Hearing Genuine Requests as Demands

Learnings in this role-play
Making an observation instead of a diagnosis. Hearing an observation in what formally is a Jackal criticism. Noticing when a Jackal agrees without joy, from a sense of duty or fear of what happens when he says No. Engaging with a Jackal who hears our requests as demand. A definition of love as sacrifice and duty vs. a definition of love bases on mutual understanding.

Marshall: Now let’s practice putting on these ears when certain people speak Jackal. Who would like to volunteer their situation so we can all learn from them? If you do, please read out what you wrote, we’ll see if you answered in Giraffe or whether some Jackal got mixed in.

The first question: “What is it that I do that makes life less than wonderful for you?”

Participant A: “You appear not to listen.”

Marshall: [letting out a loud Jackal howl] Ooooooooowwwwww! “You appear!” Right away I can tell you aren’t answering the question in Giraffe. When you say “you appear,” I know a diagnosis is coming up. “You appear to not listen.” That’s a diagnosis. Have you ever heard one person say, “You don’t listen,” and the other, “I do too!” “No, you don’t!” “Yes, I do!” You see, this is what happens when we start with a criticism rather than an observation. Tell me what I do that makes you interpret me as not listening. I can read the newspaper and watch television while you’re talking and still hear you!

Participant A: “I’m observing you watching TV.”

Marshall: If your partner were wearing Jackal ears here, right away he’d hear an attack.
But as your partner with Giraffe ears, I don’t hear criticism;
I just guess the behavior you are reacting to.
“Are you reacting to the fact that I am watching television while you are talking to me?”

Participant A: “Yes.”

Marshall: “How do you feel when I watch television while you are talking?”

[Marshall adds an aside to participant:] And don’t answer “Not listened to!” That’s just a sneaky Jackal way of throwing in another judgment.

Participant A: “Frustrated and hurt.”

Marshall: Now we’re cooking! “Could you tell me why you feel that way?”

Participant A: “Because I was wanting to feel appreciated.”

Marshall: Classical Giraffe!
Notice she didn’t say, “I feel frustrated and hurt because you watch television.”
She doesn’t blame me for her feelings, but attributes them to her own needs.
I feel __________________ because I ____________.”

A Jackal, on the other hand, would express their feelings this way:
“You hurt me when you watch television while talking to me.
In other words: “I feel because you ___________________.”

Now the fourth question: “What would you like me to do to make life wonderful for you?”

Participant A: “When you are in a conversation, I would appreciate it if you would look into my eyes, as well as tell me back what you heard me say.”

Marshall: OK. Did everybody hear the four things?
“When you watch television while I am talking, I feel frustrated and hurt because I would really like some appreciation or attention regarding what I am saying. Would you be willing to look me in the eye while I’m talking and then afterwards repeat back what you heard me say and give me a chance to correct it if it isn’t what I meant to say?”

Now of course, if the other person has Jackal ears, he may hear it as criticism and will want to defend himself, “I do listen; I can listen while I am watching television.”

Hearing a Demand; Denying Oneself; Building Resentment

Or – if he heard it as a demand – he may do this:

“[Sigh ……] All right.”

That tells us he didn’t hear it as a request, as an opportunity to contribute to our well being:
He heard a demand; he may comply, but if he does, you’ll wish he hadn’t because he’ll be doing it to keep you from freaking out.
He’ll do it not to make life wonderful for you – but to keep life from being miserable for him.

Now that’s why marriage is a real challenge.
Many people were taught that love and marriage mean denying oneself in doing for the other person.
“If I love her, I have to do that, even though I don’t want to.”
So he’ll do it, but you’ll wish he hadn’t.

Participant A: Because he’ll keep score.

Marshall: Yeah, Jackals like that have computers in their brains: they’ll tell you what happened twelve years ago when they denied themselves. It comes back in one form or another.
“After all the times I did things for you when I didn’t want to, the least you can do is _____________ !”
Oh yeah, that goes on forever; don’t worry, they’re excellent statisticians.

Giraffe Connecting with Jackal Who Hears a Demand

Another participant: So how does the Giraffe respond when the Jackal says, “I can listen to you and watch television at the same time.”?

Marshall: The Giraffe makes sure she has her Giraffe ears on to translate what the Jackal has said.

[Marshall enacts the following dialogue:]

Jackal (in a harsh tone) : I can listen to you and watch at the same time!

Giraffe: Are you feeling annoyed because you heard some pressure and you would like to be free from pressure?

Jackal: Of course, you’re always making demands. My God! Demand this, demand that!

Giraffe: So you’re kind of exhausted with demands, and you would like to do things because you feel like it and not because you feel pressured?

Jackal: Exactly.

The Giraffe Dilemma

Giraffe: Now, Jackal, I’m feeling very frustrated because I don’t know how to let you know what I would like without you hearing it as a demand.
I know only two choices: to say nothing and not get my needs met, or to tell you what I would like and have you hear it as a demand. Either way I lose.
Could you tell me what you just heard me say?

Jackal: Huh?

Now this is very confusing for a Jackal-speaking person. Jackals grow up in a world of coercion. Their parents might have thought that the only way to get them to do anything is to punish or guilt-trip them. Scores to make. They may not be familiar with anything else. They don’t know the difference between a request and a demand. They really believe that if they don’t do what the other person wants, the guilt trip or the threats are going to come out. It is not an easy job for me as Giraffe to help this person hear that my requests are gifts, not demands.

When we do succeed, however, we can save ourselves years of misery, because any request becomes misery when people hear it with Jackal ears.

Giraffe: I would like to know how I can ask for what I want so it doesn’t sound like I am pressuring you.

Jackal: I don’t know.

Giraffe: Well, I’m glad that we’re getting this clear because this is my dilemma: I don’t know how to let you know what I want without you immediately hearing either that you have to do it or that I am forcing you to do it.

The Meaning of Love

Jackal: Well, I know how much the thing means to you, and… if you love somebody, then you do what they ask.

Giraffe: Jackal, could I influence you to change your definition of love?

Jackal: To what?

Giraffe: Love is not denying ourselves and doing for others, but rather it is honestly expressing whatever our feelings and needs are and empathically receiving the other person’s feelings and needs. To receive empathically does not mean that you must comply – just accurately receive what is expressed as a gift of life from the other person. Love is honestly expressing our own needs; that doesn’t mean making demands, but just, “Here I am. Here’s what I like. ” How do you feel about that definition of love?

Jackal: If I agree with that, I won’t be a Jackal any more.

Giraffe: Yeah, that’s true.