Intimate Relationships

An Evening Workshop with Marshall Rosenberg

Marshall: I’m glad to share time with you this evening to see how this process of Nonviolent Communication – or what I often refer to as Giraffe language — works. We’ll take a look tonight into how this relates to intimate relationships. You know, when I used to do workshops on parenting, I could almost guess that if I were going to do an evening workshop on parenting, I would have a crisis with my kids earlier in the day that would humble me and make me wonder how I could go in.

So guess what happened today? I’m doing this relationship thing in the evening, and I had a crisis at seven o’clock this morning. My wife called and asked me one of those questions that you just hate to have in a relationship at any time of the day, but especially at seven in the morning when you don’t have your lawyer. What did she ask at seven o’clock in the morning? “Did I wake you up?” That question wasn’t the hard one. She says, “I have a very important question: am I attractive?” [Laughter] I hate those questions. That’s like the time I came home after being on the road quite awhile and she asked me, “Can you see anything different in the house?” I looked and I looked: “No.” She had painted the whole house! [Laughter]

I knew that question this morning was the kind that comes up in relationships. “Am I attractive?” Of course, as a Giraffe-speaking person, I could get out of that by claiming that it’s not a Giraffe question, because Giraffes know that nobody is anything. Nobody is right, wrong, attractive, unattractive. But I knew she wouldn’t settle for any of that stuff, so I said, “You want to know if you’re attractive?” She said, “Yes.” – “Sometimes yes, sometimes no; can I go back to bed?” [Laughter] She liked that, thank goodness, thank goodness! In one of my favorite books, How to Make Yourself Miserable, by Dan Greenberg, you see this dialog:

“Do you love me?”

“Now, this is very important to me. Think it over: do you love me?”

“Please, this is very important; give it a very serious consideration: do you love me?”
[Period of silence] “Yes.”

“Then why did you hesitate?”

So we all know those delicate situations in intimate relationships. What I would like to do tonight is to ask everyone who wants to participate and has a specific thing in mind, to take the next five minutes and write down a dialog between you and another person, where you would really like some help in with communication. It would be just two or three lines: what the other person says, what you say, and end where you get stuck. What is it that this other person says that gets you stuck such that you really don’t know how to answer in a way that’s going to get everybody what they need.

Is that clear? If you write that out, then I can do the best job of showing how this language called Giraffe might be of help to us in making intimate relationships more fun.

[A period of silence follows for participants to write out dialogs that they would like to translate into Giraffe.] –

Marshall: So who has one? You’ve got one? Good. We’ll refer to the other person tonight as the Jackal.

I use the phrase “Jackal talk” to represent the kind of communication that makes it harder for us to give to people in a way that we want to give. We all like to give to people when we do it willingly. We hate to give when we are doing it out of coercion or to avoid guilt, fear, or shame.
Now Giraffe is when we think in terms of feelings and wants without labeling, blame or judgment. What is that other person feeling and how can I contribute to their well-being?
In the dialogs this evening we’ll refer to the other person as the Jackal.

Who speaks first, the Giraffe or the Jackal?

Participant A: The Jackal.

Marshall: The other person speaks first. What does the person say?

Participant A: I think they are both Jackals, really.

Marshall: They’re both Jackals. I need another Jackal. [Referring to his Jackal puppet] Throw me another Jackal, please.

Participant A: I’m beginning to identify with the Jackal very strongly.

Marshall: Everybody’s a Jackal. OK. Which one looks the most like you?
[Marshall identifies which puppet will be Participant A and which will be her partner.]

Participant A: It’s a telephone call. He says, “Hi, I’m not going to be able to come today. My daughter’s school is getting out at 1:30 and I want to spend quality time with you and I will be nervous if we get together.”

Marshall: And then you say?

Participant A: OK, this is the first part of the Jackal. I was able to identify my feelings. “I have pain in my heart.” That’s what I said.

Marshall: “I have pain in my heart.”

Participant A: Yeah, but I wasn’t able to identify my needs.

Marshall: But you weren’t able to say what your needs were, and your timing was a bit Jackal. Because this person needs empathy, and the first thing they hear is “pain in your heart.” So we already have a nice Jackal fight about to start here.

Participant A: When I said I had pain in my heart, he asked, “Why?”

Marshall: If any of you want to master your Jackal, this is how to do it. I’ve asked people in several countries, “What are the hardest messages for you to hear and really feel safe?” “Why” questions top the list. If you really want to act like a Jackal and scare people, ask “why” questions. Now this Jackal has really mastered the art of Jackal. “Why?”

Participant A: Silence, I said nothing. Then he listed a whole bunch of other reasons why he wasn’t able to come.

Marshall: This poor suicidal Jackal. He doesn’t realize that when you try to explain and justify, it just sounds like an attack to the other person. This poor Jackal. So then what?

Participant A: I said, “I have pain in my heart, and I have to think about that.” And then I thought, “I am going to call some of my Giraffe friends.”

Marshall: Ahh…now there’s a smart thing to do!
OK, so if I understand this, you were really wanting to be with this person.

Participant A: Yes.

Marshall: And this person’s needs were in conflict with yours. This person was saying, “I have other needs right now, other than to meet your needs.”

Participant A: Right, and logically I could understand that, but in my heart…

Marshall: In your head you could understand it, but you have the pain in your heart because you heard what?

Participant A: I heard, “You don’t want to be with me.”

Marshall: Yes, you did the all-time Jackal trick: you heard a rejection. That’s how to make life really miserable. When somebody’s needs are in conflict with ours and they say, “I’d like to do something else right now rather than to meet your needs,” you hear that as saying that they don’t want to be with you. That’s how to make sure that you feel like P.P.P.P.P.T. Piss poor protoplasm poorly put together. You have nicer language, you say “pain in my heart.” I must confess, I have been known to wear Jackal ears when I hear a “no” myself. It’s very hard to put on Giraffe ears when you hear a “no.” I wrote this song one night after I had caused a good deal of pain for myself in a similar situation. Instead of hearing what the other person did want, I heard what they didn’t want. I heard a “no” and made life miserable for myself.

[Marshall sings:]

I wish I could remember, there’s something of worth in me,
When the depths of myself show through and you say no to what you see.
I poured myself out to you, that wasn’t wise,

I came away feeling like I was some unwanted merchandise.
And I sure hate to see the power that I give away,
Letting whether I care for myself depend on what you say.
I wish I could remember there’s something of worth in me,

When the depths of my soul show through and you say no to what you see.

Yes, by all means, let’s learn how to put on Giraffe ears in such a situation because that can save us a lot of misery. If we hear another person’s needs being different from ours as a rejection, we will soon be rejected. Who wants to be around someone who reads rejection each time your needs are in conflict with theirs? That gets very heavy very quickly. So unless we learn to put on Giraffe ears, we will in fact drive the other person away. I realize that this is not always easy, but when we learn to put on Giraffe ears….

[Marshall puts on a pair of fuzzy Giraffe ears to chuckles from the audience, and responds to the laughter by saying:] I feel very hurt.
[More laughter]

Participant: …Your ears aren’t working then.

Marshall: Ahhhhhh! [Lots more laughter]
Yes, these are faulty ears, obviously. I need to get another pair.

Now, as soon as I put on these ears, a miracle takes place: rejection vanishes from the earth. I never hear a “no.” I never hear a “don’t want.” Judgments and criticism vanish from the earth. Then all I hear is the truth which to a Giraffe-speaking person is this: all that other people are ever expressing are their feelings and needs.

