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This Here Giraffe, Laughed

Giraffe.  Listen with giraffe ears.Jackal ears.

How being trained in non violent communication can make you violent.

My office has a Training Budget and a Training Committee. Sometimes the Training Committee takes money from the Training Budget and invests it in an educational program for the rest of us. If our boss thinks it’s a worthwhile program, she is apt to make the program mandatory. Whether this is a good idea or not really depends on the source of the program. If it’s in-house, chances are that you’ll survive with your sanity intact. It is not, let me assure you, because your colleagues are wiser or more fascinating than outside trainers. It is because your colleagues fear you. They know that if they put on a training session that is stupid or boring or offensive – they know that you will be vengeful. You will be less likely to help them out with inconvenient work requests. You will be less likely to ask them to lunch. You will push their food to the very back of the office fridge – right underneath the spot where the freezer leaks. This is why in-house trainings – although not always fabulous – have a good chance of being bearable.

The training program we experienced the other day was from Outside.

It was an all-day training program in Non-Violent Communication. Let me say that again. ALL DAY. Ok. Moving on. So, our boss made the training mandatory. Mandatory. Enforced attendance at an all day training session on non-violent communication. Obviously she was testing us by inciting very-violent communication urges.

Non-violent communication is apparently a technique that was developed by Marshall Rosenberg. I mention Marshall only because our trainer mentioned Marshall. Every. Two. Minutes. “Marshall says…” “I once saw Marshall do this…” “When Marshall developed this program…” “Several times a year I go home to the mothership to rub Marshall’s butt…” Cult. The place is obviously a cult. Mass weddings and the ATF are only a compound away for Marshall, I fear.

The training was your basic non-confrontational stuff about problem-solving. Except it lasted ALL DAY. Perhaps I’ve mentioned that before. Anyway, it was pretty much like the training I had in college when I was a hall advisor – you know, “When you play your music loudly after midnight it makes me feel frustrated because I have an early class and I need to get sleep, so would you be willing to turn the music down after 11pm?” Blah blah blahdeedah. Heard it before. But – everyone can probably stand to have a refresher in that stuff now and then. I figured I’d probably pick up at least one new thing that I could use.

The trainer himself was a mild-mannered-looking guy (although he did have that therapist look that says he’s accommodating to the world and then a tyrant at home). He walked through the steps of Marshall’s “technique” in a painfully slow manner. He told illustrative (and tedious) stories about getting his son to take out the trash. He forced us to tell him what kind of emotions we might have in difficult situations. And then. And then he pulled out the hand puppets. Let me say that again. HAND PUPPETS. Specifically, he pulled out a giraffe puppet and a jackal puppet. When speaking to someone about a problem, you have to speak as though you are a giraffe: gently, patiently, and with empathy. Do not speak harshly, judgmentally, and with antagonism, i.e., like a jackal. He repeated this point several times. Not because we were unable to understand the point, I think, but because we were dazed by the fact that there was a grown man in the middle of the room doing a puppet show.

After the lunch break we all came back. Hoping against hope that there would be no more puppets. Alas. Not only were there puppets again, but in the middle of his discussion about how to empathize with the other person, we were told to “listen with giraffe ears.” And that’s when he put on the fuzzy giraffe-ear headband. A couple of minutes after that he exchanged it for a fuzzy jackal-ear headband. He must have said something in between, but, frankly, I couldn’t hear anything because I was in shock. Do you know how hard it is to take someone seriously when he is wearing a fuzzy animal-ear headband? Does he really think that we will be able to communicate at all, much less non-violently, while envisioning ourselves with giraffe ears? Is this part of the cult initiation? Does Marshall have a giraffe fetish? Does he like to play Jackals and Giraffes in the bedroom with his many cult wives? What the hell is happening?!

I don’t remember much else from the training session. Trauma will do that to a person, you know. Although I half-considered wearing a cat-ear headband to the office this morning. To signify that from now on I’ll be listening with the ears of an animal that ignores everything you say.

[Flaming Lips lyrics = 1]

{ 6 } Comments

  1. karen | January 26, 2005 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I choose to wear my jackal ears…for survival.

  2. Phantom Dennis | January 27, 2005 at 8:10 pm | Permalink


  3. Darx | January 29, 2005 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    This is the best laugh I have had in WEEKS. Reminds me of one of my all time favorite quotes: “If the pluralism workshop were an animal, I would kill it.”

  4. MOLT | January 29, 2005 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Thanks, M.
    Between Mrs. Madrigal and Marshall, I am a bit afraid.

  5. jcnkc | February 6, 2005 at 11:21 am | Permalink


  6. Vanessa | February 18, 2005 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    I guess he figured that attorneys need visual cues. You’re not so good with the abstract thought, face it.

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