Street Giraffes is a free NVC tele-practice group that gathers on the first Sunday of each month for “dialogue lab” experimentation w/ iGiraffe
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Sunday, June 3, 2018 ~ Origin Stories
Credit: John Liu
Inquiry: How have you integrated your own ‘origin stories’ — whether it be a religious/philosophical influence or any other modality with which you engage — as complementary to your NVC practice (a.k.a. as a #streetgiraffe practitioner)? Where has the overlap buttressed both practices and where has it taken a bit more elbow grease to reconcile potential differences?
Tools from the Toolbox:
A cornerstone to my practice — the first NVC workshop that I attended utilized this tool:
Beneath courtesy of Miki Kashtan’s “Theoretical Underpinings” course:
NVC and Other Modalities
1. Is there another practice you engage in that is very important to you, or another philosophy/idea that you’re influenced by or engaged with? If yes, what is it? If no and you’d like to participate in this activity, choose another practice/philosophy that you’d like more clarity about how it relates with NVC (even if you’re not personally engaged with it).
2. Share core principles of that practice and any areas that are overlapping and/or reinforcing of NVC principles.
Principles of Buddhism: Right Speech
Relevant principle(s) of NVC:
Focus on self-responsibility and compassion
(See also: Miki’s Acquired Spontaneity blog)
Another way to view the intersection between Nonviolent Communication and the Buddhist precept of Right Speech (&/or yogic tradition of satya/ahimsa) is to consider how a shift from our more ingrained (a.k.a. ‘jackal’) tendencies to NVC Consciousness (a.k.a. ‘giraffe’) or needs-consciousness can facilitate a more compassionate interpersonal state of flow. (See also: Mary Mackenzie on Identifying Needs)
In the opening to one of their Mediate Your Life Handouts referencing a Self-Connection Process (SCP), John Kinyon and Ike Lasater write, “At the root of conflict, we see the biological ‘fight/flight/freeze’ (FFF) survival reaction, also called the ‘stress response.’ This instinct toward protection and defense originates in the older, deeper parts of our brain.”
Recently, I got a window into how this flight/fight/freeze reactivity can shift to a more responsive needs-consciousness — in essence, a master class in “Right Speech & NVC” — when I had the unexpected opportunity of having a conflict briefly mediated by NVC mediation pioneer John Kinyon. This came about when a friend of mine and I just so happened to both show up to John’s monthly, free telepractice and it worked out that our long-standing quarrel got ‘put in the chairs’ (from which I learned quite a lot, as is so often the case — the visceral gets more quickly into the bloodstream when its practiced — rather than merely theorized about).
During the mediation, I was struck by how much unexpected ease I had, following the mediator’s lead, while staying in ‘giraffe consciousness’. For example, rather than become reactive to a seeming judgment coming at me, when my friend voiced his reticence to engage in NVC mediation, as a practice (with me), I was instead surprised by an unforced curiosity while attempting to attune to his needs (even utilizing certain naturalizing skills: such as hand-crafting the phrasing of a need — guessing that he wanted the “privacy of shielding that which was tender”). The more constricted fight/flight/freeze ‘jackal’ consciousness that would typically have infused this well-worn point of contention had magically evaporated, under John’s stewardship (to be replaced by a more giraffe-like preoccupation as to how a ‘streetified’ empathy-guess might resonate more for him than other, more garden-variety types that I proferred).
“Empathizing with someone’s ‘no’ protects us from taking it personally.” ~ Marshall Rosenberg
At the end of our time together, as John was wrapping up the call, he went over the three steps he’d guided us through (outlined below) for how to conduct these challenging “3chairs” type conversations:
1) acknowledgement of one another by clarifying our understanding of each other’s vantage-point (even, perhaps especially, while not always agreeing with it);
2) surfacing the universal-human-needs/values in play; and
3) collaborating as to solution agreements.
