An Evening Workshop with Marshall Rosenberg

Marshall: Good evening. I’d like to give you a brief introduction to this process of communication and what it is designed to do. Because people usually find it more helpful to learn by applying it right away to a very relevant situation in their lives, I will be asking each of you to think of somebody with whom you’d like to communicate better than you do now. We’ll see how to apply what’s presented tonight to that situation.

I’d like to start with a song from a woman named Ruth Bebermeyer who lives in St. Louis, Missouri. She wrote this song after she had been studying the process of communication we will be looking at tonight. In many respects it’s like learning a foreign language, and for those of you who have undergone that process, you know that you can get so bogged down with the mechanics sometimes that you forget what it is you are trying to say. This had been happening to her for awhile, and she was getting so involved in the mechanics of what we were studying that she was “losing the forest for the trees.” Then all of a sudden one day this song came to her as to what this process of communication was really intended to do. I like to use her song, called “Given To,” to introduce this process to people. [Marshall sings:]


I never feel more given to than when you take from me,
When you understand the joy I feel, giving to you.
And you know my giving isn’t done to put you in my debt,
But because I want to live the love I feel for you.

To receive with grace may be the greatest giving.
There’s no way that I can separate the two.
When you give to me, I give you my receiving,
And when you take from me, I feel so given to.

When everything is going well, I think that’s how people relate with one another. By “going well,” I mean when people are really connecting to one another as I think human beings were meant to connect. When we are really connecting, we see the vulnerability in the other person and are willingly doing what we can to contribute to one another’s well-being. I’ve been interested in the fact that people all over the world talk about that while calling it different things. Some call it compassion, some call it love. They call it different things, but it is quite clear that this is how human beings behave when they are in their natural human state. If givers can get as much joy as receivers, then you can’t tell the givers from the receivers. Of course we’ve known this for centuries so you would think that there would be no violence or confusion, but obviously that isn’t so.

If we can be so smart at one level and we all know about this quality of human interaction, then how can there be all this violence and confusion in the world? That’s what I set out to learn when I decided to do this work for a living: to learn what I could as to why human beings know about this quality of interaction, yet find it so hard to do. I wanted to find out about those human beings who are able to live this way regardless of what’s happening around them, even when other people have forgotten what it is like to be a human being. And I also wanted to learn about the people who, instead of giving and receiving in this way, get caught up in various forms of domination or exploitation.

So I decided to study those two questions. What gets us off this wonderful way of connecting as a human being? And what about those human beings who don’t get off track, who are able to stay with this way of connecting? After studying those two questions, I came to the understanding that it had a lot to do with the language we are taught. If we are taught a certain language, it makes it hard to live in harmony with how we really want to connect with other people. If we are taught the language of “Jackal,” you see, we quickly forget how much fun it can be to be a human being and we get caught up in all kinds of games that aren’t much fun at all.

I don’t know what language all of you were educated to use, but my first language was the language of Jackal. Jackal is a language of classification; it’s a very good language for telling people what is wrong with them. For example, let’s say that tonight I give you a task to do, but instead of doing the task, I notice that you sit at your seat and draw a picture of me with a knife in my back and blood squirting out. Now if I am to speak Jackal, how do I communicate? “Obviously you’re emotionally disturbed.” You see, Jackals believe that by labeling and classifying, they understand. If something is going on that they don’t like, a Jackal-speaking person labels, classifies, or diagnoses what is wrong with people for behaving that way.

Suppose some of you tonight don’t see the relevance of what I’m teaching, so you say to me, “Marshall, I don’t see how this could apply in my situation.” How might I communicate in such a situation?

You don’t see the relevance of my teaching?
Obviously, you’re culturally deprived.

I use a language tonight that you don’t understand?
You’re a slow learner.

You use a language I don’t understand?
You’re rude and socially inappropriate.

I speak so rapidly you can’t follow me?
You have an auditory problem.

You speak so rapidly I can’t follow you?
You have an articulation problem.

Have you ever heard any Jackal spoken, or is this the first time?

Participants: We’ve heard a lot of it!

Marshall: You have. Well, as I say, my primary language was Jackal. In fact, I learned several dialects of Jackal. Where I grew up in Detroit, I spoke a dialect called “Street Jackal.” It’s an extraordinarily harsh and abrasive dialect. How does it sound? If you pull out in front of me in traffic, I say, “You idiot!” … or worse, depending on my mood. Then I went to the university and got a doctor’s degree in Professional Jackal. Now I have a much more sophisticated language so when you pull out in front of me in traffic, I say, “You pseudo-neurotic schizophrenic!” Now doesn’t that sound a lot more educated? Here’s a song about my former profession of Professional Jackal before I set out to do the work I’m doing now. I call this “The Sink or Shrink Blues.” [Marshall sings:]


You see, I went to a shrink in a clinic near me,
He said I was a case of total pathology.
I said, “Shrink, I knew that before I came in,
I need someone to care, not just analyzin’.”

The shrink asked me if I had any strange habits.
I said, “A few, but I was always willing to learn some more.”
So he gave me some pills and said to take ’em each day,
But I said, “Pills wouldn’t take my blues away.”

I said, “Shrink, my blues come from people like you,
Who know what I am, but not what I’ve been through.”
You see, folks, he was one of those old-fashioned doctors:
He still thought you needed a prescription to get drugs.

Well, that shrink saw what he was trained to see,
He just never got around to seeing me.
So I left that shrink, I wasn’t impressed;
Now there’s two who flew the coo-coo’s nest.

The language of Jackal is for me a rather frightening language. Especially now that I work in about thirteen countries, I see that Jackals are a fast breeding species, because this language seems to be spoken in every place I work. It doesn’t make much difference what language people speak; you can have English-Jackal, French-Jackal, Russian-Jackal. So my question is: how do people get off so quickly from what is a human way to relate? It’s tragic how easy it is to teach people an alienating way of thinking about themselves and others.

I also studied the other question I mentioned a few minutes ago — about the people who, no matter what’s going on around them, no matter what language other people speak, stay with the human way of interacting, never losing the possibility of the quality of giving and receiving that I mentioned in the first song. I noticed they spoke a foreign language, the language of “Giraffe.” Whereas the language of Jackal is a language of classifying others, the language of Giraffe is a language that enables you to express clearly what is going on in your heart.

Did you know giraffes have the largest heart of any land animal?

Giraffe is a language that requires you to speak from the heart, to talk about what is going on inside yourself without judging or classifying other people in the process.

Giraffe is a language of requests. You give people an opportunity to contribute to your well-being. Jackal is a language of demand. We’ll see tonight that it could make a big difference to other people whether they hear what we are asking as a request or as a demand.

I’ll be suggesting tonight, in fact, that if other people hear what you are asking as a demand, you won’t be able to get what you want for the reasons you want. Likewise, if other people hear you issuing Jackalish judgments, you also won’t get what you want for the reasons you want.

Unfortunately for me, by the time I saw these two languages, I had already been thoroughly indoctrinated in Jackal, so I set out to see if I could learn the language of Giraffe. Then people began to ask me if I would share what I’d learned.

In time I saw what a hunger there seemed to be all over the world to learn Giraffe, so I stopped being a professional Jackal, and since then, I have been a Giraffe teacher. Is there anything else I could tell you before I proceed to teach you some Giraffe this evening?

Participant: How long have you been doing this?

Marshall: Thirty years. I must confess, I don’t always call it Giraffe. Sometimes I call it boring things like Nonviolent Communication, Compassionate Communication. People seem to get it quicker and with more fun though if we call it Giraffe and Jackal.

Any of you have any Jackals in your lives that you’d like to learn to speak with more easily?
I hope you do, because people usually learn Giraffe a lot more easily and apply it rather quickly that way.

I would like you all to think of somebody right now who is behaving in a way you’re not crazy about. You would like to persuade this person in a Giraffe way, to consider another way of behaving that you believe would be better for everybody. Maybe you think that they’re doing something that’s destructive to themselves and you want to suggest another way they might behave. Maybe this person is doing something that you believe is destructive to you because it’s making your life less than pleasant. Or you see this person doing things that you think are creating problems for a third party. Any of those would fit our purposes for this evening.

You might want to work on a Child Jackal tonight. Believe it or not, children can be Jackals. They can say horrible Jackalish things like, “I don’t wanna.”

Believe it or not, parents have been known to speak Jackal. They say horrible Jackalish things like, “You have to, whether you want to or not.”

Wives can be Jackals, tragically. And husbands and bosses.

So pick a Jackal in your life right now. It might be somebody, you love very much, who has a habit that’s annoying. Or you may want to pick somebody towards whom it seems hard to feel much warmth.

It doesn’t matter as long as just thinking about this person gets some adrenalin going.

I’d like to have you pretend that this creature [Marshall holds up a Jackal puppet] is the Jackal-speaking person you’re talking with, so just speak to this Jackal and say what you have written down. If you’d be willing to start us off with this, we’ll just work right around.

[Participants sitting in a circle]

Participant A: Well, there is one person who does something I find disconcerting. It’s a presentation which is very saccharine sweet. She will say, “Let’s get together.” Then I say, “Great, let’s get together,” and then she’ll change the subject. So I find myself not wanting to speak with her because there is something insincere going on. I don’t think I will be able to influence her anyway, but I just thought of her as a possible circumstance.

Marshall: So you’re not sure you’re going to be able to change the situation, but it would be nice if you could.

Participant A: It happens a lot that she’ll call and says that. Yes, I would enjoy not having that happen.

Marshall: It makes it hard to get anything planned because you try to follow through on a subject?

Participant A: Right, and there is no heart connection. I feel this is very unproductive emotionally, so in turn I am not connecting with her.

Marshall: OK, we’ll proceed tonight to find out if we might be able to change the person.

Participant A: Excuse me – the words, “change the person”? I’m not clear I can change anyone. I think they have to be willing to change. I might have the vehicle that makes it possible, but I don’t feet I can change anyone.

