I am worried about the cat. There has been some behavioural changes recently that leads me to believe that all is not well in my feline kingdom.

I actually have two cats, one which we have had for ever is a permanent resident of the husband’s lap; and the other, a rather mystical princess with an aloof disposition, is known as my cat and occasionally will prove it by alighting on the lap at inconvenient moments. However, being a besotted cat lover I am grateful for such small signs of affection.

That has been up to now. Recently there has been a slight change of status. The Mystic

Princess has taken to deliberate avoidance; downright hostility even. The other day when I arose and wandered into the kitchen to feed the ravenous horde she sat on the top step with her back to me when I got out the food and cat dishes; and even when I tried to coax her to eat, there was no recognition of my efforts. I was devastated.

Things have not improved, and the ancient cat of many days has picked up on my distress and has been most attentive in an attempt to cheer me up, even to the point of curling up with me on the bed. Such attention has not gone down well with the husband.

I fear the cat and I are in a state of conflict and I am not sure how to deal with it. If it was a colleague at work I would have no trouble I would just follow the animals!

First I would define what the conflict is truly about; and truth to tell workplace conflict is often merely a conflict of interests which, when out in the open, can often be negotiated around. A conflict of interest is when one person tries to maximise their own interests and thereby interferes or affects the actions or interests of others.

We all have our own set of personal goals and ambitions, which can sometimes conflict with those of others. If we realise that a ‘goal’ is the preferred state that we are working to achieve, we can see that sometimes it will cut across the goals of others in our workplace. If this happens then our goals and interests conflict. Notice that I said that it was our goals that conflict, not ourselves.

To solve a conflict of interest we should be able to negotiate an outcome which is acceptable to both if we try. The outcome is dependant on just how important your goals are to you, and whether the personal relationship is fleeting or permanent. Unfortunately we can often allow our conflicting goals to breed personal conflict.

Johnson and Johnson in Joining Together (Allyn & Bacon, 1997) describes the traditional ways of conflict resolution in terms of animal characteristics – which given my problem with the cat seemed appropriate. So the zoo of conflict starts with the best –

The Owl – the owl is used to describe the negotiated approach, where we value both our own goals, but also place a high value on the relationship. In this scenario we have to walk a difficult pathway between achieving the best outcome for our interests without losing the closeness of the relationship. Both of us need to be fully committed to the process before we can come to an agreed consensus. It is of course the best outcome when it can be achieved.

Next we have the Teddy Bear. Soft and cuddly, the bear prefers to maintain the relationship, and rather than hanging onto their own goals will sacrifice them. This only works if your own goals are much less important to you than the personal relationship. Because if you smooth the conflict over, and make the sacrifice to keep the peace without that, you risk the possibility of never actually forgiving the other person for the loss of your achievement – even though the choice was yours not theirs.

Coming up against the shark is always a scary thing, and in this zoo the shark identifies those who seek to achieve their own goals by forcing others to surrender theirs. This may appeal to you if you really value the goal much more than you value the relationship. This outcome can be forced despite the other’s opposition or even without their knowledge. Let’s hope the relationship never needs to be a cooperative one, because having forced the other out of the race, you’ll be in for a rocky ride.

Then we have the fox. The wily old fox is only moderately concerned about the outcome for his goals, and a little iffy about the relationship. Therefore with nothing of real value to loose, the fox is willing to compromise. Compromise, which is really a lose/lose situation, is only workable when both are in agreement that a resolution is more important than their goals. Comprise means both sides giving something up to achieve agreement, and if one is really a shark underneath that fur, then feathers can fly!

Finally, we trip over the turtle, who withdraws into his shell at the least sign of conflict. Safe and secure in his lonely little room, neither the goal nor the relationship is important and the turtle is willing to give up both for just a little peace and quiet.

Now in my household in this silent war with the cat, my preferred outcome is to maintain a warm and loving relationship with the princess; and the relationship is so important that I fear that I am going to turn out to be another fluffy teddy bear. I have no idea what the problem is, and there is some difficulty in discussing it with her so I am going to resort to the ignoble bribery and corruption technique.

Update – I started it yesterday with softly poached chicken for dinner, followed by her absolute favourite – warm milk with just a teaspoon of olive oil. The results are promising – there was a slight purr as I picked her up and placed her tenderly before my offering. And this morning she walked past me and yes, I am sure she gently rubbed against my ankles.

There’s no help for it, I am going out to buy myself a teddy bear; what a humiliation.

Michele @ Trischel

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