The only thing that people are ever saying, no matter how they are expressing it, is how they are and what they would like to make life even better. When a person says “no,” that’s just a poor way of letting us know what they really want. We don’t want to make it worse by hearing a rejection: we hear what they do want.

Some of you have heard me tell about the woman who said to her husband, “I don’t want you spending so much time at work.” Then she got furious with him when he signed up for a golf tournament. [Laughter] She had told him what she didn’t want, and he didn’t have Giraffe ears on. He didn’t know how to hear what she did want. Of course, it would have made it easier if she had said what she did want. But if he would have had Giraffe ears, when she said, “I don’t want you spending so much time at work,” he would have said:

Husband: Oh, so you’re concerned about my well-being and you want me to get more recreation?

Wife: Not on your life. You have spent only two nights in the last six months with me and the children.

Husband: Ah, so you’re really disappointed in how much time we spend together, and you’d like me to spend at least one night a week with you and the children?

Wife: Exactly.

You see, with Giraffe ears we never hear what a person doesn’t want. We try to help them get clear what they do want.

Being only clear on what we don’t want is a dangerous phenomenon. It gets us into all kinds of confusion. I was working with some teachers in a school district that was concerned with vandalism. In the past, they had had about 75 broken windows every semester at this school. “What do you want?” I asked the teachers. This is a central Giraffe question. “Obviously, we want them to quit breaking windows.” They were saying what they didn’t want. I said, “You make my job as a consultant very easy when you say what you don’t want.” “Oh… .what should we do?” “Kill them.” [Laughter] This is very tempting. When you want to get rid of something violence usually looks like a very good option.

When we are clear on what we do want from other people, especially when we are clear about what we want their reasons to be in doing something, then it becomes clear to us that we can never get our needs met through any kind of threats or punitive measures. Whether we are parents, teachers, or whatever, we never get our needs met by punishment. There is none of us the least bit conscious who is going to want anyone to do anything for us out of fear, guilt, or shame. We’re Giraffe enough to see into the future, to see that any time anyone does anything out of fear, guilt, or shame, everybody loses. So we need to put the Giraffe ears on now, and give this person some empathy. Let’s try it again.

Marshall as Jackal partner: “I have a real conflict. I would really like to be with you when I can be conscious and give you my full attention, but today my attention is distracted by my daughter.”

Participant A: Do you want me to be a Giraffe?

Marshall: Yeah, put these ears on. [hands participant a pair of Giraffe ears which she dons]

Participant A (as herself): “I’m really disappointed.”

Marshall: No, no. This poor Jackal needs empathy.

Participant A (as herself): “So you’d really like to spend some quality time with me. Time with me when you can be fully in my presence without distraction, but today you need to attend to your daughter because she’s getting out of school early.”

Marshall as Jackal partner: “Yes, thank you for giving me that empathy, because you see, I have this real fear that if I don’t always meet the needs of the person I care for, they’re going to take it as a rejection, and that I’m going to be rejected and abandoned. So it’s very terrifying for me to tell you that my needs are in conflict with yours. I’ve had terrible experiences like that in my background, where when I don’t do what everybody else wants, I don’t get the love that I want. It’s just terrifying for me to tell you that my needs are in conflict with yours. I was afraid you’d hear, ‘I don’t want to be with you.’”

Participant A (as herself): “You want some more empathy.”

Marshall as Jackal partner: “Yeah, I want some more empathy.”

Participant A (as herself): “I guess you were scared that you were not going to be able to spend time with me today because you’re feeling a need to attend to your daughter. And you’re afraid that by telling me that, I may think that you don’t want to spend time with me. In the past, you’ve had many experiences and times you have wanted to fill the needs of a person you care for, but when you have had a conflict, or haven’t been able to do that, the other person heard that you didn’t want to spend time with them. When they felt rejected, they punished you, and then you felt guilt and shame. They judged you and you felt even more guilty and scared.”

Marshall as Jackal partner: “Yes, yes… it feels so good to get this empathy, to hell with my daughter, I’m coming over! [Laughter and applause] Now I can even hear you when you start to tell me about the pain in your heart because I got my empathy first.”

Participant A (as herself): “Now I’m wondering if you’d like to hear how I’m feeling about this.”

Marshall as Jackal partner: “Yeah, I’d like to hear how you are feeling.”

Participant A (as herself): “I’m feeling really disappointed.”

Marshall as Jackal partner: “Oh, I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to disappoint you.”

Marshall: You see, this is a fierce Jackal. He has learned suicidal tendencies to take responsibility for other people’s feelings. As soon as she said’ she was disappointed, this Jackal went into Jackal alert. A Jackal, when they hear somebody in pain, immediately feels that they have done something wrong and now they have to do something about it. And so this Jackal is doing the number one thing that Jackals do: apologize. You know that there is a Jackal nearby when you hear these words: “I’m sorry.” Then he repeats a whole lot of excuses that you don’t want to hear about why it’s so important for him to be with the daughter today, leaving you in all that pain, not getting any empathy. Jackals still don’t believe that you can’t make other people feel as they do. Jackals think that they can hurt other people’s feelings, that you can disappoint them. So now this Jackal is in Jackal alert.

Marshall as Jackal partner: “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to disappoint you but this is the only day … blah blah blah… excuses excuses justification, etc.” Phew!! [Laughter]

Participant A: Is this empathy time?

Marshall: No, scream in Giraffe! You gave this Jackal empathy; now get empathy back.

Participant (as herself): OK. “Well, I’m having a need to share my feelings with you right now.”

Marshall as Jackal partner: “Yes, it’s important that you do.”

Participant A (as herself): “What I’d like to do right now is tell what I’m feeling and then when I’m done, maybe you could tell me back what I’ve said?”

Marshall as Jackal partner: “Oh yes, I have a very bad habit — I don’t listen very well. I’ve never been able to listen too well. My mother was not a very good listener either, and, uh, you know…” [Laughter]

Participant A: Next time will I talk to his mom?

Marshall: No, just scream in Giraffe.

Participant A (as herself): “I hear that you have some pain around this.”

Marshall: No, don’t give him even that much empathy; just scream in Giraffe.

Participant A (as herself): “I have a need to share my feelings and my needs about this with you, and I would really like you to listen to what I have to say, and afterwards I’d like you to tell me what I said. OK?”

Marshall as Jackal partner: “Yeah.” [Marshall is making gestures… The audience laughs while Participant A asks Marshall:]

Participant A: Did you talk to him ahead of time? [More laughter]

Marshall: [Speaking for those who couldn’t hear her response] She said, “Did [I] talk to him ahead of time?” I’ve even got his expressions down pat!

Participant A (as herself): “I’m feeling really disappointed when I hear that you’re not going to be able to spend the day with me.”

Marshall as Jackal partner: “Yes, but…”

Marshall playing Giraffe coach to Jackal partner: “Shh, shh, just hear her out.”

Marshall as himself, speaking to group: Sometimes you need to have an emergency Giraffe to help out.

Participant A (as herself): “I was really looking forward to spending the day with you because I enjoy your company so much and I was needing to see you.”

Marshall enacts dialogue between Jackal puppet (partner) and Giraffe puppet (coach):

Giraffe coach: Can you tell her back what she said, Jackal?

