Human Stories

Secret Giraffe Agent

I often hear participants say: “Yes, it is easy to do NVC with NVC people during the workshop… but life is not like that!”.
I always feel a certain sadness when I hear it. 
On one hand: of course it can be extremely challenging to live NVC out there. And at the same time, for me it is so clear that:
A. I do not want to connect only with NVC people, I want to connect with people!
B. For me it is not about ‘succeeding’ to live NVC fully with people, and rather: Any tiny little step I do in living glimpses of NVC with people around me, is to add some precious drops of Honesty and Empathy to a world that (to my believe) is thirsty and starving for it.

Here below you can read 3 ‘Secret Giraffe Agent’ stories:

1. Neighbor:

I have a new neighbor. We met on the street the other day and had a chat for 2 minutes. At the end he said: “Maybe I will make a barbecue and invite you one of these days”. I froze. And said good bye.
Luckily my girlfriend was home so I could immediately share with her what happened and get some more clarity myself: I hate barbecue parties…. And I really don’t want to invest time in building friendships with my neighbors. 
It all went too quick for me to find words I could trust, especially as I care a lot about peace and ease with my neighbors. So I froze. And I was guessing that he sensed my frozen-ness (consciously or unconsciously) and that this could leave him with an uncomfortable feeling, especially as he made himself vulnerable with his inviting me.

He was still outside, so I went back and said: “I imagine you noticed I was acting strangely when you suggested the Barbecue. The thing is that I am so full of friendships that I am not searching new ones. I like to live friendliness between neighbours, yet I really don’t have time for more relationships in my life.”
His reply was: “How refreshing!! Normally people speaks politeness with each other”.
I gave him a high 5, and we part with a smile.

2. Baby in Airport:

I was at the airport in Toulouse sleeping on some chairs, when behind me I heard a baby cry followed by her the mother saying- “arret ta crise, t’est une mechant bebe” (in English: “stop crying you are a mean baby!”)… My jackal voice was speaking loudly in my own head: “What a horrible mother, what a poor baby…” and I fantasize telling her- “arret ta cris, t’es une mechant mama.” (= “stop shouting, you are a mean mother”). If I would have said so, I guess she would respond with something like: “arret ta crise t’es un mechant voayageur…” (= “stop shouting, you are a mean traveller”). Violence creates more violence… I am happy my fantasy didn’t turn into spoken words.
Behind my own jackals, I connected with my own need for gentleness (towards the baby). I remembered: ‘Be the Need you want to see in the world’, means, if I want to teach gentleness to the mother, I want to be gentle with the mother. So I took a deep breath, looked at her and said- “Is it hard for you that the baby cries?”
She replied: “YES! Because I am alone with her and I am stressed for the fight…”
How amazing that with 1 Empathic guess my whole perspective has shifted. So I said: “do you need help?”. She replied: “No…”
I then stayed there and gently caressed the baby on the hand while she was slowly stop crying, then the mother said to the baby: ”Look, he is gentle with you… not like I do”.
I then knew that my message was well received 🙂

3. On the train: (by a participant who prefers staying anonymous)

One evening, on a night train, I suddenly heard loud voices in the hallway, and went to see what was happening. I saw the train crew on one side, and a group of, in my guess, foreigners on the other, and 8 enormous suitcases piled up in the area between two wagons, blocking the passage. 
One crew member had raised her voice saying: “THE SUITCASES MUST BE REMOVED” and as a reaction, a lady from the other group started waving her hands in a threading way. This didn’t seem to impress the crew lady who added: “WE ARE NOT DEPARTING BEFORE YOU REMOVE YOUR SUITCASES, YOU HAVE TWO MINUTES OR YOU GO OUT!” at which the passenger lady energetically put her hand in a ‘stop’ gesture even closer to the woman’s face and screamed “SHHT! SHHT! QUIET! QUIEEET!”

I was scared… fearing they would start to hit each other. And also the passengers group consisted of some elderly women, I was worried they would be thrown out of the train at 10pm on some small station somewhere…

Before things would escalate more, I walked to the passenger and asked if I could support them moving the suitcases and I directly started moving, to signal visibly to the train crew that there was some readiness to cooperate.

Yet the screaming escalated until the passenger lady shouted ‘FUCK YOU’ at one of the men from the train crew. Which was not a good idea…The crew abruptly turned around and some of them left the wagon, shouting that they would get the police.

I was breathing… while pulling another suitcase…

In now a more quiet environment the passenger lady started to rant to me about the situation and I was relieved I could give her some “first aid empathy”, as I had learned in the Mediation Course.

While listening to her, I thought: where she comes from, saying ‘FUCK YOU’ might be much more common than in the culture I grew up in. In her culture, her gestures, tone and words might be more habitual in conflict than for the train people. 
Having the man who had been insulted standing in a hearing distance, I said loud so both parties could hear it: “FUCK YOU in this culture is really big – really hurtful”. My eyes met the man’s eyes and I was relieved to have a moment of connection with him.

Then a miracle happened, the lady started to say to the man “I don’t mean, I just need solution”.
I continued searching understanding in a way that both parties could hear, I said with a voice they could both hear: “suitcases block safety exit, train crew can’t make train move if no safety, train crew wish to do their work, trying best to move train for alllll the people here”. 
In between I made some guesses to the foreigners, welcoming their stress and frustration. 
In pain, I watched as the elderly ladies slowly started piling the big suitcases and tried to squeeze themselves into the wagon.

Then, to my amazement, a woman from the train crew came to help and opened another compartment for them to put all the suitcases in. 
When the police arrived, the situation had calmed down and 5 minutes later the train was moving again to bring us where we all want to go. Together.

With a wish for courage and clarity, to add little drops of Empathy & Honesty to the world.