This may same an odd statement to make. After all, I think it’s pretty clear I’m not a giraffe. My neck is nowhere near long enough.
When you start to dive into NVC you will doubtless come across the metaphor of the Giraffe and the Jackal as a way of describing two modes of communication.
The giraffe as a way to label those times when I’m connected to my needs and yours, my heart is open and I’m seeking to get a quality of connection aimed at meeting both our needs. When my communication is ‘life serving’.
The jackal as a label for when my communication is ‘life alienating’. When I’m not connected to my needs or yours and I’m seeking to get my way irrespective of how I get it.
There are even some nice puppets available to help bring this metaphor alive.
Personally I avoid using jackal and giraffe as way of helping people learn NVC. Although it can be kind of cute, and in some situations useful, there is a risk of misunderstanding.
No matter how skilled I am at using the creatures to demonstrate NVC my experience is they are easily misinterpreted as Giraffe=’good’ / Jackal=’bad’.
And this polarisation into good and bad, I believe, is itself life alienating.
Cute Baby Giraffes
Honestly I cringe when I hear people describe themselves as ‘Giraffes’ or even worse … ‘Baby Giraffes’.
I value authenticity and clarity and when I hear this I feel concern for the poor Jackals seeking acceptance within this person.
On a workshop a few weeks ago I was working with a woman who was struggling. She was wanting so hard to ‘be a giraffe’ that she was denying her jackals breathing space and she was losing part of her authentic self.
She had picked up the idea that learning NVC meant she ‘should’ no longer judge people (jackal) so whenever such a thought entered her head she either pushed it away or judged herself for being a bad person.
She wanted so much to be in the consciousness of NVC she was losing a crucial part of herself in the process and it was damaging her relationship with her husband. When she only ‘spoke giraffe’ it was hard for her husband to receive her as being authentic. And in truth, she wasn’t meeting her own need for authenticity.
We are both Jackal and Giraffe
For me, NVC is about embracing all the parts of who I am and making conscious choices about how to bring them to the world.
I have judgemental thoughts about myself and others. There are times I say and do things out of fear or try to get others to do things out of guilt. There are times when I’m not connected to my needs, when I do blame others, when I make demands rather than requests. There are times when I see other people as enemies and want to punish them. There are times when I say ‘yes’ when I mean ‘no’ and when I say ‘no’ when I mean ‘yes’.
I am a jackal!
For me these things are part of who I am.
What NVC brings me is a consciousness that helps me recognise when my thoughts and actions are life alienating. It gives me a way of listening to what that tells me and helps me move through the layers of judgement and blame to see my needs and the needs of others. It brings this other part of who I am, the loving, fearless, joyful, peace seeking, aware and compassionate me into the picture.
I am a giraffe.
With NVC I bring jackal and giraffe together so I can choose how to communicate with myself and others in the way I want and move beyond the years of conditioning that narrow my choices about how to act when I do so out of habit.
I am a girackal. Or a jackaffe. Or some such creature.
A jackal and a giraffe living together, working together and enjoying each other.
Welcome! I'm Ian Peatey and this site is one way I share Nonviolent Communication (NVC) by writing articles and sharing information about NVC materials, news and people. I hope you'll be a frequent visitor.
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