Marshall: Yes, you have a Giraffe orientation to things because Giraffes are aware that we can’t change anybody. My children educated me about that. They taught me a lesson when they were very young that I couldn’t make them do anything. That’s a humbling lesson in power to somebody from a Jackal tradition. You think because you’re the father or teacher or manager, that it’s your job to change other people and make them behave. But here were these people educating me that I couldn’t make them do anything. All I could do is make them wish they had done it! And they taught me that any time I’m foolish enough to make them do something, they could make me wish that I hadn’t.

So if the question were to be communicated in a Giraffe way, it would not be “how you change people,” but “how you provide opportunities for them to willingly change.”

You see, in Giraffe, that’s very important to us: “Please do this, but only if you can do it willingly and if there is a total absence of any fear, guilt, or shame motivating you.”

When we speak Giraffe, we’re conscious that if people do things for us motivated in any way by fear, guilt, or shame, we lose. So thank you for clarifying that. It was stated in a rather Jackalish way.

Next participant in circle: I think I’m speaking Jackal: “Hey lady, lighten up. I see you knowing what is wrong with everyone, knowing how to fix them. Love them the way they are.”

Marshall: Yes, I would say that is Classical Jackal, because you have asked the other person to “lighten up.” Any time we ask another person to have certain feelings, we put them into a paradoxical bind. Has anybody ever told you, “Don’t worry.” Does it work? No, because when we tell other people what we want them to feel, it puts them into a kind of crazy place. When we say “lighten up,” or “love me,” we are asking them to have certain feelings. This usually confuses the issue. We’ll suggest tonight that when we speak Giraffe, we make our requests in terms of what we want other people to do, not what we want them to feel. We’ll get back to this and show you a Giraffe way to say what you did.

[To next person] How about you?

Participant B: I want somebody to come in on time, do the work and complete the job they are supposed to do. It’s just not getting done.

Marshall: I’m not optimistic it’ll get done, because if you want to make sure you don’t get your needs met, use the phrase “supposed to.” About the only thing likely to create more resistance would be if you told the person what they “should,” “have to,” “ought to,” or “must” do. If you use any language that implies people don’t have choice, my experience is that even if they want to do what you are asking them to do, it will create so much resistance it will be almost impossible for them to do it.

Participant B: Not only that; in fact he’s doing less!

Marshall: I’m not surprised. So we’ll suggest a way to make clear what you value without sounding to other people like you’re telling them what they’re “supposed to” or “have to” do. Giraffe is not at all a language of vagueness about standards. We tell people exactly what we value in Giraffe, but we say it in a way that makes it clear this is just what we would like. We make clear we’re not claiming to be smart enough to know what they’re “supposed to, should, or ought to” do.

Once I said that in St. Louis, Missouri, and a mother who was at the presentation got very upset with me. She said, “But there are some things you have to do and I don’t see anything wrong with telling my children that they have to do them!“ When you hear that, you know you’re hearing Classical Jackal. I asked her if she could give me an example.

She said, “Easily! When I leave the workshop this evening, I have to go home and cook. I hate to cook. I hate it with a passion but I have done it every day for 20 years, even when I have been sick as a dog.” I told her I was sad she had spent so much of her life doing things that she thought she had to do. I was hoping that she might learn some Giraffe because I think Giraffe might open up some more creative opportunities for her.

She was a rapid Giraffe student. She went home that very night and announced to her family she no longer wanted to cook. I got some feedback from her family but not as you might anticipate. Her two high school aged sons were in a workshop of mine about three weeks later. Fortunately they arrived early because I was very curious. It seemed as if this mother was calling me up every other day to tell me about some radical change she had made in her life since learning to speak Giraffe. I always have a worry about what happens when one member of a family comes home and starts speaking a foreign language. What does this do to the family constellation?

I asked the older son, John, “What was it like when your mother came home and announced she no longer wanted to cook?” He responded, “Marshall, I just said to myself, ‘Thank God!'” I was rather startled, “How did you come to that reaction?” “I said to myself, ‘Now maybe she won’t complain at every meal!”

You see, it does something to us when we think “have to,” “should,” “ought,” “must.” Then we have no choice. It makes life seem rather slave-like. That’s what Eichmann was saying to the people examining him when he was captured. He was talking about a language he and his fellow Nazis used. Amongst themselves they called it “Amtsprache.” Translated into English, this means “office language.” It’s a language that denies responsibility. Why did you do it? “I had to.” Why? “Superior’s orders.” “Company policy.”

The language of Giraffe is designed to make us highly conscious every moment of our lives of our responsibility for our own actions.

[To next person] Liz, how about you?

Next participant: A student in my class recently said, “You hurt my feelings.” In Giraffe language, I might have responded, “When you’re in my class, instead of saying that we hurt your feelings, could you explain what you were feeling and observing instead of what we are doing to you?”

Marshall: The Giraffe is dancing. That sounds like Giraffe to us.

Next participant (C): Here’s something I might say to my daughter-in-law and grandchildren: “It would be so nice to receive a thank-you card from the children personally instead of you just thanking me in your letter.” That’s Jackal.

Marshall: I’d say it sounds like Jackal now because you are not saying what you want from the person at this moment. You’re talking about what they didn’t do in the past, and you’re making reference to the future. Giraffe requires a consciousness of the now. What do we want from the person we’re speaking with right now? If you say something like “it would be nice,” but you don’t say what you want from the person now, they will usually just hear what you say as a criticism or an attack — as though your only reason for saying that now is to make them feel bad for not having done it. Is what I’m saying clear?

Participant C: Well, how could I phrase it then?

Marshall: What do you want from the person right now?

Participant C: I would like to hear from the grandchildren themselves instead of …

Marshall: But the grandchildren are not there with you right at that moment. You’re talking to this person and you’re telling them what you would like from the grandchildren. If I’m the Jackal, I don’t know what you want from me right now. Do you just want me to hate myself for not having made them do it?

Participant C: That wouldn’t be a bad idea. [Laughter]

Marshall: An honest Jackal. See, I don’t know, for example, whether you want me to blame myself for not having done something or whether you want me to tell you that I would be willing to do it in the future. If you don’t get conscious of what you want at the moment, you are going to be like that gentleman sitting next to his wife at the Dallas airport.

There’s a little train that connects the terminals there and I was sitting across from the couple. This train goes very slowly and the man turned to his wife in a great state of agitation and said, “I have never seen a train go so slow in all my life!” She was sitting there and probably thinking to herself, “What does he want from me right now when he tells me that?” But he, being a Jackal-speaking person, is not conscious of what he wants at that very moment. So she did what most of us do when we don’t know what a person is wanting from us: she just kind of sat there confused. Then he did what most of us do when we’re not getting what we want: he repeated himself, as though magically, if you just keep repeating yourself, you’ll get what you want. So again he says, “I have never seen a train go so slow in all my life!” I loved her response; she said, “They’re electronically timed.” When you don’t make clear what you do want, you’re likely to get back a lot of “chicken soup” [unsolicited advice] you don’t want . And then he repeated himself a third time, “I have never seen a train go so slow in my life.” And she says, “Well, what do you want me to do about it?”

When we are talking about painful issues, it creates a tremendous amount of tension, when we’re not conscious of what we want back from the other person right now.

If the other person comes out of a Jackal tradition, they assume the only thing you want right now is for them to feel like P. P. P. – P. P.T. – Piss Poor Protoplasm – Poorly Put Together. “It would have been nice, but I didn’t do it, so now you want me to think I am the worst person who ever lived? Is that why you are bringing this up?” That’s very often what Jackals read into the vacuum. In the course of the evening I’ll show you how to get more conscious about what you want back from the other person.

[To next participant} Nancy, what about you? What do you have to say to your Jackal?

Next participant: “I want you to stop ordering people about and controlling everyone.”

Marshall: I’m not optimistic you’ll get what you want because you said what you don’t want. As we’ll see tonight, a good way to make sure we don’t get what we do want is to say what we don’t want. That will happen almost any time you tell another person what you want them to “stop doing”, “quit doing,” or what you “don’t want them to do.” The woman who wrote the first song I sang tonight wrote a song for children called “Don’t.”

One of the lines is, “How do you do a don’t?” You see, when we tell people” what we do want, we give them a lot more information than when we say what we don’t want. The song concludes with the line, “All I know is I feel won’t when I’m told to do a don’t.”

Participant: Great!

Marshall: I’d like to emphasize this difference. Jackals tell people what they don’t want: “Stop that,” “Don’t do that,” “Quit that,” “Cut it out.

It’s relatively easy because there is no creativity in that; it’s a matter of negating, simply telling a person to stop doing what they are doing. In Giraffe we tell people what we do want, which requires the wonderful human characteristic of our being able to imagine a future that is better than the present.

Then we can tell another person what we would like them to do to make our most wonderful dreams come true … but that’s a whole different process.

We can negate easily, especially when we are talking with ourselves.

I hope to show you tonight how we can speak Giraffe with ourselves as well as with other people.

For example, at one time during the Vietnam War I was debating the war with an editor of the local newspaper where I lived at the time. The program was videotaped, so I was able to go home and watch myself on television. So there I am watching myself and getting sick to my stomach because I am doing things that I can’t stand seeing other people do. I said to myself, “If you’re ever in a public debate again, don’t do A, don’t do B, don’t do C.” Jackaling myself.

Well, I got a chance to redeem myself because the next week I was invited to continue the debate with the same person. All the way down to the television station I told myself, “Now remember: don’t do A, don’t do B, don’t do C.” The program begins and the editor starts at me the same way that he had ended up the previous week. For ten seconds I was beautiful. I didn’t do A. I didn’t do B. I didn’t do C. I just sat there stunned, thinking, “What am I going to do?” Can anybody guess what I did after ten seconds?

Participants: You did A, B, and C!

