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While considering the topic for this posting, my mail arrived.  One envelope contained a letter from a gentleman who had read my book, You CAN Teach a Pig to Sing.  Here is what he had to say:

Dear Ms. Mapes,

I recently read your new book, You CAN Teach a Pig to Sing.  Not only did I enjoy the story of your experiences with Milton and how you transformed your relationship with him, but I also found the advice and the steps you presented for better relationships with difficult people practical and doable.  I must admit that I have often been that difficult person (PIG). Because I tend to get defensive in many of the types of situations you discuss in your book, I decided to try out some of the tools you gave the reader to cope with situations that can get ugly. I’d like to share with you one such incident that happened the other day in the park between me and a couple of other gentlemen.

I was walking my dog and decided to take him off the leash so he could run and play with some of the other dogs in the park. While it’s true that there is a city ordinance stating all dogs must be on leashes, many owners, like me, let their dogs run freely for a short time as the park is large with acres of wooded property.

Unfortunately, while racing through the park, my dog was spotted by two gentlemen’s dogs, both on leashes.  One of the dogs, in an effort to play with my dog, lunged forward, pulling one of the gentlemen, an elderly man, to the ground. I later learned that the men were father and son. The father said nothing; however, the son was irate and stated tersely, “What part about leash laws don’t you understand?”  His tone was cold and harsh and felt like a major put-down, and I was ready to verbally pounce back.  And that’s when the ideas from your book kicked in. I said to myself, “Tom, now is the time to put on your ‘Cape of Acceptance.’ Don’t get defensive, don’t be combative, don’t argue. Try to understand this guy’s point of view, try to understand how he feels. Don’t try to think about what you’re  going to say while he is talking. Listen with your heart, and be sincere.”

Normally, I would have gone after the guy with a one- upmanship mentality. But, much to my amazement, I simply apologized and said I was sorry. At first I didn’t think this thing was going anywhere because the guy said sarcastically, “Yea, right, I’m sure you’re sorry!”  And once again, I said, “No, I truly am sorry and apologize for your dad being knocked to the ground; I’ll keep my dog on a leash from now on.” Remarkably, the gentleman relaxed and kindly stated that he understood that I just wanted my dog to have freedom to enjoy a good run, but, that in this park, dogs really do need to be on a leash. I told him he was right—and I had to admit to myself, he was right!

This experience was so positive because the situation was resolved and we both left the encounter with a good feeling.

Thanks, Ms. Mapes, for the help you’ve given to me.  Though I wish I’d had the tools years ago, I’m grateful for the help you provided that can be used with anyone, anytime, anywhere!  Great book!

–          T.N.

What a wonderful lesson for all of us! Our ability to control our thoughts, feelings, and reactions allows us to make wiser choices and, therefore, exercise greater influence with others—even the most difficult people in our lives.  And isn’t influence the true test of leadership?

Be your own coach:

–          What is your take-away from this person’s experience?

–          What action do you need to take to operationalize the take-away?