Communication lessons from Penny: Make yourself crystal clear

by Betty Lochner on August 28, 2012

We can learn a lot from Penny

Copper Penny Whistle (we call her “Penny”) is our 2-year old mini dachshund.  She’s pretty smart.  Sometimes smarter than her human counterparts.  And, she is one of my best mentors in the art of clear communication.

When Penny wants to go out, she runs to the treadmill and barks. It doesn’t really make sense. Or does it?

The longer you know someone, the less you hear them.  As you become more comfortable and familiar with someone  – your  child, spouse, co-worker, even your pets – you take shortcuts.

In short, you expect others to read your mind and respond to you in the way you want without  disclosing your specific expectations.

Penny has figured that out.  When she goes to the treadmill she knows that we have figured out her signal for “I want you to let me out. Now.”  It works every time. We know she’s serious and waiting will produce some unwanted consequences.

Before she discovered the treadmill signal she tried communicating by standing by the door, but noone noticed.  She tried barking, but we ignored her because she often sits in the window and barks for no reason.

For a lot of us, we could learn a lesson from my uber smart puppy.  Here is her four-step communication lesson on communicating what you want on your terms:

1) Make your needs known.

2) Be crystal clear in your expectations.

3) If something doesn’t work, try something else.

4) Be consistent.

If Penny hadn’t taught us that the treadmill means “out”  she may never get to do that on her terms. She’d just get let out when we wanted her to go out.

If you want to want  to improve communication in your relationships, one of the basic skills you must master is to  be clear. Really clear. Crystal clear.  And, that means that you must actually give some concrete details about what you want and expect from others.

And, once you have someone understanding you.  Do it again.



with Penny and Ruben


Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home. And, it’s now available on Kindle! Check it out.

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