Marshall: Indeed. And, if my memory serves me correctly, I made up for the lost ten seconds. So whether it’s speaking Giraffe to ourselves or to other people, we need to put it in positive-action language. We’ll give you a chance to practice that tonight.

[To next participant] John, what have you got to say to your Jackal.

Next participant: Just about the same kind of thing. It sounds real Jackal to me now. “Your dogs are making my wife miserable. Would you do something so that they stop barking?”

Marshall: Well, you shouldn’t be here tonight. You should go and talk to Ron Thompson. Ron lives in Santa Barbara. One time we were doing a workshop there and the dog next door was making so much noise we could hardly hear. So I notice Ron Thompson gets up and goes out and comes back in twenty minutes, and lo and behold the dog is quiet. I asked, “Ron, did you go next door and practice Giraffe with the neighbors?” He said, “No, I used it with the dog; the dog sounded hungry so I went down to the market and bought some food and threw it in the yard.” True story. [Laughter]

Just in case you don’t have money for the food at the market, we’ll show you how to talk with the neighbors.

[To next participant] Brent, how about you? What have you got down?

Next participant (D): “Father, think of me and treat me like an equal– with respect.”

Marshall: Wow.

Participant D: There were other ways I could have said that.

Marshall: Well, I’m glad you’re picking a really rough one tonight because it’s been very interesting to me that, when you put certain labels on another person, it makes it so difficult to speak Giraffe.

Sounds like you have this person labeled “father.” That’s almost as devastating as to label the other person “my child,” or “my husband,” or “my wife.”

Participant D: So is it better to call him by his first name?

Marshall: Oh no, it’s not that. If you even think that he is a father or there is such a thing as a father, you see, then immediately it’s going to be hard to speak Giraffe. To speak Giraffe, we have to get over seeing people in roles or with labels. So I’m glad you used that example.

My work involves different kinds of people who want to apply Giraffe. I work with the military, showing them how to use it in military situations. I also work with the police. A lot of people I work with are in very dangerous jobs. Invariably they’ll come back when I return for a follow-up and say, “Hey, it works wonderfully on the job. Now help me with a difficult one: talking to my father, or my son, or my wife.” I’m just saying that in these family situations, given the difficulty, we want to be sure to use what we call positive action language.

Participant D: I want to use positive phrases and tell him how I feel?

Marshall: And what you want. What would you say to the Dad again? “Treat me like a human being?“

Participant D: That’s basically it! [Laughter]

Marshall: Now, if the other person is speaking Jackal, do you know what? They won’t hear that as a request on your part. They’ll hear you saying that they are an inhumae person who treats you like you’re not human. They’ll get so caught up with the imagery and the judgment that in fact they’ll start treating you like you’re not a humane being.

I’ll try to show you tonight that judgments lead to self-fulfilling prophecies. If we judge another person as being “someone who is not treating us like a human being, and we approach them with that thought in our minds, we’ll usually talk to them in such a way that they’ll end up doing the very thing that concerns us. What’s even more tricky about that is that we don’t even have to say it out loud. If we think that way about another person, even if we try to speak Giraffe it won’t be possible because we’ll have Jackal eyes.

Participant D: It worked with my brother though.

Marshall: What worked with your brother?

Participant D: Well, just stating what he wanted in the situation.

Marshall: He used that language and got what he wanted?

Participant D: I’m not sure it was that exact language.

Marshall: I would be very surprised if you could use that language and get what you want. That’s the exact phrase used by some black students I was working with in Dallas, Texas. They thought that their principal was a racist. Already I knew they were in trouble, because if you think anybody is anything, it’s going to make it very hard to get what you want from them.

I’ll suggest tonight that judgments are tragic expressions of unmet needs. When we think that “somebody is treating us inhumanly,” our judgment is basically saying, “I’d like something that I didn’t get.” Putting our needs in terms of judgments makes it very hard for other people to give us what we want.

So they had this principal labeled as a racist. They wanted the same kind of thing you want:
“We want him to treat us like human beings.”
“We want fairness.”

Now, they had already gone to him and said those things.
I asked them, “What did he say?

“’Get out of here or I am going to call the police!’”

We worked hard on how to get judgments not only out of our thinking, but also out of our requests. We also worked on being able to say what we want in clear terms. When you use language like “being treated as a human being,” what is it that you want the other person to do? How do you say that without bringing in things that sound like judgments? We worked Friday night, Saturday and Sunday. They got 38 things clear and expressed them in Giraffe language. Monday morning they went in and confronted the principal. They called me up Monday evening elated. He had agreed to all 38 things. That Thursday the Dallas School District called me up and said, whatever I taught those students, would I come down and teach it to their administrators.

When we can really get clear what we want and learn how to say it — not in jargon, but in clear action language — we are more likely to get the responses we want: “Here’s what I want you to do, Dad, in order for me to feel as though I am treated as a human being.” What we ask of the other person needs to be in terms of concrete action: We’ll get back to this, but I’m glad you picked a courageous situation. Family situations, those are the really tricky ones!

Next participant (E): I have a problem with my partner’s aggressive style.

Marshall: When we speak Giraffe, we make observations about what people do without bringing in any judgment. It’s not easy to tell another person what they are doing while you are judging it as “an aggressive style.” The philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti says that in his estimation, “The highest form of human intelligence is the ability to observe without evaluating.” You see, when you term whatever this person is doing as “aggressive,” what you are doing is evaluating. If we speak Giraffe, we need to tell the person concretely what they do without evaluating. Exactly what actions do they do that concern you?

Marshall [assumes role, speaking loudly] “So what is it that I do that you call an aggressive style?” [Speaking even more loudly] “What do I do that you are calling an aggressive style?”

Participant E: “When you get real upset and scream…”

Marshall: Hold it. You’re judging again. “Upset and scream” is a diagnosis.

I was in Lincoln High School in San Francisco dealing with a faculty that the superintendent said was experiencing real racial tensions. I asked the faculty to tell me something that another faculty member did that they didn’t like. A man looks at the woman next to him and says, “I don’t like it when you scream in faculty meetings.” She said, [Marshall raises his voice] Who screams?” Now she came from a different culture from his, and ten minutes later when she screamed at him by her own definition, I clearly saw a difference. So even ”screams” is an evaluation.

In Giraffe, we can say, “when you raise your voice above mine.”

Marshall [in role]: “Is there anything else I do besides raise my voice?”

Participant E: “You walk around the room real fast when you’re talking to me and kick balls and…”

Marshall: Yeah, I do all of those things. Those are observable. So now you see, we haven’t brought in something called „your aggressive style“; you’ve merely described my behavior. You had a lot of Giraffe in your statement.

[To next person] So what do you have down?

Next participant (F): I said, “I just want you to know that the way that you are speaking
to your sister — calling names, insulting, belittling, seems to me to be so harmful.

Marshall [in role]: “Well, how is it different from the names you called me just now?
You called me ‘belittling’.”

Participant F: Yeah, I saw that. [Laughter]

Marshall: When we say to people that they are “complaining” and “belittling,” that is
another form of diagnosing or judging.

[To next person] Did you have one you would like to practice on?”

Next participant: To my little boy who is four: “It hurts me when you shout at me.”

Marshall: That will be good for our purposes tonight because I’ll suggest that’s how
Jackals express their emotions: they blame other people for them.

“It hurts me when you do that.” Jackals say, “I feel because you…”

A giraffe says, “I feel because L.”

Giraffes make it clear that you are not the cause of my feelings. We’ll get back to that because to use a feeling the way you did is what Jackals do to control people through guilt.

In Giraffe we want people to respond not out of guilt but out of compassion. Feelings are very important, but it needs to be clear to the other person that I am saying my feelings not to blame them or to make them feel guilty. I say my feelings in Giraffe so you can understand what is going on in me, not to imply that you are the cause of them.

When other people hear us saying that they are responsible for our feelings, it makes it hard for them to feel compassionate toward us because then they are reacting out of guilt. Then they have to apologize or defend themselves; they may even change their behavior, but not for reasons that will be good for both of us. Any time people change out of guilt, we’re not really getting what we want because we become a source of guilt for them. The more we are a source of guilt, shame or fear, the harder it becomes for other people to respond to us out of compassion.

Are there any questions about what I’ve said or what we’ve gone through so far? [Silence]

Now let me give you some good news about Giraffe. The thing that people say most often about Giraffe is what a simple language it is. But then, almost as often, they say how difficult it is. Isn’t it amazing that something can be at one and the same time so simple and difficult? Let’s look at the simple part first, and then why something very simple would be difficult.

When we speak Giraffe, all we ever say is two things; it’s a very simple-minded language. No matter what the other person is talking about, all you ever say and hear are the same two things. What are these magical two things?

“Please” and “Thank you.” To tell you the truth, I think no matter what language people speak, whether it’s Jackal or Giraffe or Zebra or anything, basically all human beings are always saying “Please” and “Thank you.” If their needs are not getting met and they’re in some kind of pain, they’re saying, “Please would you do something to make me feel better? Please.” Or people are saying, “I’m really grateful for what you have done to make my life better. Thank you.” Now the tragedy about the language of Jackal is how Jackals say please.

Let me show you how they sometimes say please. About a year ago today, I was on the West Bank in Jerusalem in a mosque with 170 Muslims. When one of the gentlemen found out that I was an American, he stood up and said, “Please.” [Laughter from audience. Marshall addresses a participant who is laughing:] You were there?

Participant: I can imagine.

Marshall: Here is how he said please. [Marshall raises his voice to a very high volume:] “Murderer!” A little bit louder than that, actually, but that is what he said. I was really glad I had Giraffe ears on. You see, if I have Giraffe ears, all I hear is “please;” that is all people are ever saying. So I kept my Giraffe ears on and no matter what he said, I heard what I needed to hear; I heard the please, which is to hear the pain — to hear the need that isn’t being met. That’s where I kept my attention. What is his pain? What is he needing that he is not getting? I kept my attention on that as long as he was talking. He was asking a lot of pleases, and after about 40 minutes of my
attention on what he had to say, he did what most of us do when we feel we have been accurately heard: he changed. He, as well as myself, could just feel the tension go out of that situation. Later on that gentleman invited me to a Ramadan dinner at his house.