John spoke about how daunting mediating our own lives can sometimes be and how interpersonal conflict invariably entails implicitly holding ‘maps’ such as the 3Chairs process (outlined above) in our mind’s eye, while navigating our way through potential tripwires as skillfully as possible. In a sense, we’re dancing in the intra/interpersonal minefield and our fluidity of movement, avoiding detonating traps (hopefully towards safe passage), and sense of sure-footedness can be supported by these maps. Until and unless we can make an explicit request that engages the willingness of our interlocutor, to abide by a more structured, deliberative dialogue interspersed with reflection, the structure comes from the navigational software imprinted within (by our own internal — in this instance “3chairs” type — GPS).
John recalled that one of his greatest takeaways from his time with Marshall Rosenberg was that much of the time we are simply trying to hear the underlying “please” (e.g. another’s feelings/needs), regardless of — often intentionally disregarding — how it is spoken (what critical thoughts/judgments may be intertwined in the delivery method).
“Always listen to what people need rather than what they are thinking about us.” ~ Marshall Rosenberg
Marshall reveals his interior jackal and how he transformed it (caveat emptor – colorful language):
After the call had concluded, only upon reflection, I notice various tools, especially from the ‘street giraffes’ toolbox, had come in handy and likely contributed to what I experienced, a more effortless competency or flow state than is typical):
It likely helped that I was striving to demonstrate my mediation skill set to John — thus my more ingrained, habitual jackal-y tendencies readily fell by the wayside (vis-a-vis how I was relating to my friend) — and in this regard I was also able to appreciate afresh how invaluable, how much a potential game-changer it can be, having a third party supporting the conversation.
John Kinyon was gracious enough to elaborate on this point, sharing near the end of the call how often attuning to the “please” (read, underlying needs) of another can happen — even for him, at times — only retroactively. He offered that he’ll sometimes review a conversation, contemplating where and how he might have better heard the “please” in the moment.
It was immeasurably reassuring to have someone with John Kinyon’s exquisite presence, marinated in decades of mediation skills mastery, both bridge our divide and then also acknowledge the more primitive collective humanity, so deeply ingrained, that can (and, in my experience, often does) readily hijack us all.
(I once heard it put, in the heat of the moment, we often don’t rise to the level of our expectations, but/rather fall to the level of our training.)
Additional Resources (vis-a-vis NVC & Right Speech):
Beneath is an interview via Roseanne referencing NVC & Right Speech:
What We Say Matters: Practicing Nonviolent Communication bridges the gap between some of the principles we learn in yoga – particularly satya (truth) and ahimsa (nonviolence) – and the real world application of these principles. I [Roseanne] had the opportunity to ask Judith Hanson Lasater about the key themes in the book, including how speech can be a spiritual practice: Judith Hanson Lasater Interview
The Buddhist precept of Right Speech entails a quality of equanimity that correlates well with NVC Consciousness (a.k.a. Giraffe State o’ Mind) and/or Inner Relationship Focusing‘s Self-in-Presence. While there is a method to ‘jackal madness’, when it gets communicated, the meaning sometimes gets lost in translation. Metaphorically, the jackal point-of-view tends to be more near to the ground (read, ‘myopic’), than that of the long-necked giraffe. However to inhabit NVC’s generative or life-serving perspective, the elevated and far-reaching view rooted in Observations, Feelings, Needs & Requests — the elements of giraffe-consciousness (openness/presence) — it’s crucial to become aware of our interior ‘jackals’ and the transformative energy and insightful messages brought to bear by attuning to that which animates them.
Spirituality is a word that gets thrown around a bit. Tragically a disconnected calm can be mistaken for spirituality. In my own practice of Zen this is a common trap.
Again and again I have caught myself in the trap of living from an idea or ideal rather from what’s real and alive in the moment.
Honoring life by experiencing what’s alive in the moment fully in body and heart is the spirituality of NVC as I know it. (continues…)
Initially, as with any mindfulness practice, the intention is to track our moments of reactivity: to sense our visceral contractions in our body (i.e. an elevated heart rate, narrowing of our gaze, deafening of the ear, sense of alienation or separation and so forth). These physiological and psychological ‘symptoms’ become a kind of wake up call that we’ve shifted into fight/flight/freeze and away from a more flow-state. Next we turn towards these ‘jackals’.