Jackal partner: Yes, I understand how she feels.

Giraffe coach: Could you just say what she feels?

Jackal partner: No, she’s right, she has every right to feel that way. It was terrible of me. I should never have made the promise if I knew that I may not have been able to do it. It was terrible of me. I just feel terribly guilty.

Giraffe coach: Jackal, are you aware that when you hear what she said as a judgment of yourself, that it is a further violation of her?

Jackal partner: Huh?

Giraffe coach: When you’re hearing what another person says as meaning you did something wrong, that’s a further violation of the other person because then, not only are they not getting the understanding that they need, now they get the feeling that their honesty creates

problems for you. It’s going to be harder for her to be honest in the future if she tries to tell what’s going on with her and you think that you did something wrong.

Jackal partner: But I have Jackal ears; I can’t hear anything except that I did something wrong.

Giraffe coach: You want some Giraffe ears’?

Jackal partner: Yes! [Laughter as Marshall puts Giraffe ears on the Jackal puppet]

Jackal partner: “So you’re really feeling disappointed because I…”

Giraffe coach: No, you didn’t have the ears on straight, Jackal. [Laughter] No, she’s not feeling disappointed because of you, Quit taking responsibility for her feelings. Just hear what is going on in her.

Jackal partner: Well, I can’t see with those damn things in my eyes. [Jackal puppet referring to the Giraffe ears with which Marshall adorned him. Laughter.]

Jackal partner with newly adjusted Giraffe ears: “So you feel disappointed because you were looking forward to this, and you really wanted to spend that time with me.”

Participant A (as herself): “Yes!”

Marshall as partner (with new Giraffe ears): “It’s something you were really looking forward to.”

Participant A (as herself): “Yeah. I really enjoyed hearing you say that!”

Marshall as partner: “It really feels good when you can get that empathy?”

Participant A (as herself): “Yes, it feels real good.”

Marshall as partner: “And you’re not wanting me to feel like a worm?”

Participant A (as herself): “No, I’m not wanting you to feel like a worm.”

Marshall as partner: “You just needed this empathy?”

Participant A (as herself): “Yeah!”

Marshall as partner: “And that’s all I have to do?”

Participant A (as herself) (with new softness in her voice]: “Yes, and I’m feeling really grateful to you for hearing that.”

Marshall as partner: “That’s amazing! I always thought that I had to do everything that everyone else wanted me to in order to be loved. The idea that people just want my empathy and then my honesty. This is astonishing! Thank you for staying with me. I’ll try to keep these ears on all the time.”

Participant A: I enjoyed that!

* * *

Next participant (B): Marshall, what happens when you have two people on Jackal alert?

Marshall: [Laughter] You know what happens when we have two people on Jackal alert. You mean, how can you get out of it? Do you have a situation where you have two people on Jackal alert? I’ll show you how to turn it around. Let’s hear it.

Participant B: Oh boy, there are so many situations. How about this one: “Did you have a chance to do the laundry today?”

Marshall: Oh… there’s a good one! That’s the kind of question that I told you I hate: “Do you notice anything different in the house?” “Am I attractive?” Why? Because questions really mask where the speaker is coming from. We never know what’s behind a question like that. That’s why a Giraffe reveals the feelings and needs behind the question before asking the question. It could be the Jackal is just curious: “Did you do the laundry today?” Or could be furious: Tm furious, I’m sensing that you didn’t do it yet. Is that so? Give me the truth so I can hang you!” You see, the same question could be either.

Now Jackal #1 says, “Did you get the laundry done yet?”

Jackal #2 says what?

Participant B: I’m trying to think. This is not an exact situation, but he might answer something like, “Well, I’ve been busy all day.”

Marshall: Oh yes, there’s a real Jackal.

Jackal #2: Well, uh , I’ve been busy all day.

Jackal #1 You’re always busy. You seem to have time for everything but what I want you to do.

Jackal #2: That’s not true. Just last week I did something for you. You say I never do anything. I do a lot of things.

Jackal #1: What do you do?

Jackal #2: Well, I put the toilet seat down last night. [Laughter]

OK, now how do we break out of this kind of Jackal fight? It can happen ten times a day.

Participant B: An hour! [Laughter]

Marshall: The first thing to do when we start to get angry or defensive is to recognize that we didn’t hear the other person. What breaks us out of these fights is our consciousness. If we hear anything but a gift in the other person’s message, we didn’t hear them. You have to notice when your Giraffe ears have fallen off. Anger is a wonderful clue; it’s like a wake-up to a Giraffe. As soon as I get angry or defensive or hear an attack or demand, I know that I didn’t hear the other person. Instead of connecting to what’s going on in them, I’m up in my head judging that they’re wrong in some way. If I’m a Giraffe I know to shut up as quickly as possible, put my Giraffe ears on, and listen to myself. I’ve wounded myself if I have Jackal ears. How do I do this?

I was just about to open my mouth and say, “But I’ve been busy,” in a tone of voice that indicates that I’ve seen the other person as a real fascist. [Laughter] I know that this has gone on ten times in the previous hour, and I know where that leads. So I take a deep breath, put on my Giraffe ears and listen to myself. I don’t want this to go on, so I turn this Jackal (myself) into a Giraffe. This is all internal:

[inner dialog, speaking under a hat:] I’m telling myself I do not need another mother telling me what I have to do every day. I’m hearing what she is saying as a demand. I’m seeing that my own freedom is being threatened. It’s as though I have to do everything that this person tells me.

I listen to myself. I give myself empathy. I see how much pain I’ve created for myself by putting on my Jackal ears and hearing all of that. I notice that this has happened and then I shut up and enjoy the Jackal show going on in my head. It’s just like watching a movie. Wow! Look at those Jackals that are dancing in my head! [Laughter] I’m telling myself:

[inner dialog] This witch has no right to talk to me that way. That isn’t fair. I just did something last week for her. No matter what I do, it’s not enough. She doesn’t trust that I’m going to do it. I was going to do it within a few months. [Laughter]

Now that I have given myself all this internal self-empathy, I can try to put on my Giraffe

ears and hear what is going on in that other Jackal person.

Former Jackal #2, now wearing Giraffe ears and speaking with Giraffe tongue: Jackal, I’m sensing that you’re feeling worried that this isn’t going to get done.

Jackal #1: No, it doesn’t get done. My needs never matter. Everything else in the world matters to you more than my needs.

The Giraffe has to take another breath. The Giraffe was wanting to reassure the Jackal that her needs do matter. That would be suicidal! Whenever you feel the need to fix someone or to make it better, you know you are a Jackal. Other people need connection and empathy, not for us to “fix it” or reassure them. Now if this person says, “Your needs do matter,” it would just be adding insult to injury. When the Giraffe catches itself turning into a Jackal and wanting to fix it and make it better, it takes a deep breath and watches that tendency in itself until it passes. The Giraffe reminds itself of the Buddha’s advice, “Don’t just do something, stand there.” Wait until this need to “do something to fix it” passes, and then give them what they need: empathy.

Giraffe: Jackal, it sounds like there is a lot of fear on your part and you need some reassurance that your needs matter.

Jackal: Yes, [in a crying voice]I’ve always needed that. I’ve always needed that and nobody has ever cared about my needs.

Giraffe: It really hurts. You need to feel that people care about your needs and when it seems that they don’t, it hurts.

Jackal: Yes.

Giraffe: I’m glad to learn, Jackal, that all these feelings are behind such a question.

