You’ve already been introduced to the terms ‘Jackal’ and ‘Giraffe’ by Marshall Rosenburg. What do they mean?

Personas of Power

We associate ‘power’ as an internal state of wholeness and ability to affect the world simply by being in a state of self-mastery. The world is made up of a sundry of people from all walks of life, and what these states of ‘power’ will look like varies immensely. This page offers signs for identifying when we are in states of force/jackal/reactive brain consciousness, and methods to shifting into states of power/giraffe/creative brain consciousness.

The concepts on this page are supplemental to, and integrate with, concepts from our section on 100% responsibility and more. Specifically, the two pages below are helpful for understanding this page. Click each button and take a look a the concepts therein if you haven’t already, and understanding Giraffe vs. Jackal will come gracefully.


• Family of the Creative Brain (spectrum of consciousness associated with acceptance, appreciation, love, joy, peace).

• Hope to influence comes from a power with – empowerment

• Emphasis on empathy & heart connection

• Sense of ‘you will know best what’s right for you’ – and shares information

• Selfless love and compassion for the other’s being

• Fosters integrity, not a right way


• Family of the Reactive Brain (spectrum of consciousness associated with pride, anger, fear, sadness, despair guilt, shame).

• Effort to influence from a place of power over

• Lacks emphasis on empathy – without a heart connection

• Sense of ‘I know better’ based on a sense of right/wrong

• They have something to teach you that ‘you need to learn’

Which do you want to foster? Which sermon do you want your friends, family, children, and peers to see?

Shifting to and Drifting from Presence

Conscious presence is a state of mind associated with sincere curiosity, learning, open-minded expanse, welcoming authentic feelings, and the creative brain. It is about being with the moment as it is in a state of mental expanse (open-ness). No one is present all the time.

Shifting: Moving into a state of conscious presence – being with the moment.
When switching from a state of jackal to one of giraffe, a shift takes place.

Drifting: Moving out of a state of conscious presence – leaving the moment.
Drifting can take place in the giraffe or jackal mindset, but takes a person out of a state of ‘presence’. More of a temporary escape… like TV can be at times.

Shifting Sides: Meet the Families

I can shift to presence! Yah! Wait… when do I shift? Let’s take a closer look at the Jackal and Giraffe families, or – in other terms – some personas of what Jackal and Giraffe tend to look like. By getting familiar with these personas, we can raise our awareness of when we are in them and increase our likelihood of making a conscious shift.

Each persona has an antithesis persona in the other family. Challenger – Villain. Creator – Victim. Coach – Hero. Each of these family members of the jackal/giraffe will be explored more deeply further in this page.

Again, for an initial explanation of these roles, read about The Drama Triangle.

Jackal – The Many Faces

Welcome to the Family!

There are MANY ways of inhabiting/expressing the “Reactive Brain.”
You’re human; you’ve spent a good amount of time in Reactive land, and will in the future.
“What fires together wires together” — a cardinal rule of neuroscience; what you practice gets stronger. Reactive/contracted states are generally un-serving to others or oneself. Ultimately, division and anything other than peace can be attributed to individuals, usually every one involved in some manner, inhabiting reactive brain.

Costumes, Manifestations, Signposts of the Jackal

Jackal: NVC
Ready to pounce, attack; aggressive; clever, stealthy, goes for the throat. Faux feelings.

Jackal: Sound Relationship House (Gottman) – Four Horsemen
Criticism – I’ll attack in order to protect what I feel is threatened
Contempt – I’ll be right and show you you’re wrong
Stonewalling – I will never get what I want from you, therefore I withhold to protect my desires
Defensiveness – I’ll defend what I fear losing

Jackal: Your Storied Life
Enemy images. Right/Wrong. Rackets.

Jackal: Behavior Guidance
Punishment/reward, guilt, shame. Power over.

Jackal: Language
Disconnecting language. Faux Feelings. Communication that Cuts off Connection.

