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Like a red rag to a bull..
Smith is a mild mannered person, not given to tantrums and rages. Aside from the odd bout of
mucus rage when forced to share a train journey with the sort of person who sniffs for two
hours rather than carries a handkerchief, she may simmer but she rarely boils over - with one
There is one circumstance guaranteed
to blur my eyes with the red mist. When Iíve 'made a bit of a fluff of it' as an agility friend
euphemistically likes to say, and a 'ringside critic' is on hand to give some helpful advice.
You know the sort of thing:-
You know what you should have done...
You know what you did wrong there...
You took your eye off the dog...
It doesnít much matter if itís friend
or foe, smug or sympathetic, constructive or destructive, the result is the same...
And, from my informal research
amongst agility folk, it seems I am not alone.
Why should this be? The whole thing
was a complete mystery to me until a read a book called Emotional Intelligence by Daniel
two minds: rational and emotional
Goleman describes in fascinating detail how the human brain has two ways of processing
information received through the senses. There is the normal path via the neocortex where it is
evaluated against our knowledge and experiences, so that an informed decision can be made on
what action is called for.
And there is the emergency system
represented by a little almond shaped area called the amygdala. Here there is no pause for
judgment, just the instruction for fight or flight. It is a survival mechanism appropriate to a
situation where, for instance, faced with a large furry presence one needs to act first and
worry later whether or not it poses any danger.
Unfortunately this mechanism,
intended to protect us against threats to life and limb, is triggered just as easily by threats
to our dignity and ego.
It seems that itís not so much what is said as WHEN. That same
remark which gets you reaching for your holster when said as you leave the ring, causes
not a ripple of annoyance if said 10 minutes after. In fact, if saved for later, it can
be the source of helpful feedback or much shared amusement.
The trick then is to postpone
your response until it has been tempered by the neocortex, and thus much more rational.
What can we do?
Forewarned is forearmed. You need
to buy some time by having something ready to say, something polite, until you can
regain your composure. I have a stock phrase which I can reel out if necessary, and which
stops me responding with something impolite.
My own phrase is 'these things
happen' Ė said through a smile (or gritted teeth) and with a philosophical little shrug of
the shoulders to show just how unruffled I am.
Of course, you can use any phrase
you like, but be sure to have it well rehearsed so that it trips off the tongue at the first
sign of unsolicited advice coming your way.
Be sure to keep moving as you
speak. Donít stop or youíll get embroiled in conversation, inevitably forced into a debate
about the deficiencies of your handling, and having to defend your mistakes, or worse
apologising for them.
In this way, though the
cauldron still bubbles away underneath, you wonít lose a friend through a moment of
impulse. Thereís the added bonus that later, when the danger period has passed, you can
seek out that person and press them for some clearer feedback and possible suggestions as
to an alternative strategy. After all, they may be right!
So next time you see me FUBAR*
if, as you go to speak, you are greeted with a gracious smile and a shrug of the
shoulders as I float on my merry way Ė donít be upsetÖdonít be alarmed Ė but just donít
*See Mike Fairlamb for
Chris Smith has been competing with her Border Terriers since 1994. Her most
successful dog Teasel won the Eukanuba Challenge in 1999 and the Pedigree Mini Agility Stakes
at Olympia in 1999 and 2000.
She is a passionate fan of the breed
and for some years has served on the Committee of the Border Terrier in East Anglia where she
lives with her partner Frank and dogs Mij, Teasel and Fen.
Chris also judges in agility and
enjoys writing on dog-related subjects. She is an ad hoc contributor to agility magazines.
Her book Yuor secret Coach has just
been published in paperback by Clean Run Publications in The States.
Jacqui (Western Australia)...
Oh yes. How easy to relate to this one.
I know when and what mistakes I made and I
don't need anyone to tell me.
Well, not until I've had time to think about it, then seek
feedback from more experienced competitors and friends.
From Mike Afia...
Just a thought on your ring rage article-
how about a swear box at the finish, all proceeds to go to any dog charity? It could earn a lot
You are so right. There are some people you really don't want to see after blowing a
perfectly good round! Why is it then that it is ONLY these people who are hovering around at