Jackal: What do you mean?

Giraffe: Well, when you asked me, “Is the laundry done?” with that tone of voice, I forgot something that all Giraffes know. I forgot that unexpressed fear almost always sounds like aggression. Instead of hearing the fear on your part, all I could hear is that I was being aggressed against. I’m glad to hear that fear can be behind such a question. ‘Next time I hope that I can hear the fear rather than take it as aggression.

Remember: that which seems like aggression is almost always unexpressed fear or hurt, and the tragedy begins when, rather than hearing the hurt or fear, I take it as aggression.

* * *

Another participant: I need to know the difference between empathizing with someone by saying, “It sounds like you’re scared and need some reassurance.” and actually reassuring them. What if they say, “Yes, I do need some reassurance.”

Marshall: If the person says that they want reassurance, and I can give it to them willingly, there’s no problem. The problem is giving them that reassurance when they want empathy. For example, one time my oldest daughter was looking in the mirror and she 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 said, “Daddy!” and she goes out and slams the door. I was a Jackal there. She wanted empathy and in order to meet my own needs, I tried to fix her. What did I do? I went into the other room after Jackaling myself a bit, saying, “You preach about this every day of the year, and then when it happens, you forget. You forget the Buddha’s advice: “Don’t fix it, just be there.” After that, I went to her and said,

Marshall: I’m guessing you needed to hear how disappointed you were with your appearance and not my reassurances.

Daughter: That’s right. You always try to fix everything. [Laughter]

Marshall: Guilty as charged.

* * *

Another participant (C): Sometimes I feel like I’m taking care of my mate’s feelings, in the past I’d sometimes say something that he considered private or personal to another couple or in a group. I’ve since gotten clear on the difference between his stuff and my stuff, but occasionally there is a fine line between what I can and can’t say. So I’m wondering, when we are in a group of people, when would it be appropriate and not “codependent” to ask him, “Is it OK if I talk about this?” Sometimes when I ask and he says no, or says I shouldn’t have said something, I feel angry and censored. Do you get my question?

Marshall: I think I do. Let me see. You’re saying that sometimes it’s not clear to you when your mate is comfortable with your talking about things with other people and when he’s not.

Participant C: Yeah.

Marshall: You’ve put your question in a Jackal form and are heading in a direction that is dangerous. I cleaned it up for you and translated it into Giraffe. In the book, Revolution in Psychiatry, Ernst Becker, an anthropologist, suggests that depression results from cognitively arrested alternatives. He means that by asking yourself questions of the sort you started with, we fill our head with unanswerable Jackal questions. “Is it OK?” “Is it appropriate?” Those questions usually cannot be answered and we end up spinning in our heads. You notice I translated those questions. You’re saying that sometimes your partner is uncomfortable with some things you say. It doesn’t mean it’s not OK for you to do it. It doesn’t mean that it’s inappropriate. It just means he doesn’t like it. You’re just asking your partner, “I’m not clear what those things are. Can you give me an example of some of the things that you would like or wouldn’t like for me to say?”

Marshall as Jackal partner: “Well, obviously I don’t want you to say inappropriate things to other people.” [Laughter]

  • * *

Marshall: We need to get clear on the difference between emotional slavery, obnoxiousness and liberation. Emotional slavery is primary Jackal. It’s when the person feels that they have to do everything that others think is appropriate, OK, right, normal… They spend all of their lives thinking that they have to please other people and guess what other people think is appropriate. This is a heavy load. For example, someone comes home upset about something; it doesn’t make any difference what it is.

Partner: I’m upset about everything.

Jackal: Oh, here, eat some chicken soup.

You see, it doesn’t matter what it is. As soon as a person is in pain, then the other thinks they have to scurry around and take care of them. Then they come out to a Giraffe workshop, and I’m not totally coherent in explaining how “we are not responsible for other people’s feelings,” – I fail to make clear what we are responsible for. They go home from the workshop and when their partner comes home and says, “I’m still upset about A,” they respond:

Workshop participant: Well, that’s your problem; I’m not responsible for your feelings. [Laughter]

Partner: Where did you learn that?

Workshop participant: At a Giraffe workshop.

Partner: I’m going to go kill that Giraffe!

The Giraffe concept is, “No, we are not responsible for other people’s feelings, but we’re conscious that we don’t have to keep rebelling against them, saying Jackalish things like, ‘I’m not responsible for your feelings.’ We can just hear what the other person is feeling and not lose our center. We can hear what they want and give them empathy, but we don’t have to do what they want.’’

We make it clear that we need empathy, not the other person giving themselves up and giving in. To hear and respect what the other person needs doesn’t mean that you must do what they ask. Does that answer your question or did I go astray?

You need to get very clear on what you need. Here’s Jackal: “May I?” “Is it OK?” Giraffes never want approval from other people. Giraffes never give that power away and have other people tell them what to do.

This is what a Giraffe would say:

Here’s what I want. I’d like to know where you stand in relationship to that. I want to know your needs as well as mine, not because when I hear your needs I am going to give mine up or give in. As a Giraffe I am conscious that I cannot benefit at your expense. I am a Giraffe. Your needs are equally as important to me as my needs. And I’m clear that doesn’t ever mean having to give up my needs.

  • * *

Another participant (D): Are you ready for another one? The Jackal says, “I can’t be in a long-term relationship. I lose myself around you. I’m not emotionally mature enough. I can see now that I was undergoing aberrant behavior in getting involved and agreeing to your wanting a long-term relationship. Something was wrong with me that led me to think that I could so quickly fall in love.” I told her, “I’d still like to be your friend.” And she said, “I don’t know what to say.”

Marshall: Yes, yes, this is a fast-breeding Jackal who has been taught Jackal concepts of love such as, “If you really love somebody, you deny your needs and take care of them.” Then as soon as this person gets into a close relationship –a loving relationship– they turn into a Jackal. Until then they’re lovely, they’re wonderful: they look like a Giraffe. These are the most dangerous Jackals because they’re really Jackals in Giraffe’s clothing. [Laughter]

You see, in the early stage of the relationship, they are giving from the heart, they enjoy giving; it’s easy, they don’t think of it until they pass the line. What is the line? It’s when the Jackal fears that they’ve “made a commitment.” If you really want to scare a Jackal to death, talk about commitment, or use the word “serious.”

As soon as they think it’s a “serious relationship,” or the word “love” comes up, –”I love this person.”– as soon as the Jackal starts to love you, you’re going to get killed. The moment they define it as a serious relationship, that’s when they feel like they are responsible for your feelings. In their understanding of love, they have to deny themselves and do everything for you.

All of that is behind the Jackal statement, “I lose myself in a relationship with you. I can’t stand it. I see your pain and I lose me, and I need to get away from it all.” This is a fairly advanced Jackal because at least they are taking responsibility for it.

At a more primitive level, this Jackal would have put it all on you: “You’re too dependent. You’re too needy.” That’s a seriously deranged Jackal. They are not aware of their own internal dynamic. They are putting it all on the other person. It’s going to take a little longer to tame that Jackal. But the one you described is a pretty advanced Jackal; she’s pretty sure about her own pain.

Jackal: I’m really scared to be in the relationship because I just close down. As soon as I see that you have any need or any pain, I just can’t tell you the pain that I feel and then I start to feel like I’m in prison. I feel like I’m being smothered and so I just have to get out of this relationship as soon as possible.

