Marriage in the 90’s

An Evening Workshop with Marshall Rosenberg

Marshall: The subject is marriage in the 90’s. You’ve heard me say that it is harder to relate within a marriage than outside because of all the crazy things we are taught as to what “marriage” means. I find I enjoy the person I’m living with much more if I don’t think of her as “my wife” because in the culture I grew up in, when someone says “my wife,” they start to think of her as some kind of property.

I am meeting some of you tonight for the first time, so I’ll need to remember that many of you don’t know my jargon yet. There are only two words that you need to know to understand my approach: Jackal and Giraffe.

Giraffe is a language that makes it possible for us to connect with each other in a way that enables us to give to each other from the heart. That means with your partner, you don’t do things because of titles that imply you are “supposed to,” “should,” “ought to,” or “must.” You don’t give out of guilt, shame, unconsciousness, fear, obligation, duty. It is my belief that whenever we do for one another out of that kind of energy, everybody loses. When we receive something given out of that kind of energy, we know we are going to have to pay for it because it was done at the other person’s expense. I’m interested in a process in which we give to each other from the heart.

Tonight we’ll be looking at this process within marriage or close relationships. How do we learn to give from the heart in such a way that giving feels like receiving? When things are being done in a human way, I don’t think you can tell the giver from the receiver. It’s only when we interact with each other in what I call –now here comes the second word– a Jackal manner, that giving isn’t much fun.

Let me suggest that you write some things down. I’m going to ask you four questions. If you are married or partnered, then pretend that you’ll be speaking with your partner or spouse. If you want to focus on some other relationship, pick someone you’re close to, perhaps a good friend. Now as your Giraffe partner, I’m going to ask you the four questions that deeply interest Giraffe-speaking people around all relationships, but particularly intimate ones. Please write down your answer to each of these four questions.

The first question: Would you tell me one thing that I do as your partner or friend that makes life less than wonderful for you? You see, as a Giraffe I don’t want to take any action or say anything that doesn’t enrich your life. So it would be a great service if, any time I do something that isn’t enriching your life, you bring that to my attention. Could you think of one thing that I do –or don’t do- that makes life less than wonderful for you? Write that down.

Now the second question. As a Giraffe-speaking person, not only do I want to know what I do that makes life less than wonderful for you, it’s also important for me to be able to connect with your feelings moment by moment. To be able to play the game of giving to each other from our hearts, your feelings are critical and I need to be aware of them. It’s stimulating when we can be in touch with each other’s feelings. My second question then: When I do what I do, how do you feel?

Let’s move to the third question. As a Giraffe-speaking person, I realize that how we feel is a result of what our needs are and what is happening to our needs. When our needs are getting fulfilled, then we have feelings that fall under the heading of “pleasurable feelings” — happy, satisfied, joyful, blissful, content… When our needs are not being satisfied, then we have the kind of feelings that you just wrote down. So this is question three. I’d like you to tell me why you feel as you do in terms of your needs: “I feel as I do because I would have liked _______________ (or because I was wanting, wishing, or hoping for ____________________.)” Let me know what needs of yours are not getting met.

Now the Giraffe is excited because he wants to get on to this next question, which is the center of life for all Giraffe-speaking people. I can’t wait to hear the answer to this. Everybody ready for the big Giraffe question? I am aware that I am doing something that is not enriching your life and that you have certain feelings about that. You’ve told me what needs of yours are not getting fulfilled. Now, please tell me what I can do to make your most wonderful dreams come true. That is what Giraffe is all about: What can we do to enrich each other’s lives? What can I do in response to what you have written for the first three questions?

Giraffe is about clearly communicating those four things to other people at any given moment. Of course, the situation is not always about our needs not getting met. We also say “thank you” in Giraffe and tell people how they have truly enriched our lives by telling them the first three things. We tell them (1 ) what they’ve done to enrich us, (2) what our feelings are and (3) what needs of ours have been fulfilled by their actions. I believe that, as human beings, there are only two things that we are basically saying: “please” and “thank you.” The language of Giraffe is set up to make our “please” and “thank you” very clear so that people do not hear anything that gets in the way of our giving to each other from the heart.

There are primarily two forms of communication that make giving from the heart almost impossible for people.


The first is anything that sounds to them like a criticism. If you have expressed the four things that you have written in Giraffe, there would be no words down there that can be heard by the other person as a criticism of them. As you see, the only time you are talking about them is in the first part where you mention their behavior. You are not criticizing them for the behavior; you are just calling that behavior to their attention. The other three parts are all about you: your feelings, your unmet needs, and your requests. If there are any words in there that can easily be heard by the other person as a criticism, then my guess is that you’ve mixed a bit of Jackal into those four ingredients.

By “criticism,” I mean attack, judgment, blame, analysis, diagnosis or anything that analyzes people from the head. If your answers are in Giraffe, there will hopefully be no words that are easy to pick up as criticism. However, if the other person has these ears [Marshall puts on a pair of Jackal ears], they could hear criticism no matter what you say. Tonight we’ll learn how to clean up such a mess if it happens. We want to be able to speak Giraffe to anybody, including Jackals.

The second block to our ability to give from the heart is any hint of coercion. As a Giraffe, you want to be able to present those four things you wrote down such that the other person receives them as a gift, an opportunity to give, not as a demand or order. There is no criticism or coercion in the Giraffe language. When we tell others what we want, we do so in a way that communicates to them, “Please do this only if you can do so willingly. Please never do anything for me at your expense. Never do anything for me where there is the least bit of fear, guilt, shame, resentment or resignation behind your motives. Otherwise we’ll both suffer. Please honor my request only if it comes from your heart, where it is a gift to yourself to give to me.” Only when neither person feels like they’re losing, giving in or giving up, do both people benefit from the action.


There are two parts to Giraffe: the first is the ability to say those four things and get them across to the other person without the other person hearing criticism or demand.

