Lately, I'm finding myself asking the other person in my house, aka my partner, when he is planning to go into the office or Starbucks or the gym or ANYWHERE as he is always home! I sometimes just look at him sitting at the dining table (which is apparently now his "desk") and wonder why he can't feel my eyes boring into the back of his head; why his computer doesn't suddenly go up in flames!! I say this in jest as we are all spending more time together as we cope with managing our jobs, school and health during this period. It can get a little stressful and being on our best behavior isn't always possible. Fortunately, it is summer so we have the option of going outside to take a walk or sit in the yard or on the deck; we don't always have to be inside the same 4 walls -- sometimes we can go on the other side of the wall! At the same time, we have to keep our sense of humor and since this is one of the things I love about my partner, we have adopted communicating through our cat, Frank. When we want to say something to the other that may otherwise be taken as a criticism, we will start with "Frank says...".
For example, the other day, I found my laundry piling up and my partner had basically commandeered the washing machine. I said, "Frank says that you should remove your clean clothes from the dryer because my clothes are starting to stink". As opposed to me criticizing his need to immediately wash his gym clothes the moment he takes them off, which is what I really wanted to say! Later, my partner said to me, "Frank says that you should water the yard because she's concerned that the grass is looking a little brown". As opposed to hey, stupid, are you planning to let the lawn die??
So who is this Frank cat? First, Frank is a female who is about 8 years old. She has feral genes so she's a bit unpredictable. She's grey and very cute, as far as cats go (yep, I'm a dog person!). She imprinted on my partner and she really only seems to like him. However, if he is gone (ahh, the good ol' days!), she will find my lap, curl up and fall asleep. She has recently become more adventurous and seems to have a little bit of "guard cat" in her. Over the 3 years I've lived with Frank, I've had mixed feelings about her but she has grown on me recently. Not sure why she was given a traditionally male name but she does answer to it!
Using "Frank says" is ironic in our home as Frank could care less. First, she is a cat. And second, she is only interested in a warm lap. The reason I share this communication approach is that it keeps humor in our relationship and lightens what could feel like a criticism. My partner and I are not use to spending so much time together. We have strong personalities. We disagree. Using "Frank says" language helps to soften the message and prepares the other by letting them know that the message is important. And since Frank doesn't generally "say" much, if "Frank says", that's our cue that we need to listen.
#cat #communication #franksays #listen
Sunny E. Sassaman Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution Consultant