As a Giraffe, I have to do a lot of work with that, but I don’t think that there is something wrong with my needs or my love. If I did, that would make a bad situation doubly bad. I need not take responsibility for this. I need to truly hear what this person is saying.

Giraffe: So, Jackal, you’re in a panic. It’s very hard for you to hold on to the deep caring and love that we’ve had without making of it responsibility and duty and obligation closing down your own freedom, and feeling like you have to take care of me.

Jackal: Exactly! It’s just like a prison. I can hardly breathe.

Giraffe: As soon as you hear my pain or my feelings, it’s just as if your life stops.

Jackal: Yeah! [sighs]

Giraffe: I’m really glad that you are telling me this. Would it be safer if we defined ourselves as friends rather than lovers?

Jackal: I do this with friends, I do it with anybody that I care for. I did this with my dog once. [Laughter]

Giraffe: Gosh, I’m in such a dilemma here. I’d like to express my pain in relationship to that, but then if I express my pain, I’m afraid you’ll freak.

Jackal: Yes, I will. I will. As soon as you express any pain, I think that I have done something wrong and that I have to do something about it.
My life is over: I have to take care of you.

Then to myself I say, “Wow, how painful it is for me not to be able to get any empathy. To have someone receive my feelings and needs — all that is alive in me, that I would like to be a gift to someone — with Jackal ears, turning my needs into demands… Painful to me. I do not know how to get what I need from this person. Let me try one more time to see if I can get empathy from this Jackal.”

Giraffe: Jackal, would you be willing to try to hear just one message from me without taking responsibility for it?

Jackal: What do you mean ?

Giraffe: I’d like to tell you a feeling and a need, and have you hear that and nothing else. Not to hear that you have to do anything about it. Not to hear that you did anything wrong. Just repeat back what you hear me say. Would you be willing to do that?

Jackal: I’ll try.

Giraffe: I feel so sad…

Jackal: I’m sorry. [Laughter]

Giraffe: Please don’t. Just wait, hold on, and repeat what I say. I feel sad because I would like my feelings and my needs to be gifts to you and not a threat. Could you tell me what you heard me say?

Jackal: That I shouldn’t react so strongly.

Giraffe: No, I’m really not trying to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do.

Jackals love that word “should.” They’ll hear a “should” in anything.

Giraffe: Jackal, I’m not trying to tell you what you should do. I have a feeling and a need: just concentrate on that. I feel very sad because I would like my feelings and my needs to be a gift to you and not such a threat. Can you tell me what you heard me say?

Jackal: That I make you sad.

Giraffe: You don’t make me sad; my needs make me sad. Can you just hear that?

Jackal: Say it again.

Giraffe: I feel very sad, Jackal, because I would really like it if my feelings and needs could be a gift to you and not a threat.

Jackal: You feel sad because I…

Giraffe: No!

Jackal: Because you …..?

Giraffe: Thank you.

Jackal: Because you would like your feelings and needs to be a gift to me and not a threat.

Giraffe: I’m grateful that you heard that, Jackal. Go in peace, and I hope some day you can come back and enjoy me.

How’s that?

Participant D: But there’s the next sentence. [Laughter]

Marshall: What’s that?

Participant D (as himself): “I feel scared; I need to feel we are still connected because we were connected. It doesn’t necessarily matter how we are connected. I don’t need you as a special partner, but I still need to feel we are connected and that we are friends.

Marshall: That’s wonderful as far as you’ve gone, but if you stop there, it’s Jackal. What you’ve stated is your feeling and your unmet need to still maintain contact with her, but you didn’t make clear at the very end exactly what you are wanting the other person to do. For a person that hears the way this one does, that will be fuel to the fire. When you say to a person with Jackal ears, “Be a friend,” and you don’t make it clear what you are wanting from them, they’ll read in again: “You want to smother me. You want me to be your slave.” You must be very concrete with a Jackal. You cannot say, “I want you to love me. I want your understanding. I need you to listen. I need you to be a friend.” Concretely, what exactly do you want this person to do to be your friend?

Participant D (as himself): “I would like to call you at least once a month and check in on how you are and let you know how I am.”

Marshall: What you need to say right now is, “I’d like you to tell me if you would be willing to have me call once a month to check in.”

Jackal: For how many minutes’? –

Participant D (as himself): “Oh, about thirty minutes on a Sunday.”

Marshall: Yes, we need to be that concrete with a Jackal.

  • * *

Another participant (E): I know a Jackal who said when a woman gets married, she turns into a bitch.

Marshall: Now if we are a Jackal, we would quickly interpret that as a sexist remark. However, with such a thought in our head, we lose the power to get this person to be more sensitive to our needs. As soon as we judge someone as “sexist” or “racist,” even if we don’t say the judgment out loud, but just carry it in our head, we have almost no power to get what we need… And now you said what?

Participant E: I paused because I was upset and didn’t know what to say. I didn’t tell him it was a sexist comment. During the pause, I felt the pain of men telling women things like that, and I wasn’t in the mood to be Giraffe-like.

Marshall: That few-second pause used up all your Giraffe energy. Then you gave yourself permission to be a Jackal.

Participant E: I shook my head and said, “Women should have permission to be bitchy.”
Marshall: You’re agreeing. A Giraffe never agrees or disagrees. I warned you the other night: never go up to a Jackal’s head – it’s ugly up there. [Laughter] Stay away from a Jackal’s head. Let’s go to the Jackal’s heart.

Jackal: Is it true that all you women turn into bitches when you get married?

Giraffe: [Silence]

This is the pause. The Giraffe is very angry right now. As I told you earlier, when the Giraffe gets angry, it knows that it didn’t hear what it needs to hear. So the Giraffe sits back and enjoys the Jackal show that is going on in her head for a few moments:

Giraffe [internal dialog]: I’d like to take this sexist head and wring it. I’m sick and tired of these remarks. I’m sick and tired of what I call insensitivity to my needs. Why, just because I am a woman, do I have to have this kind of talk thrown at me at work all the time! Sigh…. [Internal dialog ends]

[Out loud] Are you feeling some tension about things going on in your marriage that you want to talk about? [Lots of laughter]

Participant E: Actually, I really thought that at the time but I didn’t choose to bring that up because we were having a farewell lunch for one of the employees at work.


Jackal: What are you talking about? We were just having fun. You take everything so sensitively.

Giraffe: So you were just playing with me and would have liked me to be able
to enjoy that?

Jackal: Yeah.

Giraffe: Well, I’d like to tell you why that is not easy for me to do. I’d like to tell you how painful it is when I hear comments like that.

Jackal: Well, you shouldn’t be so sensitive.

Giraffe: I’d like you to wait till I finish talking before you jump in and tell me
what I am. Would you be willing to do that?

Jackal: Touchy, touchy! [Laughter]

Giraffe: So you’re really feeling hurt and you would like me to be able to play with you.

Jackal: Yeah, you liberals are really a pain in the ass to be around.

Giraffe: So you would like to be able to just joke and play and not have to worry about every word?

Jackal: Yeah.

Giraffe: And I’d like to be able to do that too, but I’d like you to understand why that is so painful for me to do. I’d like you to tell me if you would be willing to hear what goes on in me.

So now I educate him.

Another participant: How does a Giraffe react to forceful name calling?