The other part of Giraffe is to learn how to receive these four pieces of information from the other person regardless of whether they speak Jackal or Giraffe. If the other person speaks Giraffe, our life will be a lot easier. They will say these four things with clarity, and our job will be to accurately receive them before we react.

However, if the other person speaks Jackal, then we need to put on Giraffe ears. [Laughter as Marshall dons a set of Giraffe ears.] Giraffe ears serve as a translator: no matter what language the other person speaks, when we have these ears on we only hear Giraffe.

For example, the other person says, “The problem with you is __________________ .” With these ears I hear, “What I would like is __________________ .” I hear no judgment, criticism, attack. With these ears on, I realize that all criticism is a pathetic expression of an unmet need — pathetic because it usually doesn’t get the person what they want, causing instead all kinds of tension and problems.

With Giraffe, we skip through all that.
We never hear a criticism, just unmet needs.


Now let’s practice putting on these ears when certain people speak Jackal. I would like some people to volunteer their situations so we can all learn from them. If you 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.” 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

  • * *

Marshall: How about another situation?

Next participant (B): Sometimes people say, “I want you to be quiet; I don’t want to listen any more,” if they are feeling overwhelmed In a situation where the other person is talking too much…

Marshall: If you’re a Giraffe, you don’t have the words “too much” in your
consciousness. To think that there is such a thing as “too much,” “just right,” or “too little” is to entertain dangerous Jackal concepts.

Participant B: What I heard you and the other trainers telling me last night is that I have to stop once in a while to give the other person a chance to respond.

Marshall: “Have to?”

Participant B: No, not “have to.” I mean “it would be a good idea to.”

Marshall: Yes, you know you don’t have to because there have been a lot of times in your life when you haven’t. [Laughter]

Participant B: Well, I’d like to get some sort of signal from my friend…

Marshall: …when he’s heard one more word than he wants to hear?

Participant B: Right.

Marshall: The kindest thing we can do is to stop them when people are using more words than we want to hear. Notice the difference: it’s not “when they are talking too much.” I say “kindest’ because I have asked several hundred people, “If you are using more words than somebody wants to hear, do you want that other person to pretend that they are listening or to stop you?” Everyone but one person replied adamantly, “I want to be stopped.” Only one woman said she didn’t know if she could handle being told to stop. In Giraffe we know it’s not being kind to the other person to smile and open your eyes wide to hide the fact that your head has gone dead. That isn’t helping anybody because the person in front of you becomes a source of stress and strain, and they don’t want that. They want every act and every word coming out of their mouth to enrich you. So when it isn’t, be kind to them and stop them.

Now it took me awhile to get up the courage to test this out because in the Jackal culture I grew up in, that’s not done. I remember when I first decided to risk this in a social setting. I was working with some teachers in Fargo, North Dakota and was invited that evening to a social get-together with everybody sitting around talking about stuff. Within ten minutes my energy had dropped very low. I didn’t know where the life was in this conversation or what people were feeling or wanting. One person would say, “Oh, do you know what we did on our vacation?” and then talk about the vacation. Then somebody else talked about theirs. After listening awhile, I screwed up my courage and said, “Excuse me, I’m impatient with the conversation because I’m really not feeling as connected with you as I’d like to be. It would help me to know if you are
enjoying the conversation.” If they were, I would try to figure out how to enjoy it myself, but all nine people stopped talking and looked at me as if I had thrown a rat in the punch bowl.

For about two minutes I thought I’d die, but then I remembered that it’s never any response I receive that makes me feel bad. Since I was feeling bad, I knew I had on my Jackal ears and was thinking that I had said something wrong. After I put on my Giraffe ears, I was able to look at the feelings and needs being expressed through the silence and say, “I’m guessing that you’re all angry with me and you would have liked for me to have just kept out of the conversation.” The moment I turn my attention to what the other is feeling and needing, already I am feeling better. With my attention there, I totally remove the other person’s power to demoralize or dehumanize me or to leave me feeling like PPPPPT (piss poor protoplasm poorly put together). This is true
even when, as in this case, I guess wrong. Just because I have Giraffe ears doesn’t mean I always guess right. I guessed they were angry and they weren’t.

The first person who spoke told me, “No, I’m not angry. I was just thinking about what you were saying.” Then he said, “I was bored with this conversation.” And he had been the one doing most of the talking! But this no longer surprises me; I have found that if I am bored, the person doing the talking is probably equally bored. It usually means we are not talking from life: instead of being in touch with our feelings and needs in this conversation, we’re getting into some socially learned habits of boring each other. If you are a middle-class citizen, you are probably so used to it that you don’t even know it. I remember Buddy Hackett saying it wasn’t until he was in the
Army that he discovered he could get up from a meal without having heartburn. He had been so used to his mother’s cooking that heartburn had become a way of life. Likewise, most middle-class people are so used to boredom that it’s become a way of life. You just get together and talk from the head and talk from the head; there is no life in it, but it’s the only thing you’ve known. We’re dead and don’t know it.

When we went around our group, each one of the nine people expressed the same feelings I had: impatient, discouraged that we were there, lifeless, inert… Then one of the women asked, “Marshall, why do we do this?” “Do what?” “Sit around and bore each other. You’re just here tonight but we get together every week and do this!” I said, “Because we probably haven’t learned to take the risk that I just did, which is to pay attention to our vitality. Are we really getting what we want from life? If not, let’s do something about it. Each moment is precious, too precious, so when our vitality is down, let’s do something about it and wake up.”

  • * *

Another participant: Marshall, I was thinking about how sometimes we women get together with our men and we drive around and say, “Oh, isn’t that a cute house?” or “Look at that lake, that’s the one I want to go on.” They think they have to get us a new house or take us to the lake right away, but even though we may seem enthusiastic, we’re not asking for anything — we’re just talking out loud.

Marshall: Now I want to defend men. Not just men. When you don’t say what you want back, you create more pain in relationships than you are probably conscious of. Other people have to guess, “Is she wanting me to say something cute and superficial about this thing, or is she really trying to tell me something else?”

