Who’s barking?

The other night I heard a podcaster apologize for her dog barking in the background. She said he’s 16, blind and partially deaf. He was a rescue years ago and her family loves him dearly. Can’t bear to part with him. He barks sometimes because he gets confused or wants to know where they are.

It struck me that that’s what causes humans to bark, too. They can’t “see” what’s going on or “hear” what’s really happening, and they bark out of frustration and fear. Sometimes it’s obvious what they’re doing and why, but often the barking is an outburst that is offensive or bothersome to others. It gets disciplined or ignored. That just adds to the frustration and fear.

What would a thoughtful leader do?

Giving thought to what may be behind the bark is the best first approach. Don’t rest on your assumptions. It may be coming from a totally different reason. (Haven’t we all experienced that.)

Assure the person you’re there for them. Calmly ask what you can do for them at that moment. They may just want to get something off their chest. Be listened to. Many people are not truly listened to anywhere else, so you have an opportunity.

Depending on the heat of the situation, or the potential for it to become heated, ask what’s causing the bark. Not with a “What’s your problem?” question, but more of a “Would you like to talk about what you’re thinking?” Pay attention to your tone of voice. It can change the meaning of any question or comment in an instant.

Don’t react. Respond thoughtfully. I know that’s easier said than done. It’s OK if you don’t have answers. Listening and letting them know you will think about what they’ve said is what matters. Whatever you promise to do, be sure to do it.

Those are just a few thoughts. Others would, of course, depend on the situation and the individuals involved.

If you’re dealing with a barker, or maybe you’re barking and not getting your desired response, I’m here for you if you want to explore possibilities. The goal is for you to move forward as your best self.

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