In dog training, one of the variables you pay attention to when progressing a skill is Habitat*, or environment. If you are training Sit, Fido may be able to perfectly execute a sit in the quiet of your own home, but if you even just add a bit of beef off to the side, it will likely increase latency (Fido will sit more slowly) or increase failure (Fido will dive for the beef, no sit to be had.) And, if you take Fido outside to a busy park with squirrels, and runners, and baby carriages (oh my!) without appropriate level progressions, you are most likely looking at immediate failure of that perfect indoor sit.
The trick to generalize a behavior (meaning Fido can perform Sit in any situation) is to change the habitat gradually, not too slowly, and most importantly not too fast, so as to build his understanding: “Ah-hah! Sit means butt on ground out here, too.”
Well, folks, let’s face it: behavior is behavior be it in a pup or a person. And we have all just experienced a seismic Habitat change. The kind you do not ideally land on a dog if you want to be a logical, kind dog-trainer. Yet here we are.
So expect some failure on your part in your normal behaviors and patterns, and give yourself a break. That goes doubly so for your critique skills, which are pulled out in a context that even under normal circumstances has an edge of inherent stress to it. We are either being judge and jury to someone’s creative work, or we are the one on trial. And now along comes Corona.
If you will be in a situation where you are giving or receiving critiques in the coming weeks, you might find your normal critique skills mojo shakier than normal. On the giving feedback side, you might find yourself feeling more judgmental or frustrated with someone else’s writing. Why can’t they get this already? On the receiving side, you might find yourself more sensitive than normal to constructive feedback. On the defensive. How dare they say that?
What are countermeasures we can put in place to get us back to our normal skill level?
1. Acknowledge the massive habitat change.
Because of the pandemic, you are expending emotional energy to maintain equilibrium. And I want to be very clear, this is so big, so pervasive that it does not matter if you are hunkering down at home or convinced it is all overblown, you are having to deal with it mentally and emotionally. That, my friends, is a human habitat change, because you are spending a LOT of energy tracking something you normally do not have to spend ANY energy on, which means potential deficits in other areas.
2. Reframe this whole situation as an opportunity to upgrade your stress- and state-management skills.
Go full-on glass-half-full mode. This is not a Pollyanna move, peeps; it is pure badassery. No matter how much we may want this corona situation to be different, it is not different. So how are we going to show up for ourselves and others? Are we going to focus on what is not in our control or what is? Are we going to watch news cycle after news cycle and turn into balls of twitchy stress, or are we going to stay smartly informed and then expand our emotional-management range in new and exciting ways?
You get to decide for you.
3. Restructure your stress- and state-management protocols.
Your major equilibrium strategies may no longer be available to you—a double whammy on top of this massive habitat change. Perhaps you de-stressed by going to the gym, having dinner with friends, or tango dancing. All gone. Buh-bye. Take time now to sort out replacement options. Do not pussyfoot around on this one. Maybe you need more warm baths, maybe you need to do pushups, maybe you need to slam pillows against the bed. I don’t know. But be imaginative, be curious, and have a little fun sorting out new, unexpected ways to get back to your center. To give yourself those super important boosts of accomplishments and bursts of happiness.
4. Give yourself a break if you flub in areas you normally don’t flub.
This is about basic self-compassion. If you are a little too harsh in a critique or too defensive in the coming weeks, do not pile on more stress by beating yourself up. Instead, move into action:
- Give yourself time to recalibrate.
- Connect and repair as needed.
Hopefully we all will be giving each other a little extra grace these days. Everyone is doing the best they can in this situation, you included. So, go easy on yourself. And go easy on others, too.
By proactively acknowledging this challenging habitat overhaul and taking appropriate action to counter its effect, we can not only better maintain our current critique mojo, we can generalize our skills to a whole new level of awesome. Take that, Corona!
Onward in kindness,
Christine Carron, The Critique MD
* I learned the concept of Habitat from Susan Garrett. It is part of her D.A.S.H framework that helps dog owners understand key variables in progressing a behavior. Susan has just launched a Home School for Dogs and is currently offering it FREE in light of the pandemic. Highly recommend it and all Susan’s programs for people and the dogs they love.