Giraffe vs Jackal

Marshall Rosenberg teaches NVC using the metaphors of “giraffe” and “jackal” language. The giraffe’s large heart and clear view represent empathy and connect us. The jackal’s competitive nature represents judgment and disconnects us.

The giraffe takes guesses about feelings and needs and makes requests. The jackal uses other conversational responses and makes demands.

What could these responses look like when we hear criticism?

You’re lazy and make too many mistakes!

Jackal-out (blaming others)

  • “No I’m not! I don’t make that many mistakes!”
  • “You demand too much!”
  • “You’re a jerk!”

Jackal-in (blaming self)

  • “I’m so sorry, I just can’t get my act together.”
  • “I’m such a failure.”
  • “I’ll never get it right.”

Giraffe-out (empathy for others)

  • “Are you feeling frustrated because you need support?”
  • “Are you feeling impatient? Is it something about effectiveness?”
  • “Are you angry because you worked an extra 20 hours last week to meet the deadline and need mutuality or reciprocity?”

Giraffe-in (self-empathy)

  • “I feel surprised and need clarity around the issue.”
  • “I’m exhausted and need rest.”
  • “I’m feeling confused and need some help understanding the task.”