Marshall: A Giraffe knows that all names are tragic expressions of unmet needs. A Giraffe asks himself, when the names are coming at him, “What is this person wanting that they’re not getting?” Tragically, they don’t know any other way of saying the need except to call the name.

Jackal: You’re too sensitive!

Giraffe: You would like me to understand you differently?

Jackal: You’re the most selfish person I’ve ever met.

Giraffe: You would have liked me to save that last piece of cake for you ?

Names are simply tragic expressions of unmet needs. Giraffes know that there is no such thing as normal, abnormal, right, wrong, good, or bad. They know that all of those are a product of language that trained people to live under a king. If you want to train people to be docile to a higher authority, to fit into hierarchical structures in a subservient way, it is very important to get people up in their head and to get them thinking what is “right,” what is “normal,” what is “appropriate,” and to give that power to an authority at the top who defines what those are. When a person is raised in that culture, they have this tragic trick played on them. When they are hurting the most and needing the most, they don’t know how to express it except by calling names to other people.

When we are Giraffes we want to break that cycle. We know that the basis of violence is when people are in pain and don’t know how to say that clearly. There is a book called Out of Weakness by Andrew Schmookler of the Conflict Resolution Department at Harvard University. He has written in this book that violence — whether we are talking about verbal, psychological, or physical violence, whether between husband and wife, parents and children, or nations – all violence at the base is people not knowing how to get in touch with what is inside. Instead, they are taught a language that indicates that there are villains out there, bad guys out there that are causing the problem. Then you have a country where even the leader will say of another country: “They’re the evil empire.” And then the leaders of the other country will say back, “These are imperialist oppressors,” instead of seeing and revealing the pain and the fear behind the other’s words. This is a very dangerous social phenomenon. That’s why Giraffes are committed to just hearing the pain and needs behind any name — not to take it in and not to respond in kind.

  • * *

Next participant (F): I have a partner who is really unhappy with how much he weighs. I hear him constantly coming down on himself for eating too much or eating the wrong foods. When I hear him “shoulding” himself like a Jackal, I want to teach him Giraffe and I end up saying, “Hey, don’t use the word ‘should!’”

Marshall: [As participant’s partner, howls like a Jackal several times] “I can’t stand that Giraffe crap!”

Marshall [To participant F] He’s not going to be receptive to that kind of attempt to teach Giraffe! You can’t teach Giraffe by Jackaling a person into it! [Laughter]

Participant F: I know; I’m saying, “Don’t should on yourself, don’t you use the word should.”

Marshall: Then you know what he ends up saying? “I shouldn’t say should.” It’s a double whammy — a double should!

Jackal partner: Don’t tell me how to talk; that’s not nice.

Participant F (as herself): “I’m sorry, I’m just trying to help.”

Marshall: Now you’ve become the Jackal!

Participant F: How would you do it then?

Marshall: The same way you did. How would I like to do it, you mean? [Laughter]

Jackal: I really shouldn’t eat so many cookies. I’m as fat as a pig and I would
really like to lose some weight.

Giraffe: Sounds like you’re really disgusted with yourself, Jackal. You really
want to lose some weight.

Jackal: Yes, but the more pressure I put on myself, the more I want to eat. It’s just like a nightmare. The more I tell myself I shouldn’t do it, then the more I want to do it, the more I hate myself. It’s a vicious circle.

Giraffe: You’re really caught up in a very frustrating circle. You really want to
give it up, but by putting pressure on yourself, you resist it, and you just want to eat more cookies. The more that goes on, the more you hate yourself, the more you tell yourself you should give it up.

Jackal: [Sighing] Oh yeah! You got it; it’s a hellish thing.

Giraffe: Jackal, I’d like to offer you some ideas. Do I have your permission to
offer some suggestions ?
You see, a Giraffe never gives advice until they get permission in writing, signed by a notary. [Laughter] Now it turns out that the Jackal is ready for this because he received a lot of empathy first. When a Jackal is needing empathy and they get suggestions, they become enraged.

Giraffe: Jackal, I would like you to think in terms of what you would like from
yourself, not what you should do. How do you feel about that?

Jackal: I’d really like to be able to do that. I start getting clear on what I want
but before I know it, it turns into a should.

Giraffe: You would like to be able to get clear on what you want and operate
from that energy? It’s very easy for you to fall into thinking “should” and then you resist what you want to do?

Jackal: Yeah.

Giraffe: Jackal, I would like to suggest something else if I have your permission.

Jackal: Go ahead.

Giraffe: I’d like you to empathize with the part of yourself that wants to eat the cookie.

Jackal: I just shouldn’t be eating it.

Giraffe: I believe if you gave empathy to that part of yourself that wants to do it, that you wouldn’t have such internal struggle.

Jackal: It’s a disgusting habit. I should have more self-control.

Giraffe: That part of you that wants to eat isn’t getting much empathy. Until it gets empathy, it’s going to fight. I’d like to know what the part of you that wants that food is feeling.

Jackal: You know, ever since I was a kid, when I get scared it feels good to eat something.

Giraffe: So it serves a need for you to kind of reduce your tension.

Jackal: But its wrong, it makes me fat.

Giraffe: Excuse me, Jackal, but instead of judging it, just empathize with your-
self. Just hear that need in you. It’s away you’ve found to reduce anxiety. Instead of blaming yourself, for just a minute I’d like you to give empathy to that part of yourself that is taking care of you, that’s trying to reduce the tension and has found this way to do it.

Jackal: I see what you mean. I feel a shift.

Giraffe: Now I think you will have more energy to consider what you want,
because you have given empathy to both sides of yourself. There’s the side that wants to trim down and take better care of your physical health –
you’re just hearing that as a need; you’re not making it a “should.” And you’re giving empathy to the other side of yourself that gets scared and learned to use food as something to make you feel better. If you can give empathy to both sides, I bet you can start to come out with a choice… a resolution of that conflict… of what is best for you.

  • * *

Another participant: Marshall, how does a Giraffe receive praise?

Marshall: A woman came up to me after a workshop break in Geneva, Switzerland, and said, “You’re great!’ Now, as a Giraffe, I know that I need to hear three things to really enjoy praise. First of all, praise and compliments are Jackal so I never want to hear praise as a Giraffe. I want to hear the three things that are behind the praise, if it is genuine praise, and I don’t hear any of those three when a person tells me, “You’re brilliant.” I have been called a lot of names in my time and I have never learned by being told what I am. That’s absolutely worthless information. It never helps me to know what I am. So what does help me? I said to this person:

Marshall: You know, I would really like to receive your appreciation. And to receive it, I would really like to know what I did to nurture you. What I did, not what I am. What did I do?”

Woman: You’re so intelligent.

Marshall: Doesn’t help me. I know you’re trying, but please tell me what I did.

It wasn’t easy for her because she was a Jackal-speaking person, and it is very hard for a Jackal-speaking person to make observations. They mix up observations and judgments. With my help, she was finally able to do it and she told me she was glad because it helped her to be clear about what she appreciated. It was two things that I had said. She showed me where she had written them down and underlined them. These two things, wow! I said, “Thank you. Already that feels better, and helps me to know -not what I am – but what I did.

“Second, could you tell me how you feel about my doing it? When I can see the quality of pleasure that has been brought about through my acts, I can get far more out of an appreciation than when I hear a vague generality or compliment about what I am.” She was able to give me that fairly easily: “When I heard you say those two things, I felt relieved, I felt hopeful.” That’s the second thing that I need to hear. What is the other person feeling? Not what it is that they think I am, but what is going on in them? What do they feel?

