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Furry Friday: Say WHAT? Silent Communication R Us

9-2 seren
This past week has been a strain–on my emotions and my communications. I’ve over-used and abused my voice, and the strain showed up last Thursday and 7 days later has only slightly recovered. About the same time our landline telephone went out (quelle ARG!) but it didn’t matter so much because I have no voice.

No. Voice. At. All.

For someone who communicates for a living, that’s pretty darn disruptive and frustrating. We’re in the fine-tune stages of KURVES rehearsal and I’m the music director. That means coaching (that is, singing a demo) with the actors for everything from the low baritone to 1st soprano parts. I’ve got a pretty good range but combine that with a cold (I mean FREEZING! as in NO HEAT!) rehearsal space, and the vocal chords hadn’t a chance.

No phone and no voice means recording the new ASK AMY videos were put on hold, along with any new PET PEEVES radio shows. I couldn’t even croak “happy birthday” to my mom this week. I had to rely on Email and texting, and hope folks weren’t frustrated with the funky phone

!@#$%^&*!@#$%^& Verizon!  Eleven days to wait for service ain’t funny. If I had a voice, they’d get a piece of my mind!

Wait–did I actually say that? You know what I mean.

Yet while moping around the house for 3+ days without any vocalization above a whisper, it occurred to me I had no problem whatsoever communicating with the cat or dog. There was no need to say, “want to go out?” to Magical-Dawg for him to read my mind/body language and beat me to the door. Seren-Kitty anticipated the bed-spread-chase game without an invitation. Both critters assumed the position to beg tastes from my lunch plate. And neither had trouble deciphering my mood when they picked at each other like teasing siblings (as they often do), yet responded appropriately to my silent cease-and-desist scowl-‘o-doom.

How often do we humans chatter on, making words a meaningless soup when we have so many more pointed ways to communicate? Do words devalue when spent without thought? Have we lost the ability to understand subtlety when shouting becomes the norm–and we become tone-deaf to nuance?

Seren flicks her tail. A small thing, but it brings about an attitude change in Magic. He knows. And when his ears twist just so, the cat runs, while giving him the feline finger with her nether regions. Sure, dogs have a whole repertoire of communication that includes vocalizations. And so do cats.  The cat-gods (and dog-demons) know they can make noise when they want to. But with them, there are no wasted words.

I’ve received valuable feedback on my thriller WIP so this weekend I’ll be up to my own nether regions in edits. The book includes dog viewpoint as well as a cat character. So I’ll be channeling my inner critters while continuing to give my home crew the “silent treatment” while my voice heals. I hope I do them justice–both the fictional pets and the real ones.

How do you communicate with your pets? With your kids? Significant other? Do you have a secret language, or “insider” jokes and words that can bring you to tears–or blows? Is it all words or do you also have other ways you communicate? Do tell!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!  NOTE: the Pet Peeves newsletter will have a special VALENTINE’S DAY ISSUE you won’t want to miss!

About amyshojai

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant (dogs/cats), award winning author of 30+ pet care titles and thrillers, and spokesperson to the pet industry.

12 responses »

  1. Pretty Siamese! I have a couple of half-Siamese cats, and in both cases we got ther noisy half.

    We’ve had lots of cats over the years, and a few of them have never uttered a sound, or if the have, we weren’t around to hear it. They seem to get their point across to the others, though. I can’t see it, but they must get a look on their faces.

  2. OMG Amy you need to get ya a good hefty space heater for your reheasal space! At least keep it from being TOTALLY freezing.

    As for nonverbal communication… as much as language has been an asset to humankind, I do sometimes wonder if it hasn’t been to our detriment in other ways. As someone who very often doesn’t think in language (which unfortunately in my case can lead to mistranslations – I live with my foot down my throat), I often find language very LIMITING when there are no words for what is going through my head. In those cases it seems animals tend to be more likely to understand me. You can convey so much more at once silently, and though they say people like me have a detriment in reading others, I wonder if perhaps it’s just that we’re taking on deeper cues to that the surface social signals become less important and washed out by the subtle things that others may not notice. In a job where I talk for 8 hours a day, I fear I have lost some of that, like by forcing myself into language for so much of my week I have stunted my own thought processes.

    And yet the other half and I still have a habit of “reading each other’s minds” and being able to say things to each other without speaking, even now while we’re both so busy and feeling disconnected from running opposite directions all the time. Granted with all the craziness sometimes things still come out wrong, get misinterpreted and all that, but nobody expects things to be sunshine and roses all the time.

    • Hi Karyl, our stage manager plans to bring a space heater to the next rehearsal. *s* The theater is being renovated and our first rehearsals there were without heat so we bundled up. Would have probably been fine except I was already struggling with my voice.

      Love your comments re: the nonverbal communication. I think in many ways we take “talking” for granted and overlook the other ways we communicate. It would be an interesting exercise to simply put some virtual tape over our mouths for a finite amount of time, and see what happens. *s* Heaven knows we mess up and send mixed signals in Emails and texts even when those crazy emoticons are used to buffer the meaning.

  3. Oh Amy, sorry to hear about the voice. Nothing much more frustrating, is there?!

    I like to think that I communication with Tess and hubby with a lot of non-verbal cues. A lot of body language, touching, and different indicators. It’s amazing how our pets always seem to be in tune with us no matter what, eh?!?!? I love that about them….

    • You’re right, Natalie. I once interviewed an animal expert–can’t remember who, darn it!–and I love (and stole!) their quote. “Animals pay exquisite attention to the world around them.” Isn’t that lovely? And they do–just the lift of an owner’s eyebrow communicates volumes.

  4. First, congrats on the positive feedback on the WIP. Always, always excellent news!
    Second, so sorry about your voice. I hope you are feeling better.
    Third, silent communication goes a long way with children too, I think. I would much rather give “the” look to a child than actually scold her. It’s effective AND there isn’t a need for an apology later when the words got away from me. LOL.

  5. OMG – talk about bad timing! On the one hand you must be very frustrated … but on the other, you are obviously focusing on the positive aspects of non-verbal communication and once again we are reminded of what we might learn from our pets. Great news about the “valuable feedback” on your WIP. I LOVE the editing process because it only helps our work improve. *Sending lozenges and tea with honey and lemon*

    • Thanks Patricia. I tried singing a bit yesterday and HALLELUJIA! doesn’t seem to be any permanent damage. Still not back up to speed and don’t want to rush it. But I’ve had friends who had gorgeous voices who really hurt themselves and even needed surgery. One of my friends recommended “Hot Damn” from the liquor store for a bum throat. Hmnn….sounds like an interesting cure.

  6. So sorry to hear about your health issues. I can’t even imagine not having my voice – I’m way too talkative. I hope you will get better really really soon.

    Congratulations about the “valuable feedback” on your WIP – that must feel fantastic.

    As for the silent communication – it works quite often: with my husband, kids and the kitty too. Although I talk to the cat way too much 🙂 And he talks back to me too.

    • Thanks Angela. I worked all day yesterday on the fiction, and made some good progress. Today sang a duet in church–voice is about halfway back, and should be recovered fully by tomorrow.

      Kitties do tend to “talk back” quite a bit. LOL!


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