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[posted by Jenna on behalf of Nancy]

Hard to Hear messages: Hearing with Jackal Ears vs. Listening with Giraffe Ears
Nancy leading.

We started with a short meditation on the idea that the New Year is a time when we might choose to change a habit or two, and considered the words of the Buddha:
A day spent judging another is a painful day.
A day spent judging yourself is a painful day.
You don't have to believe your judgments -- they're simply an old habit.

We then had a check-in, and welcomed one new member.

We then had a discussion of hard-to-hear messages -- and how we can respond in various ways. In NVC terms, we could
i. respond with jackal language directed at the speaker of the hard-to-hear message, i.e. we could use harsh language back to him/her, attacking them, defending ourselves.
ii. respond with jackal language directed at ourselves: telling ourselves that whatever message we were hearing was probably true, judging ourselves as deserving of the negative message.
iii. respond with giraffe language directed inwards to ourselves - giving ourselves silent empathy for what it's like to hear such a messages, what feelings and needs arise
iv. respond with empathetic giraffe language directed at the speaker -- guessing what feelings and needs were alive in the speaker when he/she delivered the hard-to-hear message.
v. respond with honest expression using giraffe language, letting the speaker know what feelings and needs come up for us as receiver of such a message (i.e. verbalizing what came up in (iii) above).

Exercise: We each contributed a hard-to-hear message to a basket and then took turns being a Speaker of one of the messages. The remaining participants adopted a role of Responder 1-5, using the list above. The Speaker would deliver the message to each Responder in turn.

We used jackal and giraffe puppets to get into the spirit of each role.

After each round, we asked the speaker of the message how it felt, what needs were met/not met depending on how the listener responded. We noticed that (i) "jackal out" response of attacking back generally ramped up the tension. (ii) The "jackal in" or self-blaming response led to the speaker of the message feeling guilty or deflated, sometimes frustrated. (iii)The "silent" self-empathy (said aloud for the purpose of this exercise) and (v) the honest expression had various effects on the speaker of the hard-to-hear message. Some understanding, some silent mulling over. (iv) The empathic response to the speaker of the message was generally welcome, though we agreed that die-hard jackals delivering the hard-to-hear message might not enjoy having their needs guessed at, and might prefer to receive just active listening and reflection, or just a single feeling word guess.

After we'd all had a turn at each role, we did a second round where we each delivered a message that we carried inside of us, a message that was discouraging but persistent (aka a "false core belief"). We then got reinforcement of that belief from jackal responders i-ii, followed by empathy from giraffes (responders iii-v).

In our closing circle we discussed how valuable it was to have the feedback step, i.e. feedback on how our giraffe responses landed with the speaker of the message. We also discussed how, if there had been more time, we could have had more vigorous jackal-giraffe back and forth, as might happen in real life when a hard-to-hear message is received by those intending to use giraffe ears and expression. We appreciated being reminded that we can consciously choose how to respond to difficult messages.

I credit Eric Bowers and Wendy Noel as inspiration for this exercise -- they offered a similar version of this exercise when they facilitated at Pacifica in February, 2014. And thank you to Jim for the idea to add a round of delivering our own internal hard-to-hear messages.

Nancy B

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Jenna Card
CNVC Certified Trainer

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