Jackal and Giraffe Language

Giraffe Language: Changing Learned Communication Patterns

Think back to the office water cooler. Our guess is that any conversation not centered around or the latest reality show was gloomy, cynical or downright nasty. Believe it or not, there are many positive, productive ways to communicate with one another. The term Giraffe Language (a.k.a. nonviolent communication) was coined by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, founder of the international nonprofit Center for Nonviolent Communication, and by his own definition, it is the language of the heart.

Giraffe Language is interpersonal communication divided into two fundamental genres: “jackal” and “giraffe.” From infancy our culture teaches us to speak “jackal,” a language of demands that provoke defensiveness, resistance and counterattack. “giraffe,” on the other hand, is the language of requests that allows us to communicate with others in respectful, compassionate ways. Why giraffe? Because giraffes have the largest hearts of all land animals (up to 40 lbs!). Jackals, due to their low proximity to the ground, tend to see just what’s under their noses. Jackal language symbolizes short-sighted, self-protecting, limited communication.

The benefit of giraffe language in business relationships is that it avoids assumptions and tries to clarify feelings. Instead of saying “You don’t get the importance of this project,” (a head-driven, jackal response), giraffe language would respond, “Your project is important to our success” and continues to ask questions until true communication is established. “This proposal is going to be late!” (jackal), could more positively be replaced with “I notice that the proposal is taking longer than what we agreed” (giraffe), and “I feel angry because you…” becomes “I feel angry because I want…” The giraffe advantage is that it creates harmony instead of discord, both at the business place and at home.

The benefits of using Giraffe language are endless. Effective communication promotes healthy relationships with the head honcho, strengthens the bond between co-workers, and improves client relationships. There’s a ton of great information you may want to follow-up with to learn more about giraffe language and communication. Google it!

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