I’ve posted previously on Nonviolent Communication techniques, and if you’ve ever watched one of Dr. Marshall Rosenberg’s videos or trainings, you’ve likely heard him reference jackals and giraffes – any idea what he’s talking about? Here’s a great breakdown!
Giraffes state clearly what they want in the present. And they take responsibility for their feelings, aware that their feelings are caused by their wants. If a mother is upset because her son’s toys are strewn about the living room, she will identify her feeling: anger. She will then get in touch with the underlying want that is causing this feeling: her desire for a neat and orderly living room. She will own the anger, saying, “I feel angry because I want the living room to be clean and instead it’s a mess.” Finally, she will ask for a different outcome: “I’d feel so much better if you’d just put these toys away.”
Whereas Jackals say, “I feel angry because you… ,” Giraffes will say, “I feel angry because I want … ” As Giraffes, we know that the cause of our feelings is not another person, but rather our own thoughts, wants, and wishes. We become angry because of the thoughts we are having, not because of anything another person has done to us.
Jackals, on the other hand, view others as the source of their anger. In fact, violence, whether verbal or physical, is the result of assuming that our feelings are caused not by what is going on inside us but rather by what is going on “out there.” In response, we say things designed to hurt, punish, or blame the person whom we imagine has hurt our feelings. Aware of this tendency, a Giraffe will conclude, “I’m angry because my expectations have not been met.”
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