It’s amazing how it changes the world if all we hear and say is “please” and “thank you.” So that’s all there is to Giraffe. We can go home now. Please and thank you. When we have Giraffe ears, we are aware that all judgments are tragic expressions of unmet needs. We hear the unmet need; we don’t get caught up in the words. We just hear the please.

But when we express ourselves, we don’t want to require that the other person have Giraffe ears so we make it easy for other people to hear our “please.” As Giraffes, we try to make four things clear to our listeners so they can clearly hear our please as a please, and not hear judgments, demands or attacks. We want to let the person know what we have observed, to call the person’s attention concretely to what they have said or done. Sometimes it’s what they haven’t said or done, but the main thing is to use clear action language to make reference to the exact behavior and not to use
language like “belittling” or other words that really are judgments and evaluations. Then we want to let this person know what we are feeling. Are we hurt? Scared? Annoyed?

Next we want our listener to know what needs of ours do not get met when they behave that way. Notice that first we say “I feel” and then we explain our feelings with reference to our unmet needs. In Giraffe, it’s always “I feel _ because I would have liked ,” never “I feel because you did .” We don’t stop there. We end in the now by saying exactly what we want from this person at this exact moment. „Right now what I would like from you is __ .“ We tell the person what our request is, using positive action language.

When we speak Giraffe, we are conscious that these are the four things we need to communicate to the other person. Sometimes we say these things out loud. Sometimes we can express them in other ways besides verbally. My wife has quite an ability in this. Sometimes she can say all four of these things without saying a word. Really, she is amazing! Sometimes we will be sitting in the living room and she will go like this [Marshall raises a cupped hand to his mouth] Did everybody catch that? [Laughter] What’s she feeling?

Participant: Thirsty.

Marshall: What does she want?

Participant: Water.

Marshall: Who does she want to get it?

Participant: You! [Laughter] What is she observing?

Marshall: She is observing dryness in her throat.

Participant: And you sitting in an easy chair.

Marshall: That too. [Laughter]

This is important to keep in mind because tonight I will be giving you some exercises to practice how to say all four of these things in “classical Giraffe” — that is, saying them out loud. But in actual practical language, the main point is to speak with Giraffe consciousness, whether out loud or not: we stay conscious that these four things are what we need to get across to the other person. We don’t always need to say each of them orally.

No matter how other people respond to us, either verbally or non-verbally, all we hear are these four things if we have Giraffe ears. We hear the person telling us that they have certain feelings right now; even if they speak Jackal, we sense what their feelings are. We try to consciously observe what we have done that they are reacting to. We try to hear the needs on their part that aren’t getting met, and we try to hear what they want us to do about those needs. When we have a Giraffe tongue, all we do is say these same four things to the other person. When we have Giraffe ears, that’s all we
hear. That’s the language of Giraffe. Simple.

Obviously it is simple, but it’s obviously difficult if you were taught to speak Jackal as I was. In Jackal, if you say what you feel or what you want (which are the foundations of Giraffe), you’re very likely to get a rather harsh Jackaling. In a Jackal culture, feelings and wants are rather severely punished. The whole purpose of the language of Jackal –where it comes from historically– is that it’s a wonderful language for maintaining hierarchical structures for teaching people to be docile and subservient in relation to authority. If you want people to be slave-like in their reaction to authority, it’s very important to get people alienated from their feelings and needs. In fact, in a Jackal culture feelings and needs are equated with selfishness: “Loving people don’t go around saying what they feel and what they need.” “Loving people deny their own needs and do for others.” I hope none of you have ever heard that, but people are actually taught that in a Jackal culture. To come out of a Jackal culture and try to be literate in Giraffe takes a certain amount of courage. Any questions before I give you a chance to practice Giraffe? ….. Yes.

Participant: Would you go over that last thing you talked about: “In the Jackal culture… feelings are dangerous cr…?”

Marshall: Yes, it’s my belief –and certainly not only mine, but that of many scholars who have looked into the origins of language — that language very much fits the culture in which people live in order to prepare them for the kind of culture in which they live. An example often given refers to Eskimo cultures, where there are 20 different words for various qualities of snow because snow is very important. In a culture you get words and language that fit what is important in that culture.

Most of us come out of a tradition where, not too far back in our families, somebody lived under a king. In my case, for example, my grandfather lived under a czar. Well, if you are going to have a hierarchy like that (or an industrial setting that is set up on a hierarchical basis), it’s very important that the bulk of the people are taught to be subservient to authority. Now how do you make people subservient to authority? You teach them that what is going on inside of themselves is not good; it’s bad. You teach them an other-directive language: “Don’t act unless your act is right. Don’t do anything inappropriate.” And how do I know what is “right’? What’s “appropriate”? Don’t worry,
we’ll have people called authorities liberally sprinkled around who will be there to tell you what is right, what is appropriate, what is normal. So you teach people a language not to identify what is going on in themselves but what is going on out there, while simultaneously teaching them that authority knows what is ultimately right or appropriate.

Participant: Isn’t it also always helpful for the culture to make sure that I don’t have much language about “choice”?

Marshall: It’s very important in Jackal to teach people they don’t have choice. You know why? In a Jackal culture they believe that human beings are basically sinful, evil, and selfish until they are shaped up by moral people like you and me… and I often worry about you. [Laughter] So, if you have that view of human beings that has been rather widely distributed in recent centuries, you sure don’t want people to think they have choice.

Participant: It would be helpful to authority if I don’t even have any words of choice.

Marshall: Not even words of choice. That’s why the first words that Jackal children usually hear are “have to,” “should,” “ought to,” “must,” “can’t,” “supposed to.” I got a doctor’s degree in psychology without having any literacy whatsoever for expressing feelings and needs. It was basically only necessary for me to know what was right according to my supervisors.

I began to see how important it was to the people who were coming into my office to see me that I am a human being with feelings and needs, and not a person sitting there judging them and claiming to know what is normal. When I became aware of that, I did a workshop for psychologists and psychiatrists in which I shared how Giraffe was helping me to reveal my own feelings and needs and allowing me to sound more like a person. A woman psychiatrist stands up and says, “Dr. Rosenberg, don’t you see what you are doing? You are allowing your narcissism to interfere with your ability to do psychotherapy.” Then a gentleman arises in my defense and turns to this woman and says, “Don’t you see what you are doing? You’re projecting your narcissism onto this man.” [Laughter]

I was watching this and thinking to myself,. “Woody Allen, where are you now? Get here quick, there’s a movie for you in this, buddy. These are our healers, Woody. This is how they talk!” Isn’t that enough to scare you? And this was how I myself was trained to think. I liked it because it was easy: I already knew how not to express my feelings, not to express my needs, not to make myself vulnerable. I had great teachers for doing that – people like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and so forth. All the heroes I was exposed to let me know that men don’t express feelings and needs. Men label and classify. Old John, he’s swinging open the doors of the tavern: there could be six guns on him but he never said, “I’m scared.” Old John could be out in the desert for months and he never said he was lonely. No feelings. What did John do? He’d classify people. He’d label them a “good guy,” in which case he’d buy them a drink or he’d label them a “bad guy,” in which case he’d kill or beat them up. That’s a nice simple world. [Laughter] You certainly don’t need a vocabulary of emotions and needs. [Marshall gets out his guitar and sings:]


I grew up believing that what was expected of me
Was to prove how strong and violent I could be.
But now John Wayne is no longer my hero,
And I’m going to allow gentleness to show.
I’ve been afraid to admit it
When I’ve been lonely or sad,
I thought feelings were weakness,
And I thought weakness was bad.
But now old Rambo is no longer my hero
And I’m going to allow gentleness to show.

Marshall: Tonight we’ll work with this sheet [handout] to express our feelings, needs, and requests to the other person. We’ll see how to do it in a language that’s least likely to be heard as criticism or demand. Of course, we may use the most careful language to call attention to what is going on inside of us and scrupulously avoid words that in any way could pass as judgment or attack. But if we are with a Jackal-speaking person, that doesn’t mean they won’t still hear judgment. For example, one time in my office, I spoke to a Jackal-speaking woman. I was annoyed with her
smoking where she was because the smoke was coming right in my eyes. I made a request and asked if she would mind moving toward the window. She said, “Oh, I’m terribly sorry.” You see, that is a real Jackal concept – to apologize. Why do you apologize? Because you think you have done something wrong.

There is never such a thing as “doing something wrong” in Giraffe so there is no need to apologize. You might say you’re sad because you really didn’t want something to happen to someone that happened. That expresses a genuine concern, but you can’t have that genuine concern for others when you’re feeling guilty and needing to be forgiven. Forgiveness is also a Jackal concept. I saw that with her right away so I asked, ’’Could you tell me what you heard me say?” She replied, “Oh, I agree with you; it was terribly thoughtless of me.” Even though I had tried to express my feelings,
needs, and requests without any criticism or demand, because she had on Jackal ears, she heard a judgment and agreed with it. Jackals can sure hear demands even if you don’t make demands.

We need to get clear tonight on the difference between a request and a demand. If I you and I are sitting in the living room together and I say to you, “I’m really thirsty and I would appreciate it if you would get me a drink of water,” is that a Giraffe request or a Jackal demand? It could be either. You can’t tell whether something is a request or demand by how it’s expressed. You find out by how the speaker treats the other person if the other person doesn’t do it. Suppose you say to me, “Marshall, I’m really tired and I’d like you to ask somebody else,” and I reply, ‘That’s lazy, you haven’t been doing anything except sit around all day; I’ve been doing all the work.” You know it
was a demand then because I’m putting my request to you in a way that gives you no choice but to either do what I ask or have me view you as having something wrong.

