Lots I know about travelling with a triangle, including refresher lessons, I learnt from dogs. No, seriously! Watch the video above and then I’ll explain.
The dog in this video really, really wants the stick thrown. The dog’s determined desire to have the stick thrown is the what. ‘Throw the stick so I can chase it and bring it back for you’, is clearly this dog’s primary substantive and emotional need.
The dog is hopeful about getting the stick thrown and varies the process. The dog starts by putting the stick at the feet and hopes the ‘person’ will pick it up and throw it. When that doesn’t work, the dog tries to put the stick directly in the hands of the ‘person’ and hopes that will do the trick. The dog tries a number of things: encouraging barks, tail wagging, looking imploringly at the stick and the ‘person’, perhaps in the hope the ‘person’ will get the point. Throughout it all, the dog remains cheerful and determined.
So what can we learn from this? It appears to be pretty simple. What this dog wants, the statue can’t give. Despite the dog’s determination that the statue could throw the stick if only the dog somehow got the stick in the right place; we know the statue will never throw the stick.
The dog has shown us that if we aren’t getting what we want sometimes we need to consider procedural needs. We need to ask ‘are you the right person to deliver my what’; or in this case throw the stick.
Procedural needs including making sure that the right people to solve the problem are at the table together. Two thirds of what it takes to make something work is not about the what, it is about the how. Simply put if you haven’t gotten the how right chances are that the what won’t work. No matter how that dog tries, that stick will never get thrown by that statue. That dog has to get someone who has the capacity to throw a stick to do so.
A critical lesson from the Satisfaction Triangle is that when considering procedural needs we need to ensure that those we are dealing with actually have the capacity to do what we need. If they don’t then we need to find those who do.
Let’s give full credit to the dog for staying cheerful and determined. The dog doesn’t decide to bite the ‘person’ for not throwing the stick. This is perhaps the most important thing we can learn. Mostly when we don’t get what we want we don’t stay cheerful and determined; we get irritable, bad tempered and if we were dogs we would probably bite.
When we don’t get our what or our substantive need met; our focus often moves to being aggrieved about those needs not being met. It is at this point that our need to get our emotional needs met takes over and we try to get the person we are dealing with to take responsibility for our feelings of anger, annoyance, or whatever negative emotion we are experiencing. We have lost sight of our original substantive need and our focus has become our emotional response to their not responding to our substantive need.
We can short-circuit this. We need to ask a procedural question regarding our original substantive need. We have to ask: ‘Am I dealing with the person who can address this need?’ If the answer is no, we need to ask ‘Who is?’ and get them to the table instead. If we don’t, we are just like the dog and asking a statue to throw a stick.