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When You Give a Mouse a Cookie

When You Give a Mouse a Cookie

In “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” one of my son’s favorite bedtime stories, illustrates a sequence of events unfolded by a small act of kindness. Once the mouse receives the cookie, it leads to a chain of requests and activities, creating a loop that eventually brings a story full circle. The book brilliantly illustrates the concept of cause and effect. 

In the real world, whether in the personal or professional space, we encounter these mice running around with constant demands and expectations without reciprocation. They are the masters of the domino effect, turning a crumb of a kind gesture into a banquet of demands that often leaves a trail of delightful disorder in their wake. 

They’re Here. They’re There. They’re Everywhere.

Know someone who only calls when they need help without first checking your availability? When they say “Jump!” they expect you to ask “How high?”  immediately without giving a fragment of consideration of your capability. 

How about whiny Wanda, who can extend each phone conversation to no less than two hours while doing 95% of the talking? Thank God for bluetooth earbuds; you no longer need to ice your neck or schedule yet another appointment with your chiropractor during lunch break the next day. 

And there is Aunt Barbs, the  “I-am-not-good-at-this-but-you-are” type, with a list of tasks to make her life easier and happier and doesn’t give a damn that you work full-time and have a family to look after. 

Not to forget that super insecure boss, demanding a full written report of everything you set to do this past week after a 90-minute team status report call and a 60-minute one-on-one. 

Then there is cousin Gigi, who mistakenly believes you as her personal bank loan officer. 

The Subtle Truth 

People with lower emotional intelligence, thus lacking in the self-awareness department, might not realize such an exhibition of this “mouse” behavior. They are simply unable to recognize the impact or social cues of being burdensome. 

Before we stick the yellow neon manipulator label to these mice’s little foreheads, it is also possible that, because they’re so focused on their needs, they genuinely believe their demands are justified, and not realizing the imbalance in their interaction. 

That said… 

There are instances where people are fully aware of their actions, intentionally taking advantage of others. Factors such as a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy, or a deliberate plan to shift responsibilities onto others drive these actions.

So, what now? 

Whether or not you’re familiar with Stoicism principles, the “Give a Mouse a Cookie” behavior is not within our control. When dealing with demanding mice, focus on our own responses. The annoyance might rise when they persistently demand your assistance, it is up to us to choose: resentfully accepting the request, ignoring it and soaking ourselves in a rage of anger for hours if not days, or politely declining, drawing the line, and maintaining inner tranquility.  

In short, we have full control of how we would respond to the repeated requests and ensure our response aligns with our personal values. The key word is respond, not react. 

Mastering Mice

So next time you encounter another mouse seeking more than just a cookie, act like a seasoned cat, gracefully balance kindness and rejection with a pinch of humor. 

While the mice nibble on life’s crumbs, you, the wise cat, hold that piece of cookie with integrity and shut the door and disable the doorbell after the organic almond milk or serviette from Harrods is served. Reserve the rest of the cookies from the cookie jar for people who take out home-baked biscuits to share when you pour that glass of milk, or enjoy tiramisu, allowing you to wipe your mouth with the thick, soft serviettes.


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