Here is another Jackal demand, and if you’re afraid of Jackals, I would advise you not to watch because this is a very frightening Jackal. This one that I’m about to portray probably destroys more intimate relationships than any Jackal I know. But notice how sweetly the Jackal makes it sound, and how on the surface it sounds like a request: “I’m so tired and thirsty I’d be grateful if you’d get me a drink of water.” And you respond, “Marshall, I’m really tired and I’d like you to ask somebody else.”

Jackal: …‘[Marshall puts his head down in complete silence.]

And here’s the jackal two days later:

Jackal: … [Marshall’s head still down in silence.]

Other person: What’s the matter?

Jackal: Nothing.

Other person: Come on, what’s the matter?

Jackal: You knew how tired I was, you knew how thirsty I was! If you loved me, you would have gotten me the water.

You see, that’s a Jackal who puts requests out to other people in a way that states, [“You prove your love for me by doing what I want.’’ Notice that no matter how sweetly it is asked for, the real test of whether it’s a request or demand is the respect you give to people if they don’t do what you want. We’ll see later that to be a Giraffe doesn’t mean that, if the other person doesn’t do what you want, you have to give up your needs. You can persist as a Giraffe in trying to persuade, but you do it in a different way – one that doesn’t try to influence by guilt. We have no guarantee, of course, that if we speak Giraffe, the other person will hear Giraffe so we have to have some skills for checking whether the message the person received is the message we intended.

Participant G: I have a question here. The woman asked the man for a glass of water. The thing that’s missing for me is his acknowledgement of her need. So rather than just saying, “I’m tired and I want you to ask someone else,” he could somehow acknowledge what she asked.

Marshall: You’re saying that if the person who is in the receiving role acknowledges the first person’s needs before saying “no,” it makes all the difference in the world. Indeed, but most people are so afraid of what is going to happen if they say “no,” that their fear gets in the way of making that acknowledgement. Then their eyes show the fear that they have about saying “no,” and the other person experiences that as a real attack. So yes, that acknowledgment you mention is very important.

It’s also important to know how to say “no” in Giraffe because when you say, “I don’t want to,” the other person is likely to hear that as a rejection if they’re a Jackal. So in Giraffe we don’t actually say the words “no” or “I don’t want to.” We say what we do want that keeps us from giving the other person what they want. That makes all the difference in the world. But before we tell the person how we have another need at that moment that keeps us from meeting theirs, we first acknowledge and empathize with their need.

Participant G: And because there is no negation, it doesn’t engender the hurt, annoyance, or anger that carries over — you know, the two-day deal.

Marshall: Yes, but if the thirsty person speaks Jackal, they can read judgments and terrible things into anything. We have no ability to control the other person’s response. As a Giraffe, we learn to stay with Giraffe no matter how the other person responds. And to do that, this next part is very important: how to see the other person’s feelings, needs and requests regardless of how they communicate, and how to receive their expressions without hearing any demand or criticism of ourselves.

So these four things constitute a bird’s eye view of what we are doing if we are a Giraffe. Let me give you a chance to practice expressing yourself to this person that you have in mind this evening in “classical Giraffe,” even though, as I said before the break, you don’t have to say all four of these things out loud. Sometimes in the situation, it’s implicit. Just to make sure we all understand what these four ingredients are, let’s go back to the friend that you were talking to.

First I start by telling the Jackal what I observed. In natural English speech, however, instead of “I observed ___________ ,” I would probably say, if I am referring to something they said, “When I hear you say ___________ .” If I were reacting to some words they used, I would probably quote those words. Or if it is something they did, I would probably say, “When I see you ___________ .” Remember to be clear and concrete, and not put anything in there that would sound like a diagnosis. [Participants are writing on their handouts.]

When you have clear for the other person what you observe them doing, then write down how you feel when they do it. Write words that clearly describe your emotions. Then go to the third ingredient and tell the person what need of yours doesn’t get met when they behave that way. For example, “I feel hurt” or “angry” or whatever, followed by “because I would have liked ___________ ” or “because I was wanting ___________ .“ There are a number of ways you could say that.

Now end with the most Giraffish statement of all: state what the other person could do to make your most wonderful dreams come true. You see, we always end on that in Giraffe because we want to give the other person a chance to play a starring role in our most beautiful dreams. That’s what we want them to hear when we make a request, not a demand that “you either do it or else.” We express in very clear language exactly what we want the person to do right then.

I’ll give you three minutes to do the best you can and then we’ll work on it live. If you didn’t get it, the Giraffe will help you [Marshall holds up his Giraffe puppet]. The main thing while you are working on this incident is to make sure you are doing it in a Giraffe way, which means that you don’t worry about getting it wrong. Giraffes remind themselves over and over, “anything worth doing at all is worth doing poorly.” It’s a Jackal classroom if everybody is worrying about getting it wrong. No, no, for a Giraffe, it’s fun to mess it up; that’s how you learn. [Silence while everyone writes.]

Now to make it easy for you, we’re going to play a little game called “Give the Jackal a Giraffe Pill.” [Marshall pretends to feed the Jackal puppet a pill which it gulps down.] Now your listener will be a Giraffe and that’ll make it easier for you. Then even if you don’t express it in Classical Giraffe, they’ll help you rather than jump all over you. While the Giraffe pill is working, try to get yours done, because once the pill wears off, it’ll be a hard learning session. Who wants to go while the Giraffe pill is in effect? [A participant volunteers, to which Marshall responds:] Please tell me what is going on for you.

Participant H: “When I hear you ask for things, I feel hurt and sad because of the way you ask for them.”

Marshall: Excuse me, but when you say you feel as you do because of what I do, I have trouble hearing you.

Participant H: Oh, right, right. I added that by mistake. Let me read what I wrote: “When I hear you ask for things, I feel hurt and sad because I would have liked you to ask in a way that doesn’t hurt my feelings; and I would now like you to help me understand your requests and meet your needs if I am able.”

Marshall: Pretty close, but it implies that the way I spoke makes you feel hurt. And then there’s the word “help” — you say “help you understand.” You see, “help” can be pretty vague. I love this cartoon I got recently in Cleveland, Ohio. It shows a man falling into a river; he can’t swim and his dog is up on shore so he says, “Lassie, get help!” And in the next picture you see the dog on a psychiatrist’s couch. [Laughter] So let’s be a little more specific. What do you want me to do when you say “Help me understand…?”

Participant H: “I would like you to show me how I can meet your needs.”

Marshall: Are you wanting him to demonstrate how you can meet his needs? Or rather, are you wanting him to tell you what needs of his he would like you to meet?

Participant H: Yeah.

Marshall: So you want him to give you information, to tell you something. Very often that’s what we want from people. In fact, as a Giraffe, we never want the other person to just do something, such as pick up their clothes from the couch and put them in the closet. No, we would like the other person to tell us if they would be willing to do so. We say this often in Giraffe because we are aware of how much people live with Jackals who don’t care about the other person’s willingness. So yes, there is usually something we want the other person to tell us at that moment. In this case what would you like for the other person to tell you? How you could better meet his needs?

Participant H: Um, yes, that’s right.

Marshall (role-playing other person): “Well, we could get back to the first discomfort I felt when you asked me to ‘speak in a way that doesn’t hurt your feelings.’ I would feel a lot safer with you if I had some reassurance from you that you are aware that I can’t make you feel hurt, that nothing I say or do can make you feel hurt. After that I would I like you to tell me how you feel when I say all this to you.”

Participant H: “I feel the hurt is probably my own reaction, whether you are trying to make me feel hurt or not.”

Marshall (in role): “Yes, I would feel safer if I was certain you knew for sure that, even if I tried to make you feel hurt, I couldn’t do it. I would feel safer if you would acknowledge and say right now that you realize if you feel hurt, it’s always because of what you do and never because of what I do. Would you be willing to say that?’’

Participant H: “Yes, I am.”

Marshall: Is everybody clear about that? What we are saying right now is that it’s never what other people do that makes us feel as we do. I was working not long ago in Sweden and there was a prisoner there who didn’t agree with me:

John: I don’t agree with you.

Marshall: About what?

John: That other people can’t make you feel as you do.

Marshall: OK, give me an example where you think somebody makes you feel as you do.

John: Right now I’m angrier than hell at the prison officials.

Marshall: Alright, and what makes you feel angry?

John: They do. I made a request three weeks ago and they still haven’t responded to it.

Marshall: So to your way of thinking, it’s what they did that makes you angry?

John: Yes, it is.

Marshall: I don’t believe it’s what other people do that makes you angry.

John: Well, then, what does?

Marshall: Your Jackal brain.

John: What are you talking about?

Marshall: I think its not what they did, but what you tell yourself about what they did that makes you angry.

John: What do you mean?

Marshall: Look inside and tell me what you think about what they did.

John: Well, it shows that they’re a bunch of faceless bureaucrats who don’t give a damn for anybody but themselves!

Marshall: That’s what makes you angry.

John: What?

Marshall: That way of thinking about it.

John: Well, what’s wrong with thinking that way about it?

Marshall: I didn’t say you were wrong for thinking that way. What I said is it’s my belief that you’re angry because you think that way, not because of what they did. Let me show you another possibility. Instead of focusing your attention out on them and what they’ve done wrong, focus your
attention on what you’re needing and not getting.

John: Well, man, I need the training I asked for. If I don’t get it, I’m going to end up back here in prison when I get out of here.

Marshall: OK, now how do you feel when you’re aware of that?

John: Scared.

Marshall: So you see, it’s not what they do that makes for your feelings: it’s where you put your attention. If you put your attention out there judging them, you get angry, but if you’re in touch with your needs, you feel scared. So as a Giraffe you say, “I’m angry because I’m telling myself these thoughts,” not “I get angry because they …”

Now you could just about see smoke coming out of his ears. He was really thinking about that and then he looked like somebody had hit him on the head with a brick.

