as told by Al Turtle
When I was a kid, I loved cats. All cats. They were warm, fuzzy, cuddly, cute. I loved to hold them, carry them around, pet them, look into their eyes, listen to them purr. Only one problem. All the cats in my home hated me. They hated me in spite of the fact that I knew how to hold onto them – real tight. They hated me in spite of the fact that I knew how to catch them – by cornering them, by closing the door of the room I found them in, by grabbing their mid-sections quickly. They hated me in spite of my knowing how to grip them tightly by the fur at the back of their necks. It made their legs stick out straight, but still they hated me. They hated me in spite of my learning to shove them under the covers of my bed – and learning to tuck the covers in tight so that they couldn't escape out the bottom. They showed their hatred by running at the sound or sight of me. I was seven. Still, I loved them.
On TV, that black and white box in my parent's bedroom, was a show called Science Fiction Theater. Some scientist would introduce the stories. I wanted to be a scientist, so I decided to study my problem with cats.
One day I was standing in the living room when Stripey, the eldest cat in the house, wandered in. (Stripey was born before I was, and died several years after I left home when I was 18.) She walked into the room and up to me. I picked her up. She purred. I petted her on my shoulder. Her purring told me that she was content to be held.
I walked around a little and then put her down on the couch. Instantly she looked angry. I was startled and backed off toward the fireplace, and watched. She seemed angry, but not at me – just generally angry, lashing her tail. After a while she hopped down off the couch and sat on the floor, looking angry. Then she walked out of the room the way she had come, back into the front hall. She still looked angry. I watched.
She got to the bottom of the stairs, sat down, still angry looking. Then she walked into the living room, following her original path and came to sit down where I had picked her up. Now she did not look angry any more. She looked puzzled. She sat there for maybe a minute, looking quizzically around. Then, suddenly, she got up and walked off in the direction she had originally been going when I picked her up. And she looked peaceful and purposeful.
I was stunned. What had happened before my eyes? Scientist that I was developed this theory. Stripey had had an agenda. She had been sleeping upstairs somewhere and had gotten hungry. The food was in the kitchen. So off she went. Down the stairs she came into the front hall. "The door to the kitchen and the food was closed. No problem. Go through the living room, the dining room, and so into the kitchen to get that food. Al is standing in the living room. Well, no problem. He picked me up and petted me. That's ok. Then he moved me to the couch. Now, what the hell was I doing here on the couch? Oh, damn, I forgot what I was doing. Damn, damn, damn. Let's see. If I go back out the the stairs maybe I will remember. Oh, that's it, I was on my way to get some food! Hah. Here we go:"
"Cat's have agendas," I thought. "Wow!. Well, if that were so, perhaps if I were to pick them up, pet them, and put them back down where I picked them up, they might like me more."
And so I began a life-long pattern of picking cats up, noting where they were going at the time, and putting them back down in the same place, facing in the same direction. Do you know why this became a life-long pattern? It works. In two months all the cats in the house liked me. And I have been doing it ever since. Who says scientists can't figure out important things.
And so, if you find you have interrupted someone in something they are saying, when you are finished simply remind them of what they were saying when you interrupted them and invite them to continue. People don't speak in sentences. They have a point to make. That's kind of their agenda when they open their mouths. Just try saying, "Let's see. Before I interrupted you, you were speaking about…" It's respectful and it works. People will like you.