Developing A Cat-Like Instinct for Relationships

cat pinot Russian blueIf you’re a regular reader of the Bennis Inc Blog you’ll surely recall my “personal assistant” Pinot. For those of you who may still be catching up or just stopping by, allow me to explain that this fur ball of personality doubles as my work partner on most days, but most simply (and reasonably) stated she’s our family pet. During the day, Pinot and I do a good job of keeping to our respective tasks at hand so long as what I’m do appears uninteresting and her food dish is full. But as soon as she decides I can offer her anything of benefit – a warm lap, fresh water or source of entertainment – she gives me her undivided attention. This animal-to-human dynamic she and I share is not far removed from the dynamics I share with other people in my life. Whether I’m the cat or human in these particular scenarios is debatable, but I’ve realized that when it comes to relationships, there’s a great deal of similarity to be found between us and our feline friends. I believe this can be best summarized by David Fisher’s quote:

“The golden rule of cats that governs all relationships we have with people: you scratch my back, you scratch my back.”

I would be shocked if you could not think of one instance in which this feline relationship principle held true. Business partnerships, interactions with strangers, close friendships and marriages all require some degree of “back scratching” and let’s be honest, it sure feels better to be on the receiving end. As much as we’d like to convince ourselves that we are always selfless and fair, the truth is that some of our most fulfilling relationships with others are the result of a cat-like instinct to look out for Number One. And surprisingly, that’s OK. In fact it’s this instinct that ultimately protects our business, our happiness and our time.

First thinking about my business, I’m very cat-like in that I want to share mutually beneficial work relationships with any client I take on. Though I’m the one providing them with a service, and they will and should benefit, I too want to benefit. I want this to turn into a satisfied client that turns into a recommendation that turns into potentially more work. I want a client who shares my vision for their business and is as passionate about bringing it to reality as I am. In friendships, I want to invest my time with people who are positive, happy and inspiring because this has such a profound impact on my own mood. And with strangers or new acquaintances, I want an interaction that holds the promise of a future client, friend or both. When all piled together, these seem like quite a greedy request of my relationships. But consider this: the more we work to surround ourselves with beneficial relationships, the more beneficial we also become to those with whom we interact.

So long as we maintain a genuine effort to share the happiness and success we build for ourselves, there is no guilt in seeking out that next “back scratching.“

I don’t anticipate receiving a reciprocal tummy rub from Pinot anytime soon, yet our relationship works because I too am benefiting in my own way. She’s my stress relief, companion and certainly introduces and element of entertainment and surprise into our household. To apply this to the relationships in your life, don’t ever feel guilty for enjoying or benefiting from the interactions you have with people. It’s most likely that you’re also providing enjoyment or a benefit to them as well. So as long as Pinot keeps coming around for her daily back scratches and I keep providing them, I know that we’re mutually happy and that we each feel like we’re getting the better end of this deal.

cat pinot Russian blue

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