No wonder we have such a tough time communicating with one another.

As I strive to find my unsteady state, I commit to trying to consciously line up my actions with my words. Consistency in words and deeds removes confusion and makes it easier for people to understand my message.

Will this help my 5am problem? I'll let you know...

Let me know what you think. Join the conversation...