From The Rock

Hissssssssssssssssssssssss. Are you paying attention to body language?

By | February 07, 2013

sid-the-cat

From top: Friday Cat and Sid

Meet Sid (also known as Work Cat)and Friday Cat (who likes to show his cute little face mostly on Fridays, thus his namesake).

These two furry guys are our adoptive kitty cats at Obsidian. In an effort to make them more comfortable being around people, our colleagues have been taking shifts to work on our laptops on our office back patio when the cats are around.

A team member and I were meeting out there recently, and Sid came out first. He nervously paced and made attempts to come near us, where the food was sitting. And he finally did eat. A few minutes later, we heard a deep meow that didn’t come from Sid.

Enter Friday Cat. He was perched on the ledge above and made his way down to us. Friday Cat is friendlier and kept meowing deeply to say hello as he approached us. We encouraged him to take part in the food as Sid did. As Friday Cat came closer to us, Sid starting hissing wildly from the corner of the patio, where he was ducking behind a plant.

Translation: Don’t come any closer, man, or you’re going to find a heap of trouble.

We tried to avert a bitter clash by continuing to coax Friday Cat toward us instead of Sid. Well, Friday Cat wasn’t paying attention to body language and what Sid was “saying.” He just waltzed right over to Sid behind that plant. A quick confrontation passed, and it was done.

The signs were all there. Sid was hiding himself to feel more comfortable. He then hissed to verbalize his warning. And finally, he pounced on Friday Cat. But it should never have gone so far. If Friday Cat would have paid attention the signs, trouble would have been averted and he wouldn’t have felt the sting of Sid’s paws.

This lesson can be easily applied to our role in PR and even in our daily lives. There are a million tiny clues in human interaction that help us better understand mood, relationships, expectations, what people care about, what they don’t care about, what they need, etc. Mostly importantly, these clues help us know how to respond appropriately. If we don’t pay attention to positioning, body language, tone and the actual message, communication breaks down. And a cat fight might be the result.