Marshall: Hey, buddy, what’s going on?

John: Can’t talk about it.

About three hours later he was able to tell me what was going on. He was realizing that, had he learned this two years ago, he would not have killed his best friend. You see, when we really trick ourselves into thinking that our pain comes from other people, then we want to punish. Very dangerous. All violence, is the result of just what we saw with this young prisoner. It’s the result of teaching people to think their feelings are the result not of what is going on inside of themselves, but because of what is wrong “out there.” When that starts to happen, people are not clear what is
going on internally. When I focused John’s attention by asking him, “What are your needs that aren’t being met,” he realized that he was scared, but until then he thought he was angry because of them. He was making judgments of them and was not conscious of his fear.

As Jackals, we are taught to make judgments so quickly that it really looks like it’s what other people are doing that makes us angry. When we are in that state of mind we are dangerous. We will say things to our children, to our wives, to anybody, designed to hurt, punish and blame because we really think they make us feel a certain way.

[Addressing participant H] So your attempt to express yourself in Classical Giraffe was close; it only needed the additional clarification to replace the word “help.” Now, with my youngest son, if I say, “I would like you to help with the dishes,” he’ll say, “OK, I’ll supervise.” [Laughter] Yeah, you’ve got to be much more concrete with him.

Participant H: So if you’re asking someone to help, like a kid, and they say “no,” what do you say?

Marshall: You say, “Are you feeling because you would like _ ?” No matter what another person says to me, if I have Giraffe ears I hear, “They are feeling __ because they would like _. ” I never hear “no.” I hear what want is behind the “no” that keeps them from doing it. In cases like this, when people say “no” in a nasty kind of way, it’s not too hard to guess what it is: what they almost always want is to protect their autonomy. They’ve heard your request as a demand so what they’re really saying is, “I want to do things when I choose to do them, and not because I am being forced to do them.”

I might respond, “Are you annoyed and you’re wanting to do it at your own leisure and not when you’re told to do it?” Especially if the person responds in any of the following ways, I usually know they have heard a demand and not a request:

Marshall: Jackal, would you be willing to put your coat in the closet?

Jackal [sighing]: All right. [Marshall shows Jackal puppet sulking.]

I knew they heard a demand rather than a request because, when you hear a request, you feel good; it’s a chance to contribute to another person’s well-being. I can do it willingly. I’m not being forced.

Marshall: Jackal, I’d like you to put your coat in the closet.

Jackal [sighing]: Who was your slave in your last life? [Laughter]

This one didn’t hear my request either. The want is the same; they want to protect their autonomy. When a person says “no” in a kind of sharp way, I hear they’re probably annoyed because they want to do things with their own willingness, not because they are being forced. _

Participant H: So as a Giraffe, do you let them do it in their own time?

Marshall: Not necessarily, because as you will see tonight, once I empathize with what’s going on for the other person and what they want, that doesn’t mean I must do what they want. What they mainly need is for me to show a respectful acknowledgement of their needs. So if I were to say:

Giraffe: I’d like you to put your coat in the closet.

Jackal: No, I don’t wanna.

Giraffe: Are you feeling annoyed right now because you want to do it at your own pace and not because you’re forced to do it?
Jackal: Yeah, I’m sick and tired of being a slave.

Giraffe: So you really want to do things when it feels good to do it and not just to avoid being forced.

Just that acknowledgment and understanding of the other person is what I offer as a Giraffe. At that point I can persist if I want to. Empathy does not mean I have to deny my needs; it just means I hear the other person’s needs first: Then I can come back and say, “Do it or I’ll make you wish you had!“ [Laughter] No, no, that’s Jackal.

* * *

[Marshall sings a song to which participants applaud.]

Participant I: Great song!

Marshall: Now, let me show you how to say “thank you” in Giraffe. You see, when you say “great song,” that’s a judgment. How did you feel when I sang the song? What feelings were behind “great song!”

Participant I: It was accurate.

Marshall: That’s still judging the song. Notice it’s not telling me what is going on inside of you.

Participant I: It made me feel good.

Marshall: You felt good. Most of us who are coming out of a Jackal background have a two-word vocabulary for feelings: I feel good, I feel bad.

Participant I: That was just what I was concerned about! We could reduce it to saying “I feel good” for the rest of our lives. [Laughter]

Marshall: What feeling did you have when you said it’s a great song?

Participant I: I can relate to it.

Marshall: That tells me what you can do but, you see, if we want to say “Thank you” in Giraffe, we have to know how to say how we feel inside.

Participant I: I felt like there was a whole realm…

Marshall: Excuse me… after your third word I knew it wasn’t going to be a feeling. You said, “I felt like…” If our third word is “like” or “that,” it isn’t going to be a feeling; it’s going to be a thought.

Participant I: That’s what it was. [Laughter]

Marshall: Yeah, it’s amazing. So how did you feel when you heard the song?

Participant I: Well, I felt amused.

Marshall: There’s a feeling. Now notice she tells me what is going on in her. She is not telling me what the song is, which could get to an argument. Somebody says, “That’s a great song.” Somebody else says, “No, it isn’t, it’s a lousy song.” Well, that’s arguing. Feelings are not arguing. Each of us could have different feelings.

Participant I: I felt several things. I felt amused, I felt relieved, happy.

Marshall: As the singer of the song, I get much more information when you tell me all that goes on in you.

Participant I: It seems so foreign to me. [Laughter]

Marshall: Me too. Me too. In fact my son Brett said to me one day, “Dad, have you ever noticed how much more likely you are to call attention to things that aren’t going well as opposed to mentioning things that you enjoy?” ’Cause you see, coming out of a Jackal background, I have a crisis mentality. I’m always looking for how things could be done better and I forget how important it is to let people know how good I feel about certain things that they do. It’s just a foreign vocabulary. So that night I wrote a song thinking of the sadness of how difficult it is for me to become aware of the joyful and celebrative feelings, and how I’m not used to sharing those. The best I could do was, “You did great. Good job.” The song starts:

If I’m 98% perfect in anything I do,
It’s the 2% I’ve messed up
I’ll remember when I’m through.

[Laughter] In a Jackal background, we keep focusing on what didn’t get done well, and we don’t remember to celebrate and let people know the positive feelings. I did have one teacher at the University of Michigan who was an exception to this, bless his soul. One time he gave us an examination; I hadn’t studied, I didn’t feel like faking it, and just handed in a blank exam with my name on it. So I was rather shocked when it came back with 14%. I asked him, “What’s this about?” He said, “Neatness.” [Laughter]

[Addressing participant I] So you had lots of feelings in relationship to the song, and now, to make it a real Giraffe thank-you, you would go on to tell me what needs of yours were fulfilled behind the good feelings. You might say, “I feel relieved because _, ” and then you let me know what value or need of yours was fulfilled in relationship to the song.

Participant I: Is this where I tell you my thoughts?

Marshall: As Giraffes we know we can express ourselves much more powerfully if we tell the person what we need rather than what we think. So if we are in pain, the “because” statement in Giraffe would be, “I feel hurt because I would have liked , ” or “I am frustrated because I would have liked .” However, if we are saying thank-you, we would say, “I feel relieved when I hear that because I really want to relate to my children differently, and that song gives me a new insight as to how to do it.”

Participant I: That’s just what I meant.

Marshall: I was able to guess that because I had Giraffe ears, so even when you said, “Great song!” I didn’t hear “great song”. I don’t hear judgments, whether positive or negative. I tune to the feelings or needs being expressed through the statement. But if I am a Jackal and you say “Great song!” you become scary to me because it looks to me like you are standing in judgment of what I do.

Participant I: You mean, “What are my other songs like?” [Laughter]

Marshall: Yeah, exactly. [Laughter] (That’s what happens if we say to somebody, “You did a great job.” It tells them we sit and judge whether the job is good or bad? The more we’re sitting in judgment, the less safety other people can feel in relationship to us unless they have Giraffe ears and know what you feel behind it. Then you can say anything. If you have Giraffe ears, there are no Jackals. Jackals are simply illiterate Giraffes so you don’t have any problem.

Who else wants to check out what you have written down and see how it fits? I’ll keep giving the Jackal a Giraffe pill to make it easy for a while. [Marshall pretends to give the Jackal puppet a Giraffe pill.] So what do you have down for me?

Participant J: Well, you’re going to really find out what a Jackal I am! [laughs]

Marshall: Everybody’s somebody’s Jackal.

Participant J: OK, let’s see. “When I hear anger coming from you…”

Marshall: Wait a minute. That’s your diagnosis. Did I say I’m angry, or are you assuming it?

Participant J: If I get barbs, what do I call it?

Marshall: Now that’s a diagnosis, not an observation. Do you mean, when I broke all the windows and shot the gun into the ceiling? [Laughter] That’s a behavior, you see. Even then it might not have been that I was angry; I might have been hurt. However, if I said I was angry, then you can give me a direct quote, “When you said that you were angry….” Remember, your statement needs to be an observation.

Participant J: Well, how would I… do it?

Marshall: What leads you to say that I was angry? Was it a tone in my voice?

Participant J: Yeah.

Marshall: Here it would be helpful, of course, if you can remember what the person had actually said.

Participant J: I don’t.

Marshall: OK, but can you remember the situation? It would help even if you could make reference to the situation. Was it yesterday in the kitchen as you were talking about the meal that I used a certain tone of voice?

Participant J: No, it was just kind of a continuing thing for four or five days.

Marshall: “So it was four or five days last week from Monday through Thursday, the tone of voice I used when I was talking to you. That’s what you are talking about? The look on my face and the tone of voice? Is that it?”

Participant J: Yes.

Marshall: Ah, OK. “How did you feel when I said those things with that tone of voice?”

Participant J: “I felt hurt.”

Marshall: Because why?

Participant J: “Because I would have liked to have had peace.”

