by Olivia Humphreys ~
A Tale about Communication, Adoption and The NFL
My boyfriend and I recently adopted the world’s sweetest dog, Flora, from the Clay County Humane Society. According to the shelter, she is a lab/terrier mix, almost two years old, and was brought in as a stray by the police.
Now that we’ve had Flora for a few months, we know what she likes and what she doesn’t like.
What she likes: snuggling, terrorizing the cat, chewing on bones and sticks, Puggles (her best friend at the dog park is a Puggle named Roxy), and playing chase and wrestling with small dogs.
What she doesn’t like: being left at home, retrieving balls, being introduced to new people, when new people try to pet her, and big dogs.
For the most part, she gets along just fine with bigger dogs. But about once a month, typically when she’s chasing a Puggle, a few big dogs will start to join in the fun and Flora’s reaction is to become incredibly submissive, roll over and cower.
When this happens, the other dogs will pick up on her energy, begin nipping at her and refuse to let her run away. There’s typically a lot of barking, yelping, teeth baring, and people trying to corral their dogs when this happens.
So far, she’s come out of each attack unscathed physically. Mentally, she’s set back a few weeks and it takes a lot of coaxing and interactions with nice big dogs to get her comfortable with them again.
So at this point, you’re probably like, this is a nice story, but what does this have to do with me?
If you’re a person who can go through life completely confident in every social situation you’re ever in, then absolutely nothing. You can stop reading now because you probably won’t learn anything else.
But if you’re like the rest of the world, chances are there are situations that make you wish you could cower and run away to your happy place.
For a lot of people, this situation occurs when you do something Flora doesn’t like to do either: meet new people for the first time.
Going up and talking to someone is incredibly terrifying. Trust me, I know. But if you’re a person working in the communication industry, you have to learn how to overcome it in order to start networking.
There’s one experience that helped me overcome my fear of talking to people, and it didn’t happen in college. It happened at Super Bowl Media Day in 2012, when I was a senior in high school.
I won a competition for high school sports journalists that enabled me to go to Super Bowl Media Day. I assumed it would be set up like a regular press conference and I would sit there and watch all of these professional journalists interview Tom Brady and Eli Manning and a few of the other players and coaches.
Man, was I wrong.
Basically, the event takes place on the entire field. There are booths set up for the star players to sit in and everyone else on the team wanders around the field with all of the journalists.
So, picture this in your head. I’m an 18-year-old tiny girl surrounded by these giant football players, a lot of them stars, and I can just walk right up to any of them and start talking to them.
Much like Flora is now, I was a terrier in a pen full of German Shepherds, Great Danes and Rottweilers.
It was positively terrifying.
Until I realized one extremely important detail: they were people, just like me.
They were all just as excited to be there as I was and were so happy to talk to me. You can see how excited and friendly they were in the video I made for my internship at D3TV at DePauw University.*
Although I made a fool of myself by asking absurd questions the lesson learned that day is the one that has been the most valuable to me in my career as a public relations professional. I understand that not everyone can go to Super Bowl Media Day and interview football players to get over their fear of talking to people. But for anyone in the communications industry, it is so incredibly vital to be able to talk to anyone about anything at anytime.
And when you start to see people as actual people and not their titles, it makes it substantially easier to do that.
Yes, I still get butterflies in my stomach sometimes when I talk to “important” people, but it doesn’t ever stop me from actually talking to them. It definitely takes a while to get comfortable just walking up to people and talking to them, but don’t be like Flora and let bad experiences discourage you or set you back.
So you have a choice, continue to be the terrier that cowers and only ever plays with Puggles, or be the terrier that learns to run with all of the dogs at the dog park.
*You can also read about my experience at Super Bowl Media Day here.