How to manage difficult animals (and people)

Deer peeking in

Anything good in here to eat? Photo from

I was surprised last week while visiting the Smokies that spring hasn’t quite “sprung” yet in the mountains. Trees at the upper elevations were just starting to leaf, resulting in beautiful, photo-op-friendly shades of green and copper on the mountainsides.

Back home, we are deep in the throes of spring, and that means young critters are invading our yards and gardens. Everywhere I go, it seems, baby rabbits are hopping across the landscape. And the day I returned, I spied a young deer lounging in my backyard, apparently enjoying the shade of a tree.

I have to confess, I’m a regular Elmer Fudd when it comes to rabbits and other creatures encroaching on my suburban space. There is no such thing as peaceful coexistence. Those wabbits and deer gotta go somewhere else. NIMBY is my mantra.

So what to do about difficult animals? And do the same strategies for managing difficult people apply to other mammals?

Before I left for the Smokies, I attended an IPRA luncheon on “Working with Difficult People and Difficult Clients” with Wendy Swire, an executive coach and mediator.

Wendy had us doing exercises at our tables, and one of them was to pair up with someone and talk about a recent experience with a difficult client. Interestingly, my partner and I described similar situations—clients who are annoyingly unresponsive. Very little communication. No direction as to where to go with a project.

Actually, not that dissimilar to having a deer look at you blankly when you inquire as to his intentions. No communication, no emails. No response to slamming the sliding glass door, making noise or the usual commotion that you hope will send him on his way.

Just “the stare.”

In fact, I would characterize my most recent four-legged visitor as downright difficult, like an insolent teenager. No budging him. The techniques Wendy taught us didn’t seem to be working:

  • Listen and focus on the problem, not the person. (Okay, I won’t demonize the deer.)
  • Don’t let the other person push your hot buttons. (Well, he’s on my lawn!)
  • Watch their body language and pay attention to nonverbals. (Hmm, just the stare is all we have to work with so far.)
  • Remain calm. (It’s all right. Deer are wonderful creatures.)
  • Show empathy. (Poor deer, no one wants you for a pet.)
  • Restate your feeling or content. (Will you please get off my lawn?)
  • Practice EQ (emotional intelligence). (I am so aware of my feelings right now that I could…”)

So how did you get rid of that deer?

Why, elementary, my dear Watson. I invited him to stay for dinner. He excused himself and trotted back into the woods.

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2 Responses to How to manage difficult animals (and people)

  1. Debbi Iwig says:

    This is hysterical. Thank you for brightening my day. Am sitting here in Walgreen’s waiting for morphine because my brother can no longer swallow due to the pain. And everyone here wishes they knew why my e-mail is so much more fun than theirs. Cheers, Debbi

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