Are there different approaches to studying, learning and practicing animal communication? How can you tell these methods apart? Is one method of animal communication better than another?
There are two basic approaches to animal communication.
The first approach is indirect at best. This approach is grounded in research. Science. Controlled laboratory studies.
Here, the humans are clearly in charge as they avoid anthropomorphizing like the plague while doing their data crunching, measuring, counting and tallying, publishing and peer reviewing and all that good stuff.
This first approach can also take the form of studying how animals communicate with one another. Often, the researchers start here and then attempt to extrapolate what they have learned to how humans communicate in a kind of compare-and-contrast model. Not surprisingly, the animals rarely come out on top here.
The second approach is quite different from the first. It is simple, intuitive, direct. As a matter of fact, this is the approach I favor and use.
With this approach, we are not theorizing about talking to animals or testing animals to find out how they talk to each other. Rather, we are focused on building actual real-time bridges of communication between people and the animals they love (whether alive or crossed over). The goal is always creating deeper connections. Fostering closeness. Easing grief. Improving interspecies relationships.
What I find most interesting about these two approaches is how people who endorse the first approach to animal communication are generally quite keen to avoid those of us who practice the second method of animal communication.
Those in the first camp sometimes even go so far as to call animal intuitive work “pseudo science.” This is in part because the work I do – actually having conversations with animals – isn’t typically so easy to confine to data tables and statistics. It is a different way of working and functioning and being in the world – a different method of communicating.
This is also where any attempt to compare the two approaches totally breaks down.
Because I am not a scientist. I am a communicator. I am not trained to speak the language of science or to communicate with others using scientific theories, principles or protocols. So calling animal communication a pseudo science is implying that it has anything to do with the methods of study those in the first camp typically embrace – methods like animal models or cloning or animal confinement or animal testing on laboratory animals, all of which I personally find heart-breaking.
Rather, I have been trained to use the universal language of all species to communicate with any animal, human or otherwise. To achieve this goal, I have learned how to foster positive, beneficial interspecies conversations with a focus on equality and respect.
I have also been trained in the ethics of animal communication – for example, when it is okay to directly initiate a conversation with an animal, when it is appropriate to ask an animal’s human for permission first, how to set an intention for the conversation to serve the highest good of all, how to navigate the conversational flow when difficult questions (or answers to those questions) come to light.
In this way, the work I do as an animal sensitive and intuitive is every bit as delicate and exacting as the data-driven science that has led researchers to attempt to teach spoken and signed languages to non-human animals in hopes of creating a similar type of interspecies connection.
Speaking of which, recently I came across an article in Scientific American detailing various scientific efforts to have what the writer calls a “real human-style conversation” with non-human animals. I will be honest – the article made me sad.
A huge facet of the ethics of my work as an animal communicator is to do no harm. To do my utmost to ensure that the information I receive from an animal is safe and appropriate to be shared with their human. And to avoid placing either the animal or their person in a difficult, awkward or painful position as the conversation unfolds.
While there is no overt harm in teaching an animal how to recognize and respond to certain human words or phrases – most companion animals tend to enjoy these types of interactive sessions with their people – where this approach can result in all kinds of harm is when we insist on filtering the outcome through our limited human constructs.
For instance, when we start grading how well (or not) animals use and master our language using our human I.Q. scale as a guideline, we rob ourselves of perceiving other types of intellect that not only equal but often vastly exceed our own.
Here is an example. Let’s say our sun spits out one of its famous solar flares and knocks out our power grid. Put me and our family’s dachshund out in the backyard for a week to forage for our supper and I’ll lay bets on who will last longer (hint: it won’t be me).