It’s like the gentleman sitting next to his wife on the little train at the Dallas airport that connects the terminals. I was sitting across from them. Now 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 of my life.” Notice how that is similar to“lsn’t that an interesting house?” What did she want there? What does he want here? He wasn’t aware of the amount of pain it creates for the other person when we just give commentary and don’t make explicit what we want back. It’s a guessing game. But knowing what you are
really wanting back from your words requires a consciousness of living in the moment — of being fully present right now. So he didn’t say anything more than, “I’ve never seen a train go so slow in my whole life.” Sitting right across from them, I could see that she was uncomfortable: somebody she loves is in pain and she doesn’t know what he wants. So she did what most of us do when we don’t know what a person is wanting from us. She said nothing. 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. We don’t realize that just burns other people’s brains out. So again he says, “I have never seen a train go so slow in all of my life!” I loved her response: she said, “They’re electronically timed.” I don’t think that’s what he wanted. Why would she give him information that he already knows?
Because she is trying to be a fixer, trying to make it better. She doesn’t know what to do and he has contributed to her pain by not telling her what he wants. So he repeats himself a third time, “I have never seen a train go so slow in all of my life!” And then she says, “Well, what do you want me to do about it?!”

You see, what he wanted is what each of us wants every day, and when we don’t get it, there is a significant effect on our morale. We want it every day, usually more than one time a day, and when we don’t get it, we pay a high cost. Most of the time when we want it, we’re not conscious of it and even if we are conscious of it, we don’t know how to ask for it. Tragic. I am confident that what he wanted was empathy. He wanted a response that would tell him that she was in contact with his feelings and needs.

Now if he had studied Giraffe, he might have said something like, “Boy, I’ve never seen a train go so slow in all of my life! Could you just reflect back right now what I’m feeling and needing?” She might have said, “So I guess you’re really aggravated and you wish they would have managed these trains differently.” “Yes, and more than that, you know if we don’t get there in time, then we’re going to be late and we might have to pay extra for our tickets.” “So you’re scared and you’d like to get there on time so that we don’t have to end up paying more money.” “Yeah (sigh).” There is something enormously valuable when we are in pain to just having another person there in
contact with it. It’s amazing how that kind of attention can make such a difference. It doesn’t solve our problem, but it provides the kind of connection that lets the problem solving become more bearable. When we don’t get that –as he didn’t– then they both end up in more pain than they started.

  • * *

Another participant (C): Marshall, can I share something that happened last night? I felt bad that my husband couldn’t be there for the second night of the partner workshop. I got home at 11 o’clock, and he called at about 11 :05 from his motel up in Button Willow, near Bakersfield. I related what happened in the class and what he had missed – the group had discussed eating issues, which were important to me because I’m a compulsive eater. My husband and I had gotten to the point where he didn’t even want to discuss food with me because he thought I was killing myself with food. It was so painful for him he wouldn’t even talk about it. So I told him about your suggestion and what had gone on at the workshop and he opened up for the first time in years. When he gets home from teaching, he eats an ice cream to deal with emotions that come from a bad teaching day, and so we were able to actually give each other a lot of empathy over eating as a way to hide from the pain. Then yesterday I got in contact… really in contact… I wanted an Almond Roca, so I just imagined the chocolate and the almonds and the crunchy stuff underneath and I thought, “What am I really looking for?” Love! It was just like a flash bulb going off in my head: what I am looking for is love.

Marshall: You were wanting some kind of connection with him, and not knowing how to ask for that connection, in the past it might have taken the form of candy.

Participant C: Yes, it was great! We talked for an hour long-distance. I think it was a first opening.

Marshall: So two nights in a row you’ve had a real connection! Now we have to get you talking Giraffe with yourself and away from thinking that there really is such a thing as a “compulsive overeater. ’’ You can’t say those words in Giraffe because there are no judgments in Giraffe. Remember, all judgments are tragic expressions of other things. Giraffe is a process. When we say anything about ourselves like, “I am a __,” it’s static thinking; it puts us in a box and leads to self-fulfilling prophesies.

When we think that we (or somebody else) “is something,” we usually act in a way that makes it happen. There is no verb “to be” in Giraffe; you can’t say, “This person is lazy,” “This person is normal,” “This person is right.” Let’s translate “compulsive overeater” into Giraffe. Use the four things you have already worked with tonight.

Participant C: “Whenever I eat out of my needs to be loved or to be touched….”

Marshall: I feel how?

Participant C: “I feel that the food is assuaging me in a way that…”

Marshall: “I feel discouraged…?”

Participant C: “I feel discouraged that I am not getting my needs met.

Marshall: “I feel discouraged because I really want to get clear on what my needs are so I can meet them.”

Participant C: Yes, right.

Marshall: “So I want to continue doing what I did last night with Bill on the phone. Now when I feel this urge, I want to stop and ask myself, “What am I really needing?” You see how we have translated the judgment, “I’m a compulsive overeater” into how I feel, what my unmet needs are, and what I want to do about it.

That’s how we speak Giraffe with ourselves.

Another participant asks: So the first three parts are…

Marshall: “When I eat because I am wanting something else…” That’s the first part, the observation of what she sees herself doing. Secondly she checks her feeling: “I feel discouraged.” Number three: “My unmet need is to be in touch with what I really want so I have a chance of getting it.” And finally the fourth thing is, “What do I want to do about this to make my most wonderful dream come true? When I start finding myself wanting to eat, I stop and ask myself, ‘What is it that I am really wanting?’ Then I get in touch with what I am really wanting.” Now she is not thinking of what she is; she’s more in touch with a process that moves. That may not solve the problem, but she’ll find out by doing it because she isn’t thinking of what she is: she is thinking of what she is feeling and wanting and what she is going to do about that. A Giraffe never thinks of herself as a “worthwhile person.” If you do, you will spend a good amount of time questioning whether you are a “worthless person.” Giraffes don’t spend time thinking what kind of person they are; they think moment by moment. Not: “What am I?” but “What is the life that is going on in me at this moment?”