Jackal: 100% Responsibility
The Victim – “It’s hard” – “I have to” – “There’s nothing I can do”
The Hero – “I can handle it” – “I can help” – “Poor you”
The Villain – “It should be different” – Who’s to blame?” – You’re wrong”

What other concepts come to mind?
Dirty communication. Gossip/rumor. Controlled by fear. Wall of cool. Attachment

Being a Happy Jackal

Though the signposts above paint a bleak image of jackal life, it doesn’t always look/feel that way. Jackals can laugh, crack jokes, and banter just like the rest of us. They can – and in fact often do – feel inspired to affect change and lead lives of purpose and passion. Remember that being a jackal isn’t defined by the actions, rather the state of mind. It is a temporary way of being.
It wouldn’t be hard to imagine, for example, a police officer leading a generally happy and inspired life. They – on a whole – receive training and live in a system very different from many of us, which holds different axioms to be true. And, when their actions reflect a mentality of reactive brain, power-over, and closed-mindedness to proving one way right, we would still say they are in a state of jackal – no matter how happy or how well-intentioned (or backed by societal standards) they are.

Giraffe – The Many Faces

Welcome to the Family!

There are MANY ways of inhabiting/expressing the “Creative Brain” as well, and both inter-personally and internally. The common narrative is that this family is characterized by loving, compassionate intentions.
When we adopt a ‘Creative Brain’ worldview and use tools of empowerment and emotional connection, we are adopting a giraffe persona.

Remember, “What fires together wires together”… 🙂

Costumes, Manifestations, Signposts of the Giraffe

Giraffe: NVC
Open-minded listening. Empathy. Seeks heart connection. Goal to empower other person. Authentic feelings, needs, observations. Rumi’s field (beyond right/wrong). Self Empathy. Gratitude.

Giraffe: Integrity
Know thyself. Act… Values and Principles. Word as Self. Holding/Communicating agreements. 100% Responsibility/”to me” worldview. Clean communication. Completely open/honest.

Giraffe: Scaffolding
The Learning Process. Educational Praise.

Giraffe: Mentorship & Connection
Leading with. Active Listening. Reading Minds. RRV.

Embodying the Giraffe – Mindsets
Giraffes don’t ‘avoid conflict’ – rather, they seek for truth with open-minded discourse and sharing. Below three personas/mindsets which are characteristic of effecting change in the ‘giraffe’ state. These are the antidote personas to those of the Drama Triangle.

The 3 Giraffe Personas

Persona #1: The Coach – “Tell me more about…”, “What are you learning about…?”
The Coach is the antithesis of the Hero. They listen without pre-conceived stories, taking on the authentic experience of the speaker. They believe fully in the wholeness of the other person, and find beauty in their process of realizing that wholeness. They facilitate, guide, and encourage the other person to find out what is true for them and empowers them into living that reality.
As opposed to Heroes, Coaches don’t see others as less than them or dependent on them. They don’t tell the other what they ‘should’ do or take responsibility for others’ situations.

Seeks out – Personal empowerment, learning opportunities, clarifying questions, new ways of seeing things

Persona #2: The Creator – “What do you want?”, “I believe you can make that reality”
The Creator is the antithesis of the Victim. They welcome fear as information, take full responsibility, and believe that they, and others, have the power to create their own reality. They see themselves and others as powerful and focus on creating the possibilities that align with their values.
As opposed to Victims, Creators are positively focused. They focus on possibilities and ways of making what they want into a reality. They create more opportunities rather than cut them off.

Seeks out – Vision/passion, possibilities, co-creators, learning, fun & play, empowerment

Persona #3: The Challenger “I saw that __observation__” “What was the spirit of the action?” “If it happened again, what would you do different?”
The Challenger is the antithesis of the Villain. They detach from stories and judgments that make others wrong and instead seek out the truth of the matter. From this place, new, more life-serving stories can be formed. In calling for this, they put supportive pressure on others to find a more powerful way of being.
As opposed to Villains, Challengers face what is no longer of service and facilitate action towards learning, change, and growth.

Seeks out – Life-serving stories to adopt, limiting stories to change, Integrity, New Insight

A Whole Tower of Friends

As opposed to Jackals, giraffes are usually found in groups, aptly named towers. Whereas the Jackal personas are often times more strictly embodied (and can be the same for some time), the Giraffe personas often-times coexist almost instantaneously from sentence to sentence in a harmonious way. Their impact stems from themselves, and carries over fluidly to those around them.

If you’re interested in learning some ‘Street Giraffe’ (using the methods of NVC without sounding like an NVC robot) and some listening tips, click below.