“And the third thing: what need of yours was met through my actions?” She said, “I have this eighteen-year-old son, and I have been wanting to connect with him my whole life – his whole life. I didn’t know how to do it, and I got some direction from what you told me.” So then I could see what I did. I could see the feelings that she felt, and what need was fulfilled. As a Giraffe I need to get those three things very clear.

The next thing I need to do is take them in. This means not being humble, not “Ahh, it was nothing.” I like what Golda Meir once said to one of her prime ministers: “Don’t act so humble, you’re not that great.” [Laughter] So neither do I act humble nor do I think I’m great. Those are both traps. There is something even more wonderful, and that is to realize the possibility each of us has, thanks to a Greater Energy always surrounding us, of being able — through our actions, through our words — to contribute to the pleasure and well-being of other people. I see then that I am acting as the hands and feet of this Greater Energy. So I take in the other person’s appreciation of that awareness of how I, like every other human being, have this enormous power to contribute to the well-being of other people, to really act and live in God’s energy. Taking in the appreciation of that awareness is how a Giraffe does it.

Participant: The awareness of what? Would you say it concisely?

Marshall: That each of us has the power to enrich and create life.

  • * *

Another participant (G): I’m going home for Christmas this December, and my Mom is on the verge of telling me that she is getting a divorce from my Dad, but she hasn’t gotten there yet. If I feel that I’m not ready to put on my Giraffe ears, is it better to just not get into it with her? I guess what I’m saying is that I am scared to death.
Marshall: We cannot keep Giraffe ears on with other people unless we have Giraffe ears with ourselves, any more than we can expect a mother to breast-feed an infant if she is not getting physical nutrients. Sometimes you know ahead of time that it is going to be heavy duty stuff. I just got back after spending a day and a half with my mother, and I am glad that I had a lot of Giraffe ears to listen to me before and after. I felt very good about what happened, but I had to get a lot of nurturing ahead of time to really hang in there for the four to five hours that she was ranting with my father. It wasn’t easy. So if I know that I am getting into something like this, I dial my emergency Giraffe hot line. [Laughter] And if you are living in this neck of the woods, you are very fortunate, because all of those people who stood up before have Giraffe hot lines or Giraffe support groups that we can go to at such times. You say to group members:

Giraffe: Group members, boy, I have got a ‘heavy duty coming up with my mother soon, and I’m scared that I’m not going to be able to put my Giraffe ears on and there’s enough mess there without another Jackal in the pack, so I could use some empathy.

Giraffe Support Group: So you’re really afraid that you are going to go in there
and not have what it takes to make things better.

Participant G: “Yes, because I can tell you, my mother has certain expressions that can be… just a certain look on her face that drives me crazy.”
Marshall: So I get a lot of empathy from my Giraffe team; then I go in there and Mom says what when I get there?

Participant G: Well, she knows that I have my guard up anyway, because I have been in pain, having been caught in this triangle before. [Speaking as mother:] “Well, I know you don’t want to hear anything about your father, but I just need to tell you that…”

Marshall: Already I’ve got to take a deep breath. [Laughter] I need to use internal dialog now. “What do you mean,” I’m telling myself, “ you don’t want to talk about my father? You’ve done nothing in ten years with me except talk about my father. Oh my God, I just want to say ‘shut up’ I” I need to give myself some empathy.

Giraffe: So, Mom, it sounds like you’re really hurting, and you need me to hear
what is going on with you.

Mother: Yes, and I know you’re sensitive, and I know you love your father , but…

Giraffe: So you’re worried, Mom, and you’re afraid that, instead of hearing you, I’m going to protect him. And you really want me to keep my Giraffe ears
on and just hear you and not jump in and take it as an attack and defend

Mother: Yes.

Giraffe: I’ll do my best, Mom.

Participant G: OK. Thank you.

  • * *

Another participant (H): I came by myself, and now I feel like going home and telling my husband that he should have come tonight

Marshall: Somehow I think we have not communicated. [Laughter] No, no, I hear what you are saying: that’s what you would have wanted to say before tonight.

Participant H: Now I need a little bit of help.


Giraffe: Husband, I’m very disappointed. I would have liked you to be there

Jackal: OK, so I’m wrong, I’m always wrong.

Giraffe: So you’re hearing me say that you did something wrong and that you
should have come.

Jackal: Of course. You’re always judging and blaming me and saying that I’m
imposing on you. My God, it’s nothing new.

Giraffe: You’re kind of exhausted and you’d just once like to know that you are
free from judgment.

Jackal: Yes.

Giraffe: And that is why I wanted to talk to you and let you know that I feel
really sad, because tonight I learned what is contributing to your receiving me that way, and I wanted you to share in the joy that I was feeling at seeing another way. I’d like to know if you are open to hearing what I learned.

Jackal: I don’t need any of that psychology crap. I don’t have problems communicating with anybody but you.

I have to take a deep breath not to say, “Then why is it that you haven’t talked to your own mother in three years? Then why is it….?” [Laughter]

Giraffe: So you’re annoyed at any insinuation that you have problems and
need to communicate better?

Jackal: That’s right.

Giraffe: I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with the way you communicate. I’m simply saying that I learned some ways of communicating tonight that I think will allow us to connect easier with each other. I’d like to know if you’d be open to hearing what this was all about.

  • * *

Another participant (I): How does a Giraffe deal with a Jackal embarrassing them in a public situation… like being told to be quiet in front of other people? And also, how does a Giraffe deal with other people’s detachment.. .like when they walk away from situations?

Marshall: Well, first of all, a Giraffe knows that they have to get out of their consciousness that the other person embarrassed them. They know that nobody can make you feel anything. Second, the Giraffe realizes that there is no such thing as detachment. In this interaction, the Giraffe realizes that the problem is their own when they have the idea that the other person “has embarrassed me” or that “they are detached.” Even if you don’t say those judgments out loud, just by having thoughts in your head that the other person is “detached,” “passive-aggressive,” or “acting like a child,” you have Jackal eyes.
Participant I: Let’s say the Jackal tells the Giraffe to be quiet and then the Giraffe says, “I’m leaving,” and walks out of the room. How would a Giraffe handle that situation if it were a public situation?


Giraffe: So you’re annoyed and you’d like me to be quiet.

Jackal: You’re dam right.

Giraffe: Then, Jackal, I feel really irritated. I’d like you to tell me what you are
feeling and needing, but not to tell me what to do. I’d like to know how you feel when I tell you that.

Participant I: So the Giraffe would not just get up and walk out?

Marshall: Sure the Giraffe would get up and walk out if the Giraffe wanted to walk out. Giraffes only do what they want to do. Now Jackals only do what they want to do, but they don’t admit that. Jackals never say, “I do only what I want to do.” They say, “There are some things that you have to do, whether you like to do them or not.” Giraffes are aware that nobody ever does anything except what they want to do.

Another participant (J): If I were the Jackal in the heat of the argument, I think I would get pretty pissed off at the person if they just kept beating me back…

Marshall as Jackal partner: “Don’t pull any of that psychology crap on me! What are you, a parrot? If I wanted a parrot, I would go to a pet store and buy one.”

Participant J: Yeah, or what if this fellow says to me, “I’m not going to agree or disagree with any of those interpretations.”