  • * *

Another participant (D): Sometimes we get into doing everything ourselves and are not in touch with how good it may feel to have someone else do for us. While you were talking to her [Participant C above], I thought how nice it was to be in touch with what one needed. Sometimes I just don’t know what I need and I get discouraged.

Marshall: Most of us don’t know what we want. It’s only after we get something and it messes up our life that we know it wasn’t what we wanted. I’ll say I want an ice cream cone, get one, eat it, then feel terrible and realize that wasn’t what I wanted. To a Giraffe, it’s not a matter of knowing what is right or wrong. To be a Giraffe requires courage and choosing what you want based more on intuition than thinking. It’s being in touch with your unmet needs and choosing what you want to do about them.

Participant D: I find that I’m a big doer.

Marshall: You just labeled yourself.

Participant D: What I mean is that I run around wanting to connect with people by doing something for them. Sometimes I run across people that don’t expect that from me and it feels so good. But then I start to wonder whether they would really like to receive but just won’t let me in.

Marshall: If the other person is a Giraffe, they never want you to do anything for them. Giraffes operate on the philosophy, “Me first and only.” A Giraffe wants you only to take care of yourself. If it is meeting your need to give to them, they will enjoy receiving because then they know they are not going to pay for it.

Participant D: But what if they won’t let me do for them?

Marshall: That’s probably because there are people who give to them not out of “me first and only.” All their lives they probably have had people doing things for them and then sending them a bill. It’s scary, so now they don’t trust you either. They don’t realize there is another kind of giving, that there are people who give — not to take care of them — but from the heart.

Participant D: I’m sad I haven’t been able to clearly communicate that what I want is to give from the heart. Perhaps I can say to them, “It makes me sad that you don’t give me the opportunity to give of myself.”

Marshall: If you stop there, then we’re back to the man on the train.

Participant D: How about if I add, “Are you willing to tell me if you are willing to give me that opportunity?”

Marshall: OK, I’m glad that you got that part in. You feel sad because you would really like the opportunity to give to them, to have them receive and feel comfortable with your gift.

Participant D: Right, it’s really simple.

  • * *

Another participant (E): I’m thinking about a situation with my daughter recently. She called to tell me that what I had said a couple of days earlier had really embarrassed her, and I got stuck not knowing what to say. I was really frustrated, but now I see how I might have been a little more tuned in. In fact, I realize I might have aggravated the situation.

Marshall: [playing role of daughter:] “When you said that a couple of days ago, I was just so embarrassed I thought I would die at that moment.” Now do you hear in this that you did something wrong?

Participant E: Yes.

Marshall: Then you have Jackal ears and won’t be able to give this person what she needs. If you apologize, she is going to pay for it; she wants empathy, not for Mom to come out of this transaction feeling less good about herself. Let’s learn how to put on Giraffe ears so that you can hear what she wants and what will work for you. As a Giraffe you’re conscious that you never do anything wrong.

Participant E: That’s a big one!

Marshall: Yeah, but it’s really the hardest part of Giraffe to be aware that you are never doing anything wrong. We’re doing the best that we can.

Giraffe mom: You were feeling embarrassed.

Daughter: Yeah.

Mom: Because .…

The next word she uses is critical. If I am the mother and I say “Because I __,” then I’m a Jackal by thinking that my behavior caused her pain. That’s another way of saying, “I’m at fault. Look what I did to this wonderful child.” When I take on responsibility for other people’s feelings, I can’t give them what they are needing, which is an understanding connection free from guilt on my part or shame on theirs. So the next word is very important.

Mom: When I said that the other day, you really felt embarrassed because you would have liked me to be more sensitive to what was happening.

Daughter: Yes, you always do things like that.

Now if you want to point out one time ten years ago when you didn’t do it, you’re a Jackal again by getting caught up in words rather than hearing what she’s feeling.

Mom: So you’re frustrated and would like me to be more sensitive to those things.

Daughter: Yes!

Notice how I don’t say she is right because I never have the habit of thinking that I am wrong. That would be thinking, not connecting. I just hear her feelings but I don’t take responsibility, for them or think I made her feel that way. What did? Her needs made her feel that way. She would have liked for me to have been more sensitive. I would have liked to have been also. I’m continually learning and I wish I would have known then what I know now. But that is not saying I’m wrong, or that I should have known better.

Another participant (F): How can I stay connected with her empathically if what is going on inside my head is, “I’m sad that you felt pain, but I’m not sad that I expressed what I did at that time because I did it for a reason that was important to me.” How do I have these thoughts and still have the other person hear that I am with her?

Marshall: You probably can’t. Your daughter would need you to be able to hold your feelings and needs until she feels that hers have been received.

Participant F: But what if the mother did not feel sad or wish that she had “known better” or had been “more sensitive?” What if she were aware of the reason why she had expressed herself the way she did on that occasion?

Marshall: She might say, “I’m irritated that you would have liked that because I would like for you to see the dilemma that I was in –how few choices I had at that moment.” I wouldn’t say I was sad if in fact I was irritated at that moment. But first I would try to connect with her feelings and wants without taking responsibility for either. Since I know I didn’t do anything wrong, I would just say, “You feel because you would have liked _.”

Participant F: What if she comes back and says, “I don’t want to hear that. I want you to take responsibility for what you did!”

Marshall: As a Giraffe, I hear that statement just as I would hear any other – as an expression of the person’s feelings and needs at that moment.

Giraffe: So you’re feeling hurt and you would like me to see again how what I did created pain for you.

We see different needs here. The mother would like more understanding for how she handled it. The daughter wants more empathy for how painful it was for her. That’s a Giraffe dance. We’re just both talking about our needs. Nobody is saying anybody is wrong. Nobody is playing any guilt trips. We are clearly stating what we feel and want.

