What Giraffe Language Tells Us

We all need:

acceptance, affection, appreciation, autonomy, authenticity, connection, empathy, to be heard, honesty, love, meaning, physical wellbeing, play, respect, safety, stability, security, space, trust, warmth, … and more, much more….        Message Alert – We all want our FEELINGS To Be HEARD

We all feel any of these things when our needs are NOT met:

afraid, agony, angry, annoyed, anxious, ashamed, confused, depressed, disconnected, disgusted, embarrassed, fatigued, frustrated, guilty, hopeless, hurt, jealous, pain, sad, surprised, suspicious, unhappy, vulnerable, worried, … and more ….  Just to name a few.

We all feel any of these things when our needs ARE met:

authentic, awed, amazed, calm, curious, friendly, compassionate, empathetic, empowered, energetic, equanimous, fascinated, glad, feeling heard, interested, loving, open, passionate, peaceful, relaxed, rested, restored, sincere, thrilled, tickled, warm, … and more ...

Giraffe Language (NVC)

These statements are from Nonviolent Communication (NVC) also known as compassionate communication or Giraffe language.  NVC was developed in the 1960s by Marshall Rosenberg, a psychologist.  He named his model Giraffe language because of the giraffe’s size, power, gentleness, and aura of peace. And the giraffe has the largest heart of all land animals.

NVC is based on the literacy of feelings and needs

  • Feelings and needs are always connected. Feelings arise from needs – met or unmet.
  • Listen to the feelings
  • Find the need that the feelings are connected to
  • When receiver is focused on the needs, the receiver experiences less judgment, criticism, defense

The 4 steps of Giraffe language

  1. Start with observing. Focus on feelings. Search for the needs associated with the feelings. No judgment.
  2. Verbalize what you feel.   Or Help others verbalize how they are feeling.   “I hear that you feel betrayed by ____, ….you feel scared for your husband, ….you feel confused by the treatment plan, etc … “
  3. Verbalize what you need, want, value.   Or Verbalize what you hear the other person needs, wants, values.   Or Help the other person identify and verbalize what they need.   “I hear that you need us to acknowledge that your child may be better, … you need us to be honest, … you need us to allow you to rest,  … you want to trust us, etc …
  4. Verbalize the action needed to bring peace to the feelings.

Basic outline for Giraffe language model

When I see/hear _________________, I feel ______________ because my need for ________ is or is not met.  Would you be willing to ___________?

When I see/ hear _______________, I hear that you feel ______________ because you need _________.  What would you like us to do for you?

Consistencies in other models

This probably sounds familiar to you. You have seen similar communication models in your conflict management studies.  These are the models that I used –  The book Crucial Conversations (by Patterson et al) outlines similar steps.  And TeamSTEPPS provides  a similar model:

  1. Open the discussion
  2. State the concern
  3. State the problem (real or perceived)
  4. Offer a solution
  5. Obtain an agreement

Conflict management in Healthcare and Life

Conflict management is the name of the game in healthcare.  Feelings and unmet needs run high in our work environments … because the stakes are always high when one enters the healthcare system.

Giraffe language brings not only the hope of some resolution, but it brings the hope of some healing.

Remember what Giraffe language gives us. It teaches us that feelings and needs are always connected. 

When we acknowledge others’ feelings, we are acknowledging their personhood, who they are at their core, in their soul.

This is where each of us wants to heard. 

We want our Feelings to be heard, not just our needs met.

This is where the healing happens.


Photo by Magdalena Kula Manchee on Unsplash

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