Marshall: What we do is continue to speak Giraffe, but we do it silently. It’s not necessary to say it out loud if we see that the other person has Jackal ears and is suspicious of any new way, or they are reading new motives into our doing this. The magic of Giraffe is that it works even if it is silent Giraffe, because the moment I put on those Giraffe ears, the other person ceases to be a Jackal. I hear the pain behind their words, “Don’t pull any of that psychology crap on me!” I hear that this person is really annoyed. The way they look at it, they’re wondering if it is some kind of manipulation, and they want to be protected against being manipulated. I don’t say that out loud, but I hear that as this person’s fear. Just with that, I have Giraffe eyes.

Giraffe: I’m really frustrated right now, Jackal, because I want to be sure that I
am hearing you to your satisfaction, and I don’t know how to do that unless I check out what I heard.

Jackal: Well, it was perfectly clear.

Giraffe: When I hear you talk in that tone of voice, all kinds of things go off in
me, Jackal, and I have real trouble hearing whatever you say, and I am
just wanting to stay with you.

Jackal: That’s your problem.

Then I hear the feelings behind that — that the Jackal is getting irritated because he hears me accusing him.

Giraffe: Jackal, I want you to know that I am not saying that this is your problem. I am wanting you to understand why I say something to see if I understood you. I’m tired of taking your words as an attack and attacking back: it hasn’t gotten either of us what we want. I really want to connect with what is going on in you, Jackal, and if that bothers you,I’ll do it silently but unless I check it out loud, I’ll never know whether I am misinterpreting you.

Participant J: Now I am at an impasse here. I know that I have a lot of inner Jackals that I have to overcome before I could have Giraffe ears with my husband and my friends. Is it better to check with them if I can’t understand their feelings?

Marshall: You’re wanting to know how to get in touch with their feelings?

Participant J: Yeah.

Marshall: There are three ways to get in touch with a Jackal’s feelings if they’re not expressing them directly.

First of all, there is suicide. Here’s how to get into more trouble: “Jackal, what are you feeling?” That’s suicide. Giraffes never ask another person, “What are you feeling?”

There are two other ways to get the other person’s feelings. The best way, if you can possibly do it, is to put on Giraffe ears, sense what the feelings are, and check it out: “Jackal, are you hurt, are you angry?”

But sometimes we’re in such shock we can’t even do that. Then we ask for the feelings only after we first reveal our feelings that tell the other person why we want to know what they are feeling.

It sounds like this: “Jackal, when you say that, I get very scared because I’m really not sure what you are feeling on this end. Would you be willing to tell me?” Not just: “What are you feeling?” Why would I expect the other person to tell me what they are feeling if I’m not expressing my feelings first?

Participant J: Thank you.

  • * *

Another participant: Could you please say the three things that you need to express an appreciation?
Marshall: The three things we need to express appreciation – not praise, because there is no such thing as praise in Giraffe. Praise is a classical Jackal concept; Jackal managers love it because they say research shows that employees perform better if you praise them at least once a day. That does work for awhile until the employees see the manipulation in it. We never give appreciation in Giraffe to try to create some result in the other person. We only give it to celebrate, to let the other person know how great we feel about something that they have done. The three things are:

  1. what the other person has done that we appreciate, and we are very specific about that,
  2. our feelings, and
  3. our needs that have been fulfilled.

Another participant: Marshall, I would also like you to mention the three things that it takes to become a Giraffe.

Marshall: First of all, the good news is what it doesn’t require to be a good Giraffe. It does not require that we be saints. And we don’t have to be patient. We don’t have to have positive self-esteem, we don’t have to have self-confidence. I have demonstrated that you don’t even have to be a normal person. [Laughter]

What does it take? First and foremost, spiritual clarity. We have to be highly conscious how we want to connect with human beings. We’re living in a society, I’m afraid to say, that is largely Jackal in its history and evolution. It’s leaning toward Giraffe, very rapidly, if you listen to Teilhard Chardin. He was a paleontologist who thinks in terms of tens of thousands of years, but it’s not moving as fast as I’d like, so I’m doing what I can to speed it up. The main thing I’m trying to do is work on myself. When I get myself to be a Giraffe, I think I am helping the planet; then what energy I have left over, I use to try to help other people become Giraffes. So the most important thing is spiritual clarity — that we be highly conscious of how we want to connect with people.

For me, I have to stop every day — two, three, four times – really stop, and remind myself how I want to connect with other people in this world.

How do I do that? This is individual for everyone. Some people call it meditation, prayer, stopping and slowing down, whatever you call it. I do it differently every day myself, but it’s basically just stopping and slowing down and doing a check on what is running through my head.

Is Jackal running through my head?
Is Giraffe running through my head?

I stop and look at what is going on in there and slow down. I remind myself of the “subtle sneaky important reason why I was born a human being and not a chair,” [Laughter] to use a line from one of my favorite plays, “A Thousand Clowns.” So that’s the most important thing: spiritual clarity.

Second: practice, practice, practice. I take note every time I catch myself Jackaling myself or other people. I take a note of what was the stimulus for this. What did I do? What did others say or do that, all of a sudden, I gave myself permission to turn back into a Jackal? Then I use that. Some time in the day I sit and look at my list, and I try to give myself empathy for the pain that was going on in me at the time I turned into a Jackal.

I try not to Jackal myself for being a Jackal. I try to hear what pain was going on in me that led me to speak in that way.

Then I ask myself, “How could I have been a Giraffe in that situation? What might the other person have been feeling and needing?”

Now Giraffes love to mess things up because a Giraffe doesn’t try to be perfect. A Giraffe knows the danger of trying to be perfect. A Giraffe tries to become progressively less stupid. [Laughter] When your objective is to become progressively less stupid, every time you mess something up, it becomes cause for a celebration. It gives you a chance to learn how to be less stupid. So practice, practice, practice learning how to be less stupid.

And third, it really helps to be part of a Giraffe support community. We are living in a Jackal world and it helps to create a Giraffe world around us from which we can now start to build a greater world — a Giraffe world. That is why I am so grateful that we have all of the Giraffe teams locally.

[Marshall closes the workshop with a song about men and women written by Dee Warner in St. Louis:]

Where are you keeping those prizes you said I’d win?
I’ve touched all your bases, there are places that I’ve been,
I’m not getting any younger, so far haven’t had much fun,
I’ve spent so much time gettin’ ready to live, I ain’t got much livin’ done.

Then the woman speaks:
Children, tend yourselves awhile, your Mama is goin’ to town,
Old man, you can come along, but I’d rather you’d stay at home.
There’s gotta be more to life than gettin’ fat and hand-me-downs,
I want something I can call my own, and maybe I’ll find it in town.

Then the man speaks:
Woman, get yourself a job, start bringing some money home.
I’m tired of supportin’ you and the kids, and doing it alone.
There’s gotta be more to life than nine to five and growin’ bald,
There’s things out there to see and do, and I’m hungry for it all.
And oh… is it possible, and if so, it’s a sin,
If the rules we’ve learned and the schools we’ve been
are for contests no one wins.

Where are you keeping those prizes you said I’d win?
I’ve touched all your bases and there are places I’ve been,
I’m not getting any younger, so far ain’t had much fun,
Spent so much time gettin’ ready to live, I ain’t got much livin’ done.
Spent so much time gettin’ ready to live, I ain’t got much livin’ done.

Dialogue between Jackal and Giraffe