  • * *

Another participant (G): I feel frustrated when I try to talk with a friend of mine because she tells me she doesn’t want to argue. Any time I try to express my feelings and needs, she thinks I’m arguing. She says she doesn’t want to argue in front of her kid (who is there all the time).

Marshall: Oh yes, that’s a rough one. If a person sees us as trying to argue, then they think that we are trying to win. It’s hard to convince them otherwise because people with Jackal mentality have little idea how you can express feelings and wants without anybody being wrong.

Participant G: But the hard part is she thinks I am arguing even if I try to empathize with her. When I try to guess her feelings and wants, she sees it as “arguing.”

Marshall: Because she doesn’t want you to judge her. She’s afraid once she
acknowledges what you say or allows herself to become vulnerable, you are going to zap her and tell her she’s wrong for having those feelings and wants.

Participant G: Well, according to her, the reason is that she really doesn’t like to deal with this kind of stuff because she just wants the nice parts of life, not all that other heavy stuff.

Marshall: Yes, life is so full of unpleasant stuff as it is, so why deal with anything unpleasant?

Participant G: Yes, right.

Marshall: That’s exactly what my dad said at the first workshop that he came to. It’s a lovable message, if you look at it that way. But when he first got clear from everybody in the group what a gift it would be to feel pain from their father if their father could just express it – to think of his feelings and needs as a gift – it was a mind-boggler for him.

Since that time there have been a lot of radical changes in him. Certainly many people do think that to talk about painful feelings is a negative unpleasant experience because they associate it with guilt games, punishment, and all kinds of other stuff.

They haven’t seen it as part of a Giraffe dance and how beautiful it can be to talk about them. When I wrote the first edition of my book, I put in a list of positive feelings and a list of negative feelings. Then I noticed how people think negative feelings are negative. Since that’s not what I wanted, in my next edition I put the words “positive” and “negative” in quotes, but that still didn’t seem to help. Now I write “feelings present when our needs are being meet’ and “feelings present when our needs are not being met” to show how valuable they both are because they are both talking about life.

So we have some work to do to convince your friend about this.

Jackal girlfriend: Look, I don’t want to argue. There is enough unpleasantness. Why can’t we have a pleasant evening and watch television and enjoy each other?

Participant (would-be Giraffe): So you’re feeling irritated…

Girlfriend: There you go again! Always talking about feelings!

Participant: [Silence] Uhhh,uhhh

[Marshall addressing laughter among audience]: So you like seeing this rascal suffer!

Girlfriend: I can’t stand it when you do this! (Then she goes into the other room and slams the door.)

Participant G: It’s more likely she would throw a lot of words at me and I would just get knocked down for the count. [Laughter]

Marshall: The ten count! Okay, so you play that Jackal and come on with those words.

[In the following exchange Participant G plays the role of his girlfriend while Marshall plays Participant G as Giraffe.]

Giraffe: So you really want to talk —

Jackal girlfriend: Stop! Stop! Don’t bring this stuff up to me because I don’t like it.

Giraffe: I’m feeling very discouraged because I —

Jackal girlfriend: Why can’t you just be the nice guy, the one I enjoy having a good time with? Let’s be loving and forget about this stuff!

Giraffe: So you would like our evening to be light and easy, just enjoying one another.

Jackal girlfriend: Yeah.

Giraffe: I like that part of our relationship too, and I find that comes when we can deal with everything. You see, I want to laugh all my laughter and cry all my tears, and if I cut off half of it, then I find that the other half goes too. That’s important. Can you tell me what you heard?

Jackal girlfriend: You are starting in again about feelings and getting depressed. I don’t want to hear about it!

Giraffe: So you’re really afraid of getting down into those depressed feelings and want to stay out of them.

Jackal girlfriend: Yeah, and besides tonight with my kid around, I don’t want us to argue.

Giraffe: Are you afraid that we are going to fight?

Jackal girlfriend: Please stop!

Giraffe: How would you feel about our continuing this when he is not here?

Jackal girlfriend: Yeah, you can come and meet me for lunch if you want to.

[At lunch:]

Giraffe: I’d like to show you a way that feelings could be very positive regardless of which feelings they are.

Jackal: I don’t want to hear that stuff… Have you been taking those workshops again? [Laughter] I want to concentrate on the positive things of life. I don’t want to bring up hard feelings. I just want to enjoy the good stuff.

Giraffe: You really want to enjoy life and not get stuck down in some hole talking about negative stuff.

Jackal: Yeah, I don’t want that stuff in my life. Do you know what happened to Emily today? She went to pick up her boy and couldn’t find him anywhere. At first she thought he’d gone home with their neighbor, you know, the Vellas, but then she ran into one of the kids and he told her that he saw her son leaving school at lunch time with a man, a guy he’d never seen. Well, you can imagine how Emily was, especially after that thing that happened to her sister’s kid two years ago. Remember? I think I told you about the time her sister was visiting and —

Giraffe: Excuse me for interrupting. Are you saying that it’s a scary experience to hear things like that happening?

Marshall comments: Do you see what I did? The Jackal was using more words than I wanted to hear and my energy started to drop, so I interrupted Giraffe-style to connect with the feelings behind her words in that moment I am not trying to take the floor away from the other person but to bring life back into the conversation. As I mentioned, my guess is that if I’m bored, so is the other person, so this would be a service to them as well as to me.

Giraffe: You are telling me that it was a real scary experience for you?

Jackal: Yeah, he might run into the street and—

Giraffe: It really scares you to see just how close we all are to getting the life taken out of us at every moment.

Jackal: Don’t start that stuff on me again. He was just out in the street and then his mom came after him again…

Giraffe: Excuse me, excuse me for interrupting. I’m feeling really impatient because I’m not getting the connection in our conversations that I would like.