Marshall: OK, so far very Giraffe-like. “And now what are you wanting from me in relationship to that?”

Participant J: Well, I don’t want to tell you. [Laughter]

Marshall: You don’t have to worry because, you see, I took my Giraffe pill.

Participant J: OK. “I would now like you to refrain from talking to me in an angry manner.”

Marshall: “So you would like me to tell you what I’m really feeling and needing at those moments. Is that what you are wanting?”

Notice I have translated what you don’t want (to “not have me talk to you in an angry tone”) into what you do want.

Oh, no! The Giraffe pill just wore off! [Laughter]

(as Jackal partner:) “What good would it do to tell you? You never listen!”

Participant J: Oh no, I’d start crying here! [Laughter]

Marshall: But not after tonight. If you cry, it would be because you heard that as an attack or criticism. After tonight you’ll be conscious that there is no such thing as criticism, attack or judgment. You’ll be conscious that what starts to sound that way is simply an expression of pain and an unmet need.

Participant J: Then… what I heard was a “please.”

Marshall: Exactly. After tonight when a person says that, the first words to enter your consciousness even if you don’t say them out loud — would be: “Are you feeling _ (and you are trying to guess the person’s feeling) because you are needing ___ ?” Try that out, starting first with the feelings of this Jackal.

Jackal: “What good does talking to you do; you never listen!”

[Marshall prompts participant J] So start with, “Jackal, are you feeling _?” and then guess what I’m feeling.

Participant J: [Silence]

Marshall: Let me give you some help. The Jackal’s not happy.

Participant J: “Are you feeling unhappy with me?”

Marshall: Almost.. .but notice Jackals never have their feelings in relation to us. It’s not “Are you angry (or unhappy) with me?” It’s “Are you unhappy?” and the second part would be “because you were wanting _______?” Try that.

Participant J: “Are you unhappy…?”

Marshall: So that takes our attention from “Are you unhappy with me?” to “Are you unhappy because you would have liked ” or “because you were wanting ?” We put our attention on the other person’s feelings and needs, and then everything the Jackal says to us is a gift, never an attack.

Participant J: What would I say? “Are you unhappy because you….?” Because you what?

Marshall: From the content of what the Jackal says, we get our clue.

Jackal: What good does talking to you do? You never listen!

So what is the Jackal needing that the Jackal is not getting?

Participant J: “Because you feel like I don’t understand you?”

Marshall: Hold it, hold it. Everybody slow down now. Notice what she did: instead of hearing what the Jackal is needing, she heard a judgment of herself. “Are you unhappy because you think that I don’t listen?” You’re taking it personally. Do you see what you did there?

Participant J: Yeah, I do.

Marshall: The more we hear judgment, the harder it becomes because then the speaker looks like a Jackal. But if you would have said, “Are you feeling unhappy because you would have liked ,” you would have seen a miracle occur in front of your very eyes.

Participant J: Because you would have liked… what?

Marshall: Well, what do you think someone wants when they say “you never listen?”

Participant J: They want to be heard.

Marshall: Yeah: “Are you feeling unhappy because you would like to be heard better than you feel you are being heard?”

If your attention is on those two things — what the person is feeling and needing — there will never be a Jackal in front of you. It’ll always be a Giraffe. Jackals are only Giraffes with a language problem. But notice you heard judgment in two ways. First you said, “Are you unhappy with me?” Right away you’re taking the message personally. Then in your second attempt, “Are you unhappy because you think I …?” Your attention is on what you did wrong, not on the Jackal’s pain and unmet needs. The quicker you can train yourself to hear (no matter what’s coming at you), “Are you
feeling because you are needing _,” the safer you will be. You cannot get wiped out by another person when your attention is on their feelings and needs.

Participant J: I might be able to do all this if I were to look at the other person as a child.

Marshall: After tonight, if I do my job well and give you your money’s worth, you’ll be able to do it with anybody at any time. If not, you’ll just have to practice beyond tonight, because I realize that sometimes it does take a little more practice. [Laughter] But I do want you to see that this is a possibility. We can train ourselves to hear the feelings and needs behind any message, and when we do, there are no Jackals in the world, nothing to be afraid of. No matter what other people say, it’s a gift when we train ourselves to hear the other person’s feelings and needs. Even if we don’t say
anything out loud, but just to ourselves, “Are you feeling because you would have liked ?” we’d be better off. When our attention is on the other person’s feelings and needs, it’s always clear there’s a human being in front of us.

* * *

Next participant (K): How would you respond to a person who is infuriated when you talk in terms of feelings?

Marshall: I would empathize with them, but do it silently. If I did it out loud they would probably say, “Don’t pull any of that psychology crap on me!”

Participant K: Right.

Marshall: So I hear their message… Now in order to hear what is going on inside of me when someone responds to me in that way, I’ll put on my hat [Marshall refers to a hat that he uses as a symbol of the internal processing that must be done before one responds to a Jackal-type comment.] This indicates that the talking is happening internally, not out loud:

Jackal: Don’t pull any of that psychology crap on me!

Giraffe (under hat): So, do you distrust me when I talk about feelings, and would you like me to keep the conversation in a way that you’re more familiar with?

Without saying that out loud, I still hear feelings and needs and see a human being in front of me. I can understand a person might distrust a different way of speaking, and they might want me to speak to them in a way they are more familiar with. Why does that have to make them a Jackal? That’s just their feelings and needs. I may at times not say things out loud if I can see they will be misinterpreted, but I never give the other person the power to tell me where my attention goes. My attention is one of the most precious gifts I was given, so I don’t allow other people to dictate where my attention goes. As a Giraffe, I always want my attention to go to life, the life that is in myself, and to connect to the life that is going on in the other person. As a Giraffe, my attention never varies from connecting to my feelings and needs, and trying to hear the other person’s feelings and needs.

Participant K: But what if the Jackal is unwilling to hear anything that sounds like Giraffe language? How do you communicate?

Marshall: Well, I’m being a Jackal if I interpret them as “unwilling,” because I’m willing to judge them.

Participant K: This could be hard to do — all this!

Marshall: You see, “unwilling” may seem to describe a feeling, but it’s a judgment similar to saying that someone is being “defensive,” “closed minded,” or “rigid.” No, I need to hear what feelings and needs the person is expressing at that moment.

Jackal: Don’t manipulate me with all of this feeling crap!

What I say in response is not as important as where my attention goes: “Are you feeling frightened because you need some assurance that I’m not trying out a new language just to manipulate you?” I don’t need to say anything if I just hear the possible feelings and needs behind it. Then it’s always a human being there.

Now, sometimes if I’m not sure and I really want to know, I may check it out orally with the other person. If I do it only when I genuinely want to make sure I’ve accurately connected, then it’s not going to sound like I’m a parrot just rotely parroting back everything a person says.

Giraffe: Are you feeling uncomfortable with this reflecting of feelings, and wanting to keep things at another level?

Then I wait to see what the other person tells me. Again, even if I don’t say it out loud or am wrong in my guess, as long my guess was an attempt to connect with what this person is feeling and needing, it’s a different world. It’s only an ugly world when I start judging this person: “They shouldn’t talk to me that way.” “This person is closed-minded, rigid,” or if I let them judge me. If I actually start to wonder, “Am I what this person tells me,” if I give Jackals the power to judge me, it’s a heck of a world because one thing Jackals are very generous with is their judgments and diagnoses. If I open up to a Jackal, they’ll often tell me what’s wrong with me for feeling that way. But that’s what’s nice about a Jackal: then you don’t have to worry any more, you know what’s
wrong with you and can go to bed at night and sleep. [Laughter]

* * *

Participant: When I did my first workshop with you four years ago, I thought at that time I was a Giraffe in a world of Jackals. I’m back because, in using these methods, I’ve uncovered unknown layers of Jackaldom in myself. [Laughter] There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to be the one to end the war; I want to make a few people pay before I get real Giraffe-like. [Laughter] Your methods have helped me see that.

Marshall: It’s very important, if we do Jackal other people, that we not Jackal ourselves for Jackaling other people. First of all, anger is a very valuable feeling to a Giraffe because anger tells me that two things are going on inside of me at the same time. First, I want something very badly that I’m not getting and second, I’m thinking in a way that is guaranteed to not get what I want. Anger tells me I’m not connected to what I need; instead, I’m up in my head judging the other person. If I do do that, however, at least I don’t judge myself for it. I don’t say to myself, “You shouldn’t judge other people; you’re acting like a real Jackal.” No, if I’m angry, I stop and I enjoy the Jackal-show going on in my head.

Unless I start with compassion for myself, how am I going to use this for other people? If I blame myself for Jackaling other people, it just keeps the game going. We learn to empathize with ourselves. There’s a book called Focusing by Eugene T. Gendlin which helps a lot of people speak more Giraffe with themselves. It shows how to slow down the reaction in oneself, and how to stay away from saying, “I shouldn’t have what is going on inside of me going on,” but rather to be conscious of whatever is going on inside without judging oneself.

Participant: Could you repeat that part about the two components of anger?

Marshall: Of course. When I’m angry, as a Giraffe I’m aware that I need something very badly that I’m not getting, but I’m not in touch with my needs. All of my consciousness is oriented out there on what’s wrong with the other person. So here’s what I do: first I become conscious of the anger — certainly I don’t try to repress it.

Participant: You changed it, and I don’t know how you changed it.

Marshall: Here’s what was happening:

Jackal: What good does talking to you do? You never understand!

Giraffe: Are you saying that you get really frustrated because you’d like more understanding from me than you received?

Jackal: You couldn’t understand me if you wanted. You’re so involved in your own needs, you couldn’t understand other people if you tried!

Notice the Giraffe is silent. The Giraffe is remembering the Buddha’s advice, “Don’t just do something, stand there.” Stand there when you want to kill the person. If you’re angry it means you didn’t hear them, but got caught up in their language. So the Giraffe gives itself some empathy; first it becomes conscious that it is angry. Then it deals with its own anger internally after which it can proceed to focus its attention on the other person.

