Ellen Langer

Have you ever heard anyone say that their large dog thinks he’s small or that their small dog thinks he’s big? I found myself saying just that recently when a friend was describing the dog he was about to dog sit—a bulldog that is as large as a Lab. Right after I said it I thought it was a strange idea. Dogs probably don’t think about their size. So what does it mean when a German Sheppard acts like a lap dog? I think it means that he’s strong enough to make himself vulnerable and be soft. It’s much harder for dogs and humans to be soft than tough, and clearly more desirable for everyone. The stronger an animal is, the softer he can be.

In a similar vein, we’ve got it wrong when we admire someone for being “cool.” Rather than congratulate someone for being aloof, wouldn’t it be great it we admired their warmth? Maybe if we did, there’d be fewer scared little puppies, human or otherwise, making trouble for the rest of us.