Jackal: OK, but I have to go anyway. I’ve got to go and pick up my kid now; school is going to be out…

Giraffe: I’d like you to tell me whether you have any interest in continuing our

Jackal: Sure, you know that I really love and want to be with you.

Giraffe: I really don’t know how to continue our relationship, because there are certain things that I need in a relationship that I’m not getting, such as the ability to talk about certain feelings. If that is different from what you want in a relationship, then I would just like to get that clear so that we can have a Giraffe break-up.

Jackal [suddenly speaking Giraffe]: So you’re really feeling frustrated because you want to express your feelings and needs.

Giraffe: That’s what I want, but I don’t know how you need to be in a personal relationship.

Marshall: If there are people who want to keep things at that level, then they have a right to find somebody that wants to stay there with them, but I have never found anybody who really did. Often they have the erroneous idea that I want them to be associating with things in the past that are painful. Usually I am able to show them the difference between what they think I am talking about and what I am really talking about. With this particular girlfriend, I might have to be very clever to get that in because she wasn’t giving me much space.

  • * *

Another participant (H): I know that Giraffe is about figuring out my needs and
requesting for what I want, but that doesn’t work with my boyfriend. If l start asking him for what I want, he’ll just get real angry and huffy; then I’ll tell him to act decently or maybe wish I hadn’t mentioned any of it in the first place.

Marshall: It’s amazing how it just turns people into beasts when they hear that word. They beast themselves and they beast the speaker and it’s a very small word-only two letters. Can anybody guess what the word is?

Lots of participants: “No!”

Marshall: Yeah. It’s amazing how people are so frightened of this word that they are afraid to ask for what they want because – what if the other person says “no?” I tell them it’s not the “no” that bothers them, and they say, “Yes, it is; I’m so afraid of it.” The problem is never the ‘no,” but what we tell ourselves when the person says “no.” If we tell ourselves that it is a rejection, that’s a problem because it hurts. Rejection, ugh. Of course, if we have Giraffe ears on, we would never hear “no.” We are aware that a “no” is just a sloppy expression of what a person wants. We don’t hear the slop; we just hear the want. It takes some practice.

Marshall [addressing Participant H who had spoken earlier]: So how did this Jackal boyfriend say “no” to you?

Participant H: Well, I asked for something and he goes “NO!” And so I said…

Marshall: With that kind of energy already we know what the problem is. He heard what, folks?

Participants: Demand.

Marshall: He heard a demand. Whenever people say “no” like that, they’re scared to death that their autonomy is going to be taken away. They’re afraid that if they really hear what the other person wants, they’re going to get sucked up and have to do it whether they want to or not. So when a person says “no” like that, we know that they didn’t hear our request. It has nothing to do with us; it’s obviously not a rejection because they didn’t even hear the request — they heard demand.

Participant H: So at this point I tried guessing what he was feeling, and he goes, “I just want you to understand, to get it. I don’t want to play this game and I don’t have to. I just want you to get the fact that the answer is no.”

Marshall [role-playing Jackal boyfriend]: “Just realize how scared I am about having my autonomy taken away.”

It’s so very precious for us to be able to do things when we choose to do them — not because somebody we love has to have it or they’re going to freak out, or because they are going to keep talking at us until we do. People are very scared of spending so much of their lives having to give when it’s not from the heart. So they’re very reactive. He says, “Just get it! Just understand. I just do not want to do this today. I just need to protect my autonomy.” Everybody wants this autonomy so much but you know what? All over the world people give it away: they give it to authorities, letting them tell us what’s right. Erich Fromm, the psychologist, wrote a whole book about it
called Escape From Freedom. That’s a funny thing about human beings: we want this autonomy so much but we’re giving it away all the time. I wrote a song about this, [Marshall sings:]

I got as bad a case of jitters as a person has ever known
Whenever I think of choosing all on my own.
So hand me my drugs, hand me my booze,
I’ve got the sick-of-dependency, not-yet-autonomous blues.

I went through two religions last month, a guru the month before,
I’m lookin’ for the easy answers so I don’t have to choose any more.
Oh, hand me my drugs, hand me my booze,
I’ve got the sick-of-dependency, not-yet-autonomous blues.

My mother told me last night, “Get a job or get out the door,”
But it isn’t easy findin’ work when you’re 54.
Oh, hand me my drugs, hand me my booze,
I’ve got the sick-of-dependency, not-yet-autonomous blues.

Marshall: From the tone of your boyfriend’s voice when he says, “I just want you to get it,” he has a serious case of the sick-of-dependency, not-yet-autonomous blues. So what do you say next to him?

Participant H: I.… I just rolled over and went to sleep. [Laughter] Well, I kind of yelled and screamed, “No, no, no!” I got angry, really fierce, and said, I’m very upset.” And he goes, “Oh, good, you’ve got life in you.” [Laughter] And then he got silent.

Marshall: You know that he was really scared. He doesn’t feel he can protect himself against you. You were very tense, and he knows to withdraw and protect himself.

Participant H: What can I do in this case? Just go “under-the-hat” [give oneself internal empathy] with myself?

Marshall: The most important thing, of course, is for you not to think that this has anything to do with you.

Participant H: Yeah, I was OK with that.

Marshall: Then that’s about the best I know to do in a situation when somebody says “no” to my needs — making sure I don’t think there is anything wrong with my needs. I need to really work fast because, with that intensity and pain, I could make a mistake and think there is something wrong with my needs if they can scare a person that much.

Participant H: Well, I just would have liked to have heard what he was wanting.

Marshall: He is all tied up in protecting his autonomy: that’s what he wants. He needs space to just feel safe in the relationship, to know he’s not going to get sucked up into something before he is ready.

Participant H: So I can kind of give myself empathy silently. Keep quiet.

Marshall: Yeah. Just be aware if he’s like most men – now if my wife is right – he’ll need about three incarnations to get past that. [Laughter] So in the meantime, go and get some women friends and just don’t aggravate yourself. My wife once said about the best one-liner I’ve ever heard; she said to me, “You could read demands into a rock.” [Laughter] I said, “Guilty as charged.”

