I could not have written this newsletter about our prior dog, Moe. We decided if he could say one thing, it would be, “Give me something!”

As you can see from his picture, Ralph is pretty Zen for a wire fox terrier. That doesn’t mean he isn’t focused, as you’re about to see.


Communication Lessons from My Dog Ralph

As a rescue, we’re not sure where Ralph learned so much about communicating clearly. We’re just glad to be on the receiving end. Here’s what he has taught us.

Know Who Has the Cookie

In an effort not to be knocked over by a dog rushing through an open door, we’ve worked to get Ralph to sit on the side porch and wait for us to call him into the kitchen. His reward, not surprisingly, is a cookie. (His favorite is chicken jerky.)

There are times when Larry and I are both in the room. It doesn’t take Ralph long to figure out who has the cookie. Then he sits in front of that person and waits expectantly.

In business, it’s also good to know who has the cookie. This is the decision-maker who can greenlight your ideas. Often it’s not who we thought it was. So we spend too much time waiting to hear from someone who can’t give us what we want. And then we have to start all over with another person.

Make sure you spend the time to ask qualifying questions up front: especially in new business situations. Something as simple as, “If I could give you everything you want today, what would we need to do to get started?” can be very revealing.

Know How to Get the Cookie

When Ralph and I go for a walk, I make him sit when we reach a corner. He understands that if he does this without my asking him, he’ll get a cookie. If he rushes into the street, or I have to give him the command or tug on his leash to remind him to sit, he gets nothing.

Ralph knows the drill. When I stop at a corner, he automatically sits and—you guessed it—looks up expectantly.

Whether it’s a client, your supervisor or someone else you’re negotiating with: spend some time thinking about them before you speak.

What’s their pain—and how can you relieve it? What do they want—and how can you help them get it? What are they afraid of—and how can you show them this won’t happen? Answer their objections before they raise these and you’ll get a bigger, faster reward—or a “no” that allows you to quickly move on.

Enjoy Your Cookie

Whenever he’s earned his treat, Ralph single-mindedly devours it. In that moment, nothing else exists for him. Not until it’s gone, and he licks his nose to be sure there are no stray fremmels, can he notice anything else.

Too many times we get that “win” we’ve hoped for and immediately move on to the next thing. Our to-do list is so crammed that we miss the opportunity to savor what we’ve just done. Take a moment to celebrate. Call a friend or family member who can praise you. Reward yourself with a good experience, such as a meal at a favorite restaurant with people you like. Or have a cookie then take a nap on the couch with your feet in the air. Ralph highly recommends this.