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  • Jia Rebecca Li, LMFT

Nonviolent communication

Copyright 2024 Jia Rebecca Li Psychotherapy


I learned from Marshall Rosenberg's nonviolent communication workshops some year ago that giraffes have the largest hearts of all land animals. According to Rosenberg, "giraffe language" is a language of feelings, needs and requests and nothing else. And with giraffe ears, you can only hear feelings, needs and requests; you never hear complaints, blames, criticisms, accusations, defenses, demands, etc.

Pretty cool, ah?

Unfortunately, many of us didn't get K-12 giraffe education, and we forgot our native giraffe language as we grew up. Instead, we received a very different kind of learning and acquired a very different kind of language: Rosenberg called it the "Jackle language." And Jackle language gets us into lots of trouble: misunderstandings, hurt, argument, blames, bullying, anger, defenses, silent distancing, resentment, guilt, shame, confusion, etc. The list is very long. We are all very familiar with the Jackle Language.

So how do we get back to be a giraffe, not a Jackle?

One way is to be reschooled with "nonviolent communication."

"What I want in my life is compassion," said Rosenberg, "a flow between myself and others based on a mutual giving from the heart." Nonviolent communication is "a language of life."

While a lot of people have craved to relearn the giraffe language and to regrow giraffe Ears, the "re-schooling" can be painful, slow, and difficult to sustain. Especially if our partner or people around us continue to speak the Jackle language.

Good news: I have found that Hakomi can be a magical friend here to help us learn to return to our natural giraffe form, re-grow giraffe ears and relearn giraffe language.

I will be writing more about nonviolent communication and Hakomi in future posts, but as a start, let me quote below Ruth Bebermeyer's beautiful poem, from Rosenberg's classic book, "Nonviolent Communication."

Words are Windows (or They're Walls)

I feel so sentenced by your words,

I feel so judged and sent away,

Before I go I've got to know,

Is that what you mean to say?

Before I rise to my defense,

Before I speak in hurt or fear,

Before I build that wall of words,

Tell me, did I really hear?

Words are windows, or they're walls,

They sentence us, or set us free. When I speak and when I hear,

Let the love light shine through me.

There are things I need to say,

Things that mean so much to me,

If my words don't make me clear,

Will you help me to be free?

If I seemed to put you down,

If you felt I didn't care,

Try to listen through my words,

To the feelings that we share.

If you cannot wait to learn about giraffe language and regrow giraffe ears, click HERE for a full-length workshop by Rosenberg on nonviolent communication.


Rosenberg, M.B. (2015). Nonviolent Communication: A language of life (3rd Ed.). Encinitas, CA: PuddleDancer Press.


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