Transitioning the human in the room.
Have you ever spent the day home alone quietly doing your thing? You control the pace, the sounds, the inputs and entities that may invade your space. Then a family member comes home from work or school or an event in a full-on state of energy. Exuberantly sharing their story, fully loaded on excitement dumping their energy into your space. Or maybe a spouse comes home irritated and grouchy from a day at the office. Owly, defensive and not very nice, they aren’t even aware they brought their bad day home with them. That bad day enters the room first like a dark mass you can’t see but you definitely feel.
What’s your first reaction? For me, I bristle a little. I physically tighten up ready for the brunt of raw emotions flooding the space I’d carefully built. I’m not transitioning well, because THEY aren’t transitioning at all. I don’t want their excitement or anger; I want my space back. I might even close myself off from talking with them to conserve what little I can to myself until I transition to their way of thinking. I might literally say, “Why don’t you go upstairs and come down off your day before we talk.”
A parrot suggestion could include a lunge and bite.
But I ask nice because a woman who lunges and bites ends up in a hospital bed with restraints.
Transitioning begins with the human in the room, not the companion. We are the big-brained rationalizing creatures in the room, it’s up to us to take the responsibility of that event. When I tell someone it’s a transitioning problem, I’m not saying it’s the parrot’s problem. I’m saying it’s the human’s problem of transitioning on behalf of the parrot. Step Up can be one of those moments in time that doesn‘t transition well for a parrot.
Every bird is a different personality and they need a different personal approach to that request of Step Up. I worked with a gentleman and his grey for a while. He complained he got bit every time he wanted his grey to Step Up. After a few minutes of watching that interaction it was painfully obvious this gentleman was not gentle. His approach was always out of nowhere, with no warning. He would literally put his hand in front of the chest of his bird randomly. His hand showed up way before any verbal transitioning.
“STEP UP. HERE! Don’t be stubborn. Ouch! See? He bit me!”
I’d bite too if you randomly shoved your hand at me with a domineering voice. His grey was so defensive by this time, he had no choice but to slow this man down. He wasn’t biting to say stop. He was biting to say slow down. We reworked his approach and in a few minutes no more biting. But humans are stubborn. He emailed 2 weeks later saying his grey was being bad and biting again. I asked if he was still using our practiced approach. He said no. It was too hard to remember to do it all. I suppose remembering to say, “Hey Grey! Can you Step Up?” is asking too much for some.
We are the transition. We are the mechanism of smooth changes, additions and routines. The human in the room delivers a huge flux of information all at once. Our sound, smell, movement, our voice pitch, depth and speed are but a few signals taken in by a parrot when we approach. The newer our relationship, the more they rely on all that input. It is overwhelming for them. Transitioning is tricky until they understand us. And it still poses a challenge afterwards because there will be days we forget to transition ourselves personally before approaching our parrot.
It is ironic how parrot folk will discuss for hours how difficult it is to understand a parrot’s communication, body language and needs. They are just a puzzle. I don’t find parrots near as puzzling as humans. I understand how a parrot can find a human completely confusing. Our signals are so very crossed.
Consider a morning that’s rushed. We put on an affected happy face as we approach our companion.
We are late; we need cooperation! Our parrot lunges or hesitates because of the crossed signals. We’re asking for something normal, but our speed isn’t normal, our voice is wrong for the face and we skipped the “Hi baby!” part all together! At that moment of poor transitioning the companion parrot does not understand where all this is leading. And a parrot that is unsure, is a parrot that isn’t going anywhere voluntarily.
Remember, transition yourself first to match the mood in your parrot’s moment. Then be the transition with your companion as a partner. It’s our job, not theirs.