By Kay Walburger


Speaking Giraffe Language Could
Improve Relationships Immeasurably

Giraffes Speak Non-Judgmental and Responsible Language
That Is Both Compassionate and Non-Violent!


Compassion is a favorite theme of mine as you have already discovered if you have had the pleasure of reading two or more of my articles. I foresee 'The Compassionate Movement' gaining significant prominence on many local and global fronts. Some are well thought out and on purpose; some are as spontaneous as random acts of kindness.

As for me, I choose to be an active participant in this newest way of being compassionate. I do this by sharing the good news of all the ways it is spreading itself around our beloved planet earth.

Kelly Bryson is amusing and amazing! What a surprise for me to meet and listen to him for the first time. The meeting was in a small room of a dozen people - some were new, some regulars. My first impression was of a gentle man with a soft-spoken manner that made me feel comfortable and at ease. A friend, C. Shell, (My Artist Way teacher) knew of my fascination with the compassionate community of artists as suggested by Julia Cameron in her book "The Artist Way", and had invited me to hear her latest discovery.

Kelly began telling us about a way of communicating that was non-violent and at the same time compassionate. He had a special way of listening to each person as they spoke and than he connected with them via empathy. As a result he heard their often-concealed or unmet needs and feelings. He modeled how to give true empathy without giving good advice. This way each person could own and feel their personal feelings without becoming defensive or shamed. This was for some an experience of being really heard for the first time in their life.

Suddenly Kelly pulled out a giraffe hand puppet from his bag and told us why the Giraffe Language was compassionate and free of the subtle, yet often violent language we use everyday. He said, "We may wish to compliment a friend, but phrase the words in such a way that the friend is not sure if they were complimented or slapped verbally. So, when we learn Giraffe Consciousness we can speak non-judgmentally and responsibly.

"Giraffes have totally unique qualities. They are the tallest of all animals, most noble and regal. They live their whole life with gentility and strength. They are alert and very quick. Giraffes have such great vision that they see the potential outcome. They have ecological vision. They don't just do something, they seem to say, wait a minute, what is the result of this going to be in the future? What is the ecological outcome?

"Did you know they have the largest heart of any land animal? They need a forty-pound heart to pump the blood up that long neck. The reason we call it Giraffe Language is in order to use it, you need to stick your neck out! Now, the opposite of Giraffe Language is Jackal Language because you feel like you just got bitten by a jackal. We not only speak Jackal to each other, but to ourselves and feel the bite of self disapproval and the suffering of unmet needs that brings pain to us and others.

"We are people with feelings and needs, and sometimes we just want to be heard by someone who can sincerely be compassionate and allow us to grieve our pain without giving us chicken soup. As good as chicken soup is, there is a right time to give it and/or make suggestions, but not until we have been heard. For this reason we may want to find or create a support group that can empathize with us, not lecture or fix us. The Giraffe Motto is 'me first and only'. A good place to start is by being compassionate with ourselves (for many of us, a very difficult thing to do). When we don't take care of ourselves first, we have nothing left to give to others.

'Jackal Love' says "If you care about somebody, you sacrifice your needs to meet theirs." Isn't that a formula for resentment? This is the best way I know to model self-negation. I want to trust myself and others with my needs. I do not want to have power over them by using duty, or guilt, or shame, etc. I want them to help do things for me because they want to, and do it simply for the good feeling they receive. Likewise, I want to help people, not because they try to manipulate me, but because I see the opportunity to contribute to Life."

"Some couples have different needs they have to negotiate, such as more closeness or more freedom. Having a compassionate dialogue model can help them come to resolution where each gets their needs met. If one or both parties thinks the other's need is wrong, they will end up with a power struggle - not a pleasant experience. As they come to accept that both are just needs, not right or wrong, they can engage in a certain kind of dialogue where each expresses themselves openly. Each expresses their needs and feelings, then requesting their partner to take a certain action in relation to those needs. Then they go back and forth with their partner until they can constructively get their needs met. As long as they can stay in communion, they will shift or you will both find a synergistic solution. No one has to compromise. One does not give out of obligation or guilt, only out of the joy of giving!

"Whenever I give in, or give up on my needs getting met, it is violence to myself and to the relationship. Then the energy of giving decreases in the relationship - that is when relationships get stale. This is true whether it is a couple or a corporation."

Giraffe Language is for everyone according to Kelly who works with many people around the world. He teaches compassionate communications to families, couples, religious, civic and business organizations. His dream is to see many oasis where Giraffe Language is learned and spoken by great numbers of people making a real difference in the joy of living and quality of life.

Kelly Bryson, MA, MFCC, is a licensed psychotherapist working with individuals and numerous groups in San Diego and Orange County. He is an authorized trainer for the International Centers for Nonviolent Communication and provides presentations and trainings in Nonviolent Compassionate Communication Skills to a wide range of groups, including businesses, organizations and churches. Kelly has trained thousands of people in the USA and around the world in hot spots such as North Ireland, Israel, and Bosnia. For more information about Kelly's books, audio/video tapes or a calendar of events in your area, call (619) 277-LOVE (5683) or e-mail: . You can also check out his website at

Return to the May/June Issue Index page