Another participant (I): When he’s having his sick-of dependency and not-yet-
autonomous blues, I’m getting really desperate because I’m wanting him to know that, in fact, I can’t make him do anything, so he doesn’t need to worry about that at all. If he could just trust that, we could have a lot more fun. Do you hear what my pain is?

Marshall: Only when he feels that you can fully empathize with how frightening it is for him to be in a close relationship — and that might take a long time — then, maybe, he can start to understand how frustrating it is for you to have needs and not be able to express them without having him turn them into demands.

Participant I: Is there some way I can effectively communicate to him how much I want him to understand that I can’t make him do anything?

Marshall: You can try. This person will hear anything as a demand, even — or
perhaps particularly — your silence, so you might as well have some fun screaming. If you keep your needs hidden inside, he’s going to carry that as a very heavy burden. Screaming what you have to say a few thousand times might get him to understand.

Participant H: I was concerned about doing the inner work on my own without saying anything to him because he may be thinking I am avoiding the issue by not talking about it.

Marshall: Yes, how painful it is not to be able to say our needs. There’s nothing wrong with screaming, “I would like you to tell me what I have to do or say for you to trust that I never want to get you into anything that is painful for you,” while also empathizing with just how frightened he may be, having grown up in a family where he’s been told he’s wrong. He has been through all kinds of games so he needs a lot of time and patience to gain that trust. I don’t think it’s going to happen just by your telling him that you won’t ever make him do anything. He needs a lot of empathy due to the scare from his
prior experiences.

  • * *

Marshall: Do we have another situation we can work on?

Next participant (J): I have a teenager who has messed up the living room. I’m listening to you saying that there is nothing “wrong” with that, but my need is for it to be cleaned up.

Marshall: What I am saying is that there is nothing wrong with messing it up and that there is nothing wrong with you liking it clean.

Participant J: Are you saying that if she doesn’t do it, that’s OK?

Marshall: No, I’m not saying that — I’m glad that you’re checking that out with me. Now, you have to answer two questions when there is anything related to children before I can suggest what to do. First, you have to say what you want the child to do; that’s not too hard. The second is the critical one: what do you want her reasons to be for doing it? Parents say to me, “I just want them to pick things up,” and I ask, “What do you want the reason to be?” They say, “I don’t care; I just want them to do it.” I say, “Then tell them to do it or you’ll kill them in the end.” But you already know how to get people to do things that way — punishment and reward judiciously applied — so why ask me? But now you have to get clear that every time you use punishment and
reward, you are never getting what you want If you think through the second question carefully, you’ll find that it’s critical to understand what your needs are because I’m convinced that we never want anything done for us out of fear, guilt, or shame. It would be the most costly orderly house you’ll ever have. We want the house cleaned, but we want it cleaned up for a certain reason. You can’t talk strategy until you are very clear what your objectives are. What do you want this other person’s reasons to be for cleaning up the house?

Participant J: What do I want her reasons to be? [Silence]

Marshall: In Lawrence Kohlberg’s research on moral development in children, he asked children all over the world, “Is it right to clean up your room?” Then he asked, “Why?” That is the same as my second question: What do you want their reasons to be for doing it? At the most primitive level of moral development, the child answers, “Because my parents tell me so.” When authority says so, we do it. That’s very scary: we have all seen what happens historically when a whole generation of people are taught obedience to authority. Now when parents don’t think through that question, they set it up as, “You do it because I tell you. You’re too young now to understand;
you just do it.” I remember when I went to school and I asked, “Why are we doing this?” I was told, “You’ll understand some day; just do it.” Here I am, fifty years later and I still don’t understand why I was doing that stuff. [Laughter]

At the next level, when children are asked, “Why do you clean up?” the answer might be, “I get grounded if I don’t.” According to Kohlberg, this is an important step up developmentally. At least there is some primitive consciousness about cause and effect. Then the next level up: “Why do you pick up your room?” “Because I don’t like to hurt my mother’s feelings.” Here we have the tyranny of feelings: this is the middle-class way of getting things done. You can decide which one of these you want, although I hope none of them. I hope you want to use Giraffe where they need to consciously choose to do something, not to avoid fear, guilt or shame, but because they see how their actions contribute to others. Or they need to see how they are doing it for themselves, perhaps to satisfy a sense of order or out of their sense of
fairness as to how cleaning tasks would be distributed. Or it could be that they care for you, which is different from just trying to please you: they see your need and they really enjoy contributing to that need.

Many of you in this group have heard how my wife and I have different standards about how the house needs to be kept. One time when she was gone, I cleaned up the house immaculately. When she came home, the first words she spoke were, “I thought you were going to clean.” We have different standards, but I enjoy doing it for her because I see what it means to her. She has a sense of order that I don’t share, but as a gift to her, I enjoy doing it. I don’t try to please her; I enjoy giving her that gift. So having heard all that, have you gotten clear why you want your daughter to clean up after herself?

Participant J: I would like her to be sensitive to my needs.

Marshall: You would like her to enjoy giving to you. When you use words like “being sensitive to other people’s needs,” it implies that if they don’t do something, then they’re “insensitive.” If you really want her to do it out of the enjoyment of meeting your needs, then don’t bring in words that sound like a moral judgment. Otherwise she’d be doing it to escape shame and guilt. Many parents that come out of a Jackal background are afraid to say, “I have a need for order and it would make a big difference in my life to have this room cleaned up.” They seem to think that they have to sell their children on being more sensitive or neat in a general way. So let’s hear, Mom, how you would approach this.

Participant J (Mom): “When the house is neat, I feel really good, and I would like and really appreciate for you to keep it clean.”

Marshall [role-playing daughter]: “Oh, Mom, loosen up. My God, it’s not going to hurt anything if the house has a few things out of order.”