Giraffe: Sounds like you’re really furious and wanting much more attention from me than you’re getting, but you’re not confident that you’ll ever get that. Jackal: That’s right, I’m sick and tired of it. Giraffe: So you’re fed up and you’ve been wanting this a long time and not getting it. Jackal: It’s about time you heard that.

Notice what comes out of the Giraffe’s mouth is always evidence that it’s trying to hear the other person’s feelings and needs. For a while it couldn’t do that because it got caught up in the other person’s Jackals so it had to give itself some emergency first-aid.

You were asking about anger. Anger means two things: I need something that I’m not getting, but my consciousness is not on what I need. My consciousness is oriented “out there.” I’m judging what’s wrong “out there.” How can I expect the other person to give me what I want if what is mainly coming from me is judgments of them? Even if I don’t say the judgments, even if I put on a smile and say, “would you mind?” they can see the judgment in my eyes. Is that clear about the two things?

Participant: Yes.

Marshall: As a Giraffe I say to myself, “I’m angry because I…” to make myself conscious that it isn’t what the other person is doing that’s making me angry. I listen to hear what’s going on inside; for example, I might be telling myself, “This person is really a narcissist.”

As a Giraffe I am also aware, as I’ve said a couple of times tonight, that all judgments are tragic expressions of unmet needs — “tragic” in the sense that, when my consciousness is up here judging, it’s going to be impossible for other people to give me what I need. As a Giraffe I ask myself, “What am I needing when I say that this other person is a narcissist? What needs of mine are not getting met?“ I’ll know when I get clear on this because there will be a radical transformation in my feelings: I will no longer be angry. I may feel scared or despairing or hurt, but never angry. You see,
anger is only a result of thinking that is alienated from our needs — when I’m in my head analyzing. Keep in mind, though, I’m not repressing the anger; that’s dangerous. I’m transforming it into a more life-oriented feeling, such as hurt, fear, whatever…

Another participant (L): Marshall, several times when I was very angry, because of my Giraffe training I was able to become acutely aware of what I was wanting and not getting and even what exactly I was telling myself about this person or situation. Yet though I did indeed see it was my thinking that was making me angry and not the other guy “making” me angry, I was nevertheless still stuck there. I found myself in the dilemma where, as long as I perceived him in a judgmental way, he was unlikely to give me what I so desperately wanted. And as long as he didn’t give me what I wanted, I was inclined to continue perceiving him in a judgmental way. I was stuck because I didn’t have the means to move myself away from that perception. Do you have a step-by-step method to pull yourself up by your boot-straps in that situation?

Marshall: Sometimes the needs you identify in a particular situation may tap into other very deep things or into other needs, and it may be very confusing. When I’m not able to give myself the emergency first-aid or empathy I need at that time, I say to the other person, “Time out. I need to do some work on myself before we continue this, because if we do, I’m likely to say things that aren’t going to get either of us what we want.”

Participant L: I’m glad you said that. I want to know what kind of work you would want to do with yourself in that situation.

Marshall: In the situation?

Participant L: No, afterwards, when you’ve had six years’ time out. [Laughter]

Marshall; Well, it depends. If I’m very fortunate and live within screaming distance of a Giraffe Support Team, I’ll call, “Giraffe Support Team! Get over here quick, I’m about to kill a Jackal! [Laughter] I’ve got a lot of pain in relationship to this person. I find out it’s tapping things so deep that I really cannot stay connected to my needs. I just have judgments, and it would be a great gift if you would be willing to reflect back and help me sort out what is going on inside of myself. Would you be willing to do that?’’ And if it’s a Giraffe Support Team, sometimes the answer will be, “Yes, I’d be glad to,” and sometimes, “I’m in too much pain myself right now to hear you; would you be able to find somebody else?” That’s wonderful because then I know, when this person is with me, it’s really a “yes” and also that it’s an equal thing, not because they feel I can’t take care of myself. So it’s nice to have people around like that whom you can call.

But what if unfortunately we don’t have that kind of support when we are in pain? It’s pretty clear what happens — just read the newspapers any day. When they don’t have access to sorting out these things, that’s when people get killed or injured, commit suicide and so forth. Now in a Jackal society there is another option: you can go and pay somebody to listen to you. [Laughter] Isn’t it interesting that you have to pay for it? In a Giraffe society everybody knows that we need this every day. It doesn’t mean we’re mentally ill; it’s just part of living, so you try to build access to empathy into your life.

Participant L: I see, but in order to do this, one thing I need is to be able to have a conversation with the other Jackal — the one in my head — who snuck up behind me and said, “You ought to be able to do this all by yourself!”

Marshall: Yeah, there are a lot of those Jackals in there saying that. That’s why, if we had more time this evening, we’d spend it on taming our inner Jackals. Just as I need to learn how to hear other people, I also need to learn how to give myself empathy. Until I learn to do that, however, it’s very nice to have a Giraffe Support Team around that can help me out.

[to another participant:] Let’s hear yours.

Next participant (M): “I feel so angry I want to jump in and protect your sister when I hear you calling her a ‘stupid idiot’ and pushing her.”

Marshall: You feel angry because why?

Participant M: I feel angry …

Marshall [responding from the view of Participant M’s son]:

If you say only those two things, it sounds like you’re blaming me for your anger, Dad. Obviously you’re not saying it’s my shoving her and pushing her that make you angry.

Participant M: “Well, I think you’re being a bully.”


“No, excuse me, Dad. As a Giraffe, you would never say, “I think you….,” but “because I would like…”

Participant M: Oh, oh.

Marshall: “You wouldn’t judge me.”

Participant M: Will I have this with me? [Referring to the handout sheet showing the
guidelines of Nonviolent Communication model]

Marshall: If you were Sam Williams, you would. Sam Williams is a metallurgist in Pleasant Valley, Iowa; he works in an armory. This just wasn’t his way of communicating before he attended my workshop, but he wanted to do it so badly that he reduced the model to a cheat-sheet 3″ x 5” card and put it in the palm of his hand. When his boss came Jackaling, he would look down in his hand and remind himself. When he told me this, I thought he was kidding. “No,” he said, “I want to break out of these habits. I don’t want to give my boss the power to intimidate me, and I don’t want to go home every night and do the same thing to my children that he does to me. To break out of it, all I had to do was just focus my attention and and it worked fine.” At home he was overt, telling his children, a son aged four and a daughter aged six, that he wanted to speak a different language, that it may seem strange for awhile but he really wanted to communicate differently.

Things were going pretty well and after about a month Sam felt pretty confident and put the card away. But one night he and his son were having an argument about the television and it wasn’t going well. His son, aged four, said, “Daddy, get the card.”
True story.

So why not use those sheets if you need to? I find people are quite patient if they understand why you are doing it. Now one time when I was trying to change from Jackal to Giraffe, my oldest son found it was taking forever for me to say anything. He was rather frustrated because his friends were waiting for him and he said, “Daddy, it’s taking you so long to talk.” I said, “Let me tell you what I can say quickly: Do it my way or i’ll kick your ass.” He said, “Take your time, Dad.” [Laughter]

So, Dad, you feel angry because you would have liked what?

Participant M: “Because I would have liked you to deal with your sister by telling her what you want or what’s bothering you.”

Marshall [as son]:

So what do you want from me now?

Participant M: “And right now I would like you to tell her what’s bothering you.”

Marshall: Now give me some empathy, Dad. Start with, “Are you feeling….?”

Participant M: “Are you feeling like you don’t want to…?”

Marshall: No, no. “Are you feeling like… “ is not a feeling. What am I feeling, Dad?

Participant M: “Are you feeling frightened….?”

Marshall: Because?

Participant M: “Because you don’t want to tell your sister what’s bothering you?”

Marshall [using a small child-like voice]:

Cause you don’t like me.

Participant M: “I like you fine.” [Laughter]

Marshall: No, Dad, I needed empathy and you gave me “chicken soup.”

Participant M: “Oh! You’re feeling like I don’t like you?”

Marshall: “You feel like I…” That’s hearing a judgment. How about “You’re feeling sad and you need some reassurance that I do like you.” You don’t have to give the reassurance, just the empathy, which means more than the reassurance. One time my daughter was looking in the mirror and said, “I’m as ugly as a pig.” I said, “You’re the most gorgeous creature God ever put on the face of this earth.” She went, “Daddy!” went out and slammed the door. I’d forgotten the Buddha’s advice, “Don’t just do something, stand there.” I didn’t stand there and connect with her feelings; I was just
giving chicken soup and advice. See, I’m a real fix-it, a real problem solver.

Participant M: Yeah, me too.

Marshall: It drives people crazy. What they want is empathy! I’ve got to watch that. Otherwise when people say, “I’m so depressed I don’t want to live,” I respond with, “Have you tried jogging?” [Laughter] You see, right away I’m there just wanting to jump in and fix it. It helps me feel powerful, like I’m doing something, but it’s usually at the other person’s expense. I need to remind myself, “Don’t just do something, stand there.” Make sure you don’t do anything until you have connected to the other person’s feelings and needs. When we use the model in this way, we’re connecting to life each moment. We’re letting the other person see the life that’s going on in us, and no matter what they say, we try to connect with the life that’s going on in them. [Marshall sings:]


Reach out to life, like leaves to sun,
Like plants to rain, like birds to grain.
Reach out to life.
Let’s celebrate the joys of life,
Each little breath, from birth to death.
Let’s celebrate.
So many times, in so many ways,
We’re afraid to give, afraid to live.
So many times.
Reach out to life, like leaves to sun,
Like plants to rain, like birds to grain.
Reach out to life.

Participant M: I like that! [Applause]

Marshall: I’m grateful for you all coming out tonight and hearing what Giraffe is all about. We have a Giraffe Team that offers training after these workshops providing support sessions and opportunities to practice this language.