Without uttering a word, our pets still communicate with us


I’ve done a lot of studying of emotional intelligence, and I present webinars and seminars on nonverbal communication and communication in general. And I find a very strong comparison between our pets’ communication and ours.

The difference, of course, is that our pets can’t speak, but some studies report that 55% of our communication is nonverbal anyway.

Our pets create sounds as well as body language that makes up about 90% of our total communication, according to some theories. Words are actually a small percentage of our communication when we are in-person with others.

Our pets don’t need to speak because they teach us to pay very close attention to where they are in the moment. It’s a great mindfulness practice – we have to be in the here and now with our pets.

We learn how to distinguish the sounds our pets make, and each of our pets has their own distinct way of letting us know how they feel. We understand them because we have a special communication with them.

Our pets show us their emotions, and they let us know when it is OK to touch them and hold them, and when it’s not. Conversely, they can sense our emotions and respond accordingly to us. This is what emotional intelligence means – the capacity to be aware of, control and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically, according to the Oxford Languages website.

In Jewish tradition, the concept of  “derech eretz” (literally, “the way of the land,” or  “manners”) emphasizes the importance of treating others with respect and kindness, and being attentive to their non-verbal cues so we can respond with empathy and compassion.

Judaism also places a strong emphasis on the power of speech and listening. The concept of Shema emphasizes the importance of actively listening to others and to the divine. By paying attention to our pets’ vocalizations, we can practice the art of listening and deepen our ability to connect with the world around us.

In her article, “9 Ways Judaism Teaches Us to Be Kind to Animals,” at Chabad.org, Rosally Saltsman writes, “The Talmud also teaches that we can learn much from animals. Rabbi Yochanan said: ‘Had we not been given the Torah, we would have been able to learn about the virtues of modesty from the cat, respect for other people’s property from the ant and loyalty from the dove’  (Eruvin 100b). Animals are not only G‑d’s creatures, but G‑d’s teachers.”

Most of all, our pets give us unconditional love, which can stimulate positive feelings in us, help us rejuvenate and bring us joy.

PATRICIA RASKIN, owner of Raskin Resources Productions, is an award-winning radio producer, business owner and leader.  She is on the board of directors of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence. Her “Positive Aging with Patricia Raskin” podcast is broadcast on the Rhode Island PBS website, ripbs.org/positiveaging.