GIRAFFE JUICE: The Magic of Making Life Wonderful
By JP Allen & Marci Winters
Illustrated by Tamara LaPorte
(2009; Follow Your Joy Press; Hawaii, 136 pgs.)
This is a treasure of a book for children and adults, too. Giraffe Juice invites us to experience an adventure story rooted in a game called “Making Life Wonderful.” Eva, a harmonica and guitar-playing 13-year-old girl, and her two school friends, are guided by one very supportive talking giraffe, Marvel. Together, their trials and successes show the practical and miraculous gifts of Compassionate Communication.
Their strategy is in using the magic of “The Making Life Wonderful” Game. The 4 simple steps of Compassionate Communication, AKA Nonviolent Communication (NVC), are carefully and thoughtfully illuminated, woven into a story about how children and adults can learn to get along very well.
These are the 4 steps suggested for communicating with your children to bring calm, and kindness, to your interactions. You can also practice them with yourself to transform your own frustrations of unmet needs with empathy, and to help melt inner conflicts.
The 4 steps of Compassionate Communication (NVC):
It is explained by Marvel, the giraffe in the story, that giraffes have the biggest heart of all land animals, and a strong interest in what is called, “The Making Life Wonderful Game.” This is putting attention on giving and receiving communication in a way that allows everyone’s needs to be met, including the powerful gift of silent witnessing. This is known as “power with” versus “power over.” Everyone’s feelings and needs are taken into account, and a shift occurs towards a win/win game. The game of using blame, or shame, creates losers, so these defeating strategies are replaced with empathy, compassion and deep listening. The emphasis is on finding ways of relating that feel fun, natural and easy.
The 4 simple steps to using Compassionate Communication are explained in “Giraffe Says” text boxes within the story. The school bully in the story provides an example of how name calling and giving a judgmental diagnosis of someone can perpetuate problems. Giraffes prefer to observe what they can actually see. By calling someone a derogatory name, or describing a story we are making up in our heads, there can be a sort of violence, or separation created between people that breeds more of the same.
In the first step of Compassionate Communication called observation, opinions are replaced with actual real time facts that can be seen and heard. No embellishments and no added evaluations are included. Marvel is the very compassionate talking giraffe in the story who explains that arguments are transmuted into connection with this approach. “Giraffe listening” is being completely silent while someone is speaking to you, bringing your curiosity to what is most important to that person, and guessing what they may be feeling. Focusing on another person’s feelings and needs can help establish those areas of common ground that lead to connection and understanding.
This is exactly what happens to Jip, the boy formerly known as the “school bully.” Jip speaks with Marvel and learns some giraffe moves. As Jip becomes sensitized to what his true needs are he changes into a boy who realizes new ways to get what he really wants. His true need is to be engaged and laughing in empathic connection with his friends. He has been bullying his friends, acting out the forceful controlling parenting habits of his mother. Marvel is able to gently propose more options Jip can choose that are rooted in having compassion for his own feelings, and taking action to meet his real needs for friendship and making life wonderful for himself and others.
Using “giraffe ears,” one can hear what is in another person’s heart even when their words are potentially hurtful without tuned attention to what feelings and needs are underneath the words. Marvel emphasizes that everyone’s needs matter. As much as giraffes like getting things their way, they include other’s needs as well to create the most magic and wonder in life. The good-feeling energy that becomes electrified inside of us when we make life more wonderful for everyone involved is called “Giraffe Juice.” As Marvel says it best, “When the human heart is full of compassion it is capable of almost anything.”
Read April’s Parenting Tip for a great demonstration: how Hannah Sullivan beautifully negotiated a real life “battle of her two boys,” and how she came through smiling. The boys were empowered, and they all learned something valuable in “An Opportunity Seized.”