Compassionate Communication

Greetings everybody! On this site you will find supportive materials to live in a more compassionate way. As a free communication trainer I stand for the intention to integrate the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, Marshall Rosenberg and Robert Gonzales.

Marshall Rosenberg is known for his teaching of Nonviolent Communication. Some time during the late 1980s he came to appreciate the jackal as an excellent metaphor for a person, who communicates in a violent way. That is the person speaks or hears in a violent way. I will say more about this at a different place on this site.

The nonviolent communication approach was at first represented by the duck, but Marshall soon switched to the giraffe as the duck looked a bit too vulnerable as a partner to the jackal.

Thich Nhat Hanh is famous and loved for the establishment of the Plum Village tradition of buddhism. In this tradition of buddhism the art of Mindful Communication is practiced as loving speech and listening deeply or as speaking and listening from and with the heart. Each person is intending to communicate from a place of awareness about their inner energy and about their emotions. When difficult emotions arise, we try to embrace these emotions and take care of them, rather than following our impulses in acting out these emotions. So stoping and embracing anger, for example, rather than speaking out of anger.

Robert Gonzales combines the major elements of nonviolent communication and stresses the buddhist focus on the experience in the body. Famously he added dyad meditation on the beauty of needs as a spiritual practice of awakening, very concrete and doable and efficient. He calls his approach Living Compassion – it supports us in the unfolding of our true inner nature, our innocence. And that innocence has certain basic qualities at its core, such as freedom and compassion.

I like the term Compassionate Communication to represent a way of communication that integrates the elements from these three practitioners. I very much like the simplicity of the metaphores jackal and giraffe and within the title you find my love for friendship as one of the highest spiritual values in life.

Even beyond any religion, a true siblinghood based on friendship in difference and understanding could be the most inspiring goal for most of us, as I see it.

About Jackals and Giraffes

In short: the giraffe represents nonviolent communication, the jackal represents violent communication.

While the giraffe represents a natural way of communicating about our needs and values, we have been educated from childhood to think, speak and hear in a violent, jackal way.

In our giraffe moments we are able to be aware and care about our human interdependency. We are aware that we are always free how we relate to any of our experiences in life. We can enjoy that others fulfill their needs, even as we mourn the frustration of our needs in a given situation at a certain time. We can transform jackal communications into wonderful requests, and we can demonstrate this capacity even in the most intense and challenging relationships moments.

In our jackal moments, all of this is not available. We act from a sense of being right and we feel actually connected to a deep sense of authenticity about that. We see others as obstacles or enemies, and we are engaged in a fight who gets the cake.

Listen to Marshall tell in 1993 how he came to use the giraffe and the jackal in his workshop and his teaching.

Violence and Nonviolence as Judgments

Chances are that you feel a bit tense or irrititated, when you think that you communicate violently or when someone lets you know that you communicate violently.

In our habitual jackal mode of hearing it is wrong to be violent or to act in a violent way. And when you think you act in a wrong way, then you fear that will face consequences – also known as punishment.

Nonviolent is good, violent is bad.

This is why Marshall Rosenberg was not entirely happy with the term “nonviolent communication”, as it contained this judgment at its core and moreover it was a “negative” term, naming what this way of communicating is not, rather than what it is about in a positive sense. When he established the center of nonviolent communication CNVC in 1983 on a shoe-string budget, there were also the closeness in spirit to Ghandian and Kingian nonviolence, as the Civil Rights movement evolved in the USA in the 1960s and 1970s. As far as I am aware, Marshall was in favor of compassionate communication and I agree that this term really points to what matters most when you want to communicate from your heart – both in expressing and receiving.

Compassionate vs. Passionate Communication

As a giraffe trainer and coach and practitioner, I therefore prefer to contrast compassionate giraffe communication with passionate jackal communication.

As giraffes we can translate “violent behaviour” into “the person acts from their own needs, without awareness of the consequences.” With other words, there is a blindness here and we have a need for people to be able to see and to care about the consequences. It might be very fearful to experience a person acting without awareness.

We need to be able to know about this fear in us and to be able to take care of such a fear, if we want to be able to not react with similar blindness to the person acting with blindness. As such we need to be able to befriend our own jackals. And before we can befriend those jackals, we need to actually become aware of our jackals.

So, a lot in these pages is going to propose jackal thinking and language, with possible translations. In essense we need to understand better, that there are no jackals. But such an understanding cannot be an intellectual understanding only, we need to be able to get speed-giraffe-ears and we need to be able to embrace our anger, despair, fear, sadness and even joyful feelings with all of our heart. This is a process and a path of practice.

In honesty we need to look at uncomfortable places, stretch our zone of comfort as we can, little by little and take courageous steps into the unknown. And how can it be fun?

Do nothing that isn’t play.

Jackal – Passionate CommunicationGiraffe – Compassionate Communication

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