About three years ago my relationship with one of my siblings went south. The cause: communication methods that were not working for either of us. We ended up not speaking for three years because we lacked the skills needed to understand each other and find peace and resolution together.
Being in this situation made me feel helpless. I am a fixer, a peace maker, a do-gooder by nature. Being at odds with my sibling ate at me. I sought a way to make things right, but nothing seemed like it would work. One day I chanced upon a video by Marshall Rosenberg. It was a 3 hour course on Non Violent Communication. “What is that?” I wondered.
After 15 minutes of the video I was astonished. Marshall was really on to something amazing. He explained how most of us grow up speaking “Jackal” to each other by not expressing our feelings and needs, and then when we do say something about how we feel, we often use words of judgement for ourselves or for others to describe how we feel or what someone else did. And when we hear others speaking this way to us, we feel attacked. Marshall explained a new way of communication using “Giraffe” and hearing others using “Giraffe ears”.
It sounds silly, but the information and skills are profoundly life altering. When we speak Giraffe, we express our needs and feelings without using words of judgement. We learn to simply describe what someone said or did that made us feel sad, angry, etc. Then we can tell them what we would like them to do or not do. If you are familiar with conscious discipline, it is basically the same approach, but delivered in a way that applies to adults.
I used to be very concerned with what other people thought and easily hurt by what others said or did. After learning how to speak and listen in Giraffe, I am liberated from these worries. I am more at peace with myself and have greater compassion for others. I can hear the Jackal speak of others and wonder what difficulty they might be experiencing, instead of taking the comment personally.
For our education and growth as humans, Emotional Intelligence and Social Communication Skills are often overlooked. I was ready and needing this information and so fortunate that I stumbled upon it. Marshall’s method has benefited my relationship with my sibling. We both watched his video and used the method to resolve our conflict and move forward peacefully. Most importantly we were able to truly hear the needs and feelings of the other and find a peaceful place to rebuild our relationship.
My deepest thanks to Marshall and all other peaceful communication instructors out there. Your work changes lives.
Visual Aid: http://www.nonviolentcommunication.com/aboutnvc/4partprocess.htm
This is a shorter video of Marshall’s with much of the same information as the 3 hr video above (the audio and video quality is not as good): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fljEt7_sX7o
Marshall’s Book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life