“Street Giraffe” Origin Story
(Credit: Etan J. Tal)
Origin Story: Jackal/Giraffe
How did the (quasi-shamanic) symbolism of jackal/giraffe come into being?
While traveling in Europe, sharing Nonviolent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg would often be transported to and from the airport by workshop participants. On one such occasion, his ‘chauffeur’ was a woman prone to airing her litany of grievances as to her ‘rascal’ husband — just as she had on other such occasions. So, this time, Marshall improvisationally interjected (perhaps for the sake of levity), “are you still dealing with that old jackal?” — to which he was amused to find he had struck a chord. She responded by almost driving off the road, saying, “that’s exactly what he is — always nipping at my heels!”. (Perhaps demonstrating for once and for all that colluding with jackals can sometimes be as bonding as empathizing by way of giraffe.)
“…and for all his sweetness, he had the tiger and the jackal in his soul.”
~ Voltairine de Cleyre
Marshall enjoyed how this metaphor had evoked such a strong reaction, so at another workshop he experimented with it again by casually inquiring, of the crowd before him, whether “any of you have got a jackal in your life?” (and was again intrigued by the immediate resonance, demonstrated by the widespread laughter of recognition).
Later another workshop participant, who had gone to a toy store during a break, brought a jackal puppet back for Marshall — which at first seemed merely a playful joke (surely to then be re-gifted to a child) — but then, again spontaneously, Marshall opted to use it (almost as a magician might pull a rabbit out of a hat, theatrically) during a demonstration on how to deal with (jackal-esque) judgments and, once again, enjoyed the liveliness that ensued. (As in the days of ancient theater replete with the embellished narration of a Greek chorus, the drama of a jackal puppet — bearing witness to the ‘jackal show’ — is nothing new under the sun.)
Initially the jackal’s counterpart was intended to be a duck, in alignment with the notion of the joy-of-a-small-child-feeding-a-hungry-duck (where it’s difficult to distinguish between the ‘giver’ and ‘taker’ – a dynamic meant to depict NVC consciousness). So, in a sense, one can see that the sense of a flow state is inextricably linked to needs-consciousness.
Please do as I requested, only if you can do so with the joy of a little child feeding a hungry duck. Please do not do as I request if there is any taint of fear of punishment if you don’t. Please do not do as I request to buy my love, that, is hoping that I will love you more if you do. Please do not do as I request if you will feel guilty if you don’t. Please do not do as I request if you will feel shameful. And certainly do not do as I request out of any sense of duty or obligation. ~ Marshall B. Rosenberg
Duck Index – Tina Tau: Judith and Ike Lasater, who wrote a book called What We Say Matters about how Nonviolent Communication works in their family, expanded this idea into a duck index. It’s a scale of one to ten. Ten is the full-on joy of feeding hungry ducks, and one is no ducks at all. When wondering whether to do something, like go to a party or take on a job, Ike and Judith check in with themselves to see how high it is on the duck index. The prospect has to have at least five ducks for them to go ahead… (continues)
However, it was pointed out to Marshall that the duck just didn’t seem to hold up against the jackal (as a metaphor), if they were to go toe-to-toe…
Hence, the giraffe symbolism came into being, given its metaphoric value as having the largest of hearts (of any land animal) and longest of necks (long-ranging perspective — in other words, grasping the long-term ramifications of how one opts to communicate).
“In order to show the differences between communication styles, Rosenberg started to use two animals. Violent communication was represented by the carnivorous Jackal as a symbol of aggression and especially dominance. The herbivorous Giraffe on the other hand, represented his NVC strategy. The Giraffe was chosen as symbol for NVC as its long neck is supposed to show the clear-sighted speaker, being aware of his fellow speakers’ reactions; and because the Giraffe has a large heart, representing the compassionate side of NVC. In his courses he tended to use these animals in order to make the differences in communication clearer to the audience.”