Participant J (Mom): “I hear what you’re saying — that we have different standards of cleanliness, but…”

Marshall: Now you’ve lost, Mom, because you said, “I understand, but…” As your daughter, I didn’t feel any respect for my values. It looks to me like you have single mindedness of purpose, Mom.

Participant J: Yes, I do! [Laughter]

Marshall: Well, as long as you do, Mom, then you can’t get what you want as you described it.

Participant J: So I have to be willing to have a mess?

Marshall: You have to be willing to trust that you need the “want” — her “being
sensitive” to your needs — more than simply getting your way. What you have to do is trust where a Giraffe dance will lead us. Another way of saying that is the quality of our connection needs to be our primary objective throughout our discussion. You trust that if we engage in a dialog on that level, we’ll both get our needs meet.

“Because, Mom, if at any point it seems to me that you are not trusting in a dialog that will get both our needs met, but are trying to win, then I’ll also put all of my energy into winning. And just now, it felt to me that way, Mom, because I didn’t feel any openness in what you said: it just sounded to me like you had single-mindedness of purpose. So now all of my energy is going into arguing for my position.”

Let’s try it again, but this time put on some Giraffe ears.

Marshall role-playing Jackal daughter: “Mom, you’re so compulsive, lighten up. You know that you’re only going to live once. Don’t let things like that bother you.”

Participant J (Mom): “I hear you’re frustrated and…”

Jackal daughter: “Yes, thank you, Mom. There’s so much pressure around here, everything is so tense… My God, Mom, just lighten up.”

Participant J (Mom): “So you’d like me to lighten up…”

Jackal daughter: “Oh, yeah!” [Laughter]

Marshall: Now if you go back to your needs, it will be a different game, because your daughter has had at least a moment of connection where she really felt that you heard her. If you go back and say, “This is really something that brings me happiness in life. When I see things in order I just feel better inside and it would be a great gift to me if other people besides me were willing to maintain this order. Can you tell me what you heard me say?”
[Marshall enacts the following exchange:]

Jackal daughter: Sigh… I have to clean up the house.

Giraffe mom: Well, I can see that I haven’t made myself clear. Let’s try again. For me, when I have a sense of order, its just like I can breathe easier.

Jackal daughter: You should just lighten up!

Giraffe mom: Excuse me, could you just tell me what you heard me say before reacting?

Jackal daughter: You said I had to clean up.

Giraffe mom: I would have liked to have bitten my tongue in the past when I did use language like that – “You have to,” or “You can’t go around living like a slob.” Yes, I confess I said those things, but now I want to start over. Now I want to get some understanding between us. Can you tell me what you heard me say?

Jackal daughter: Say it again.

Giraffe mom: I’m saying that for me, when I can come home and see things in order, it brings a sense of peace to me, and it meets a deep need that I have to see things in order, and I would like other people to contribute to that order besides myself. Can you tell me what you heard me say?

Now a miracle has happened because for the first time the daughter is starting to see what my needs really are. She’s not hearing that she has to do something or that there’s a demand. I’ve empathized with them also, so they sense that I have some respect for their position.

Jackal daughter: But why should it mean so much?

Giraffe mom: Before we get into why, could you just tell me what you heard?

Jackal daughter: That when you come home and you see the house in order, it feels good to you.

Giraffe mom: Real good to me! It meets a deep need of mine. When I don’t have that, my life feels kind of scattered.

Jackal daughter: Well, you shouldn’ t feel that way…

Giraffe mom: Excuse me, whether I should feel that way or not.. .that’s not the issue. Could you just tell me what you heard me say?

Jackal daughter: That when you have that order, you feel really good inside and peaceful; it’s like everything changes for you.

Giraffe mom: Yes, and right now you met a big need of mine, which is to hear you say that before reacting. It feels really good to me that we can talk to each other this way. How do you feel?

Jackal daughter: I feel like I have to do things that I just don’t like to do.

Giraffe mom: So when it seems like a pressure or demand, it takes away the pleasure of doing it.

Jackal daughter: Yeah.

Giraffe mom: And that’s why I am really frustrated about the way I used to ask you to do things in the past; I see how you might now be reacting to that. Is there a way we could change that so that you see your doing things as a way to contribute to my well-being in the way I described it?

Marshall: How does that feel?

Participant J: Good.

Marshall: Have you heard my garbage song yet? You see, my garbage wasn’t getting taken out even though the rascal said that he was going to take it out. So we had a little chat, a discussion about the garbage not going out, and he said, “Ok, I will do it; just get off my back!” “If I get off your back, the garbage doesn’t go out.” “It will go out if you get off my back.” So finally after thirty years…. [Laughter] He was twelve when we had that conversation and afterward I wrote this song. I call it “Song From Brett.”

If I clearly understand, you intend no demand,
I’ll usually respond when you call.
But if you come across, like a high and mighty boss,
You’ll feel like you ran into a wall.

And when you remind me so piously
About all those things that you’ve done for me,
You’d better get ready, here comes another bout.
Then you can shout, you can spit, moan and groan and throw a fit,
I still won’t take the garbage out.

Now even if you should change your style,
It’s going to take me a little while
Before I can forgive and forget,
Because it seemed to me that you
Didn’t see me as human too, until all of your standards were met.

  • * *

As Marshall concludes a workshop, the local Giraffe team is introduced so that participants may continue to meet and develop their Giraffe skills. It takes three things to grow as Giraffe — a support group, lots of practice, and most importantly, spiritual clarity.

“I maintain, despite the moment’s evidence against the claim, that we are
bom and grow up with a fondness for each other, and we have genes for
that. We can be talked out of it, for the genetic message is like a distant
music and some of us are hard-of-hearing. Societies are noisy affairs,
drowning out the sound of ourselves and our connection. Nevertheless, the
music is there, waiting for more listeners.”
Lewis Thomas
Late Night Thoughts on Listenuig to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony