There are many definitions of communication but these are my two favourites :
Communication is the transmission and interchange of facts, ideas, feelings or course of action.Leland Brown
Communication is the sum of all things one person does when he wants to create understanding in the mind of another. It involves a systematic and continuous process of telling, listening and understanding.Allen Louis
So lets look at these definitions from the perspective of communication between animals.
Animals transmit and interchange facts (there is a lion in the bushes), ideas (I learnt to use this rock from my brother), feelings (I am worried about crossing that river with the baby), and course of action (everybody jump on the hippo!).
The systematic process of telling, listening and understanding in the animal kingdom is carried out through sharing feelings, and watching others behaviours. Sounds are also used to calm, to call, and as alarm signals.
So how do we simplify our language so we can understand our animals and they can understand us?
This is where we bring together what we have learnt from the other 3 understandings.
First we become completely present. This creates the space for communication to happen.
Then we regard, we listen. We start to learn how to listen by watching behaviour and telling ourselves what is happening.
Then we ask why? Why is my animal behaving like that? And why am I reacting like this?
To find out the answers to the why we then have to go inside and become vulnerable to our feelings. We have to start communicating with ourselves. We have to ask ourselves ‘How does that make me feel? And then find the feeling word to explain it to our brains because we are human and we use words to describe everything.
And then we have to work out whether that feeling is something we are sharing with the animal, whether it is something the animal is sharing with us, or whether we are both feeling something together.
When we start to do this regularly and naturally (and like all good things it takes practice) we are starting to communicate with awareness. We are becoming aware of the feelings we are sharing (what we are communicating to the animal), and aware of the animals response (what the animal is communicating to us).
Going deeper with this concept we can then delve into realising how our emotions affect how we communicate. What is the difference between sympathy and empathy? What is the difference between being sorry for and compassion? What is the difference between relief and gratitude?
For example : I go to see Chocolate, the oldest girl in the herd. Today she is showing stiffness in her hip. What feeling would she prefer me to share with her?
What she would prefer is that I be completely present and then ask her if I can help at all. Then wait for an answer. If you are present an answer will arrive in your feelings. Your brain will translate that into what you can do to help. That may just be ‘leave me alone’, or it may be ‘A bit of a rub to warm me up would be good’.
Sometimes the answer can be something that your thinking brain says is very odd – but listen to it. For example ‘Black Pepper’ came to me once when I was talking to Chocolate. I got a little bottle of black pepper essential oil and she likes to inhale it now and again especially in winter. It warms the muscles apparently.
She doesn’t want my sympathy. She doesn’t need me to feel sorry for her. Sharing those emotions with Chocolate doesn’t help her.
Also she doesn’t want me to share my relief when she is not stiff in her back hip. Like her we just need to be grateful and enjoy that moment.
Part of communicating with awareness includes ‘believing what you feel’. The way I taught myself to believe what I was ‘hearing’ was to write down the first thing that came to me when I asked a question after first making sure I was completely present. Give it a try.
When we have learnt the basics of communicating with awareness, then we can go on to asking questions and having deeper conversations about how we can do things together. We can learn how to keep our communications really simple, and
If you would like to find out more about communicating with your animals with more awareness and understanding, we invite you to join our Explorers Club, free of charge, and when you are ready we can provide group and one to one support for you on your journey with your animal, through our Learners and Participants Memberships.