Marshall Rosenberg mentions Focusing:
(as a jackal-to-giraffe translation method)
At the seven minute mark (of the YouTube beneath) Marshall says:
“Deep breath. You see… Now this giraffe is glad that it has practiced focusing because it’s spent a lot of time learning how to get in touch with its feelings and needs and it can give itself some emergency first aid empathy right now to deal with what’s going on so that it can then focus its attention on the other person again.”
Q & A Session with Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.
Is spirituality important in the process of Nonviolent Communication?
I think it is important that people see that spirituality is at the base of Nonviolent Communication, and that they learn the mechanics of the process with that in mind. It’s really a spiritual practice that I am trying to show as a way of life. Even though we don’t mention this, people get seduced by the practice. Even if they practice this as a mechanical technique, they start to experience things between themselves and other people they weren’t able to experience before. So eventually they come to the spirituality of the process. They begin to see that it’s more than a communication process and realize it’s really an attempt to manifest a certain spirituality. So I have tried to integrate the spirituality into the training in a way that meets my need not to destroy the beauty of it through abstract philosophizing.
What does God mean to you?
I need a way to think of God that would work for me, other words or ways to look at this beauty, this powerful energy, and so my name for God is “Beloved Divine Energy.” For a while it was just Divine Energy but then I was reading some of the Eastern religions, and Eastern poets, and I loved how they had this personal, loving connection with this Energy. And I found that it added to me to call it “Beloved” Divine Energy. To me this Beloved Divine Energy is life, connection to life… (continues)
Beneath courtesy of Louise Evans, Coach/Corporate Trainer, Author of 5 Chairs 5 Choices:
Another ‘origin story’ — especially for those of of us living in the west — may come from our Judeo-Christian heritage. I intend to explore this theme, how my own personal origin story intermingles with NVC (on another blog, shortly) however more broadly, the themes of redemption, salvation, and transfiguration contained within a Christian context are at the root of the ethos of Nonviolence
By Colin Mutchler from Brooklyn, United States via Wikimedia Commons
Agape (Christmas Sermon on Peace)
Agape is more than romantic love, it is more than friendship. Agape is understanding, creative, redemptive good will toward all men. Agape is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. Theologians would say that it is the love of God operating in the human heart. When you rise to love on this level, you love all men not because you like them, not because their ways appeal to you, but you love them because God loves them. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “Love your enemies.” And I’m happy that he didn’t say, “Like you enemies,” because there are some people that I find it pretty difficult to like. Liking is an affectionate emotion, and I can’t like anybody who would bomb my home. I can’t like anybody who would exploit me. I can’t like anybody who would trample over me with injustices. I can’t like them. I can’t like anybody who threatens to kill me day in and day out. But Jesus reminds us that love is greater than liking. Love is understanding, creative, redemptive good will toward all men
Assumption of Innocence: even when others’ actions or words make no sense to me or frighten me, I want to assume a need-based human intention behind them. If I find myself attributing ulterior motives or analyzing others’ actions, I want to seek support to ground myself in the clarity that every human action is an attempt to meet needs no different from my own.
And this one minute clip, which I’ve written about before, fascinates me as it could be viewed as a kind of protective-use-of-force (when more ‘jackal’ infused messaging is employed as a preventitive measure against further physical harm) and also, to my mind at least, you can detect the underlying ‘assumption of innocence’ as MLK speaks, despite the harshness of his rhetoric. He implores, as a kind of cris de coeur (jolt of electricity, akin to an atrial defibrillator machine), to get the heart of the civil rights movement pumping — in flow — again following the shock of such unspeakable carnage likely meant to cower all those impacted into a more freeze-like state.
Larry Yang (excerpt): “…The personal mantra that I have developed to navigate through the complex dilemmas and social issues arising currently is:
Can I be mindful and loving of whatever arises.
If I can’t be loving in this moment, can I be kind.
If I can’t be kind, can I be non-judgmental.
If I can’t be non-judgmental, can I not cause harm.
And if I cannot not cause harm, can I cause the least amount of harm possible?”
Note “street sweeper” theme:
I’ll post a link here* when my personal orgin-story (addendum blog post) has been completed…
My experiments with truth blog