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RE-flections from Wendy

Wendy Weiss Southern,

Director of Religious Education

You might have noticed an increase in the mention and discussion of Compassionate Communication (CC) these past few Sundays. Since January of 2015, when Westside hosted the Compassionate Communication Workshop, our congregation has been involved in its practice. CC even visited the First Sunday Conversations this month; Rev. Carol gave an introduction and discussion of the four basic steps of this process, with a surprise ending of a (sneakily staged) scenario in which we were confronted with a real life situation and opportunity to practice.

So what does this have to do with our Religious Education Program? Well, we have decided to bring Compassionate Communication to our Elementary Classroom in a curriculum called Heart Talk. Based on the communication skills taught in Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication model (also known as Compassionate Communication), this curriculum connects children with their own power to create peaceful relationships.

Heart Talk lessons emphasize the primary goals of Compassionate Communication: identifying our underlying feelings, recognizing that we all share universal needs, making requests to address our needs, cultivating understanding (empathy) for yourself and others, expressing gratitude, transforming anger, and engaging in conflict resolution and active peacemaking. In short, the children will be learning a new language—“giraffe”.

Giraffes have heads that can rise above and see far beyond what is right in front of them. They also have the biggest hearts of any land animal. These two characteristics define giraffe language which bids us to speak from the heart and to talk about what is going on for us without judging others. Giraffes take responsibility for their own feelings without blaming others and by asking for what they need. Giraffe speak is a language of requests.

Most of us have been taught Jackal language, which is practiced widely in our Western culture. Jackals have heads that are close to the ground and are preoccupied with getting their immediate needs met. Jackal thinking individuals believe that being able to quickly analyze or judge others helps them to understand people. When a jackal is unhappy about what is going on, they label the other person: “He’s an idiot.” Jackal speak is a language of demands.

Jackal and Giraffe (puppets) will assist in teaching the lessons of Compassionate Communication in the RE classroom. The children will get to see how each handles a situation with a different set of skills. Nothing teaches like experience, so the children will also get the opportunity to practice and interact through Heart Talk lessons. Keep an eye out, Jackal and Giraffe will visit our Story for All Ages from time to time to demonstrate what we’re learning in our RE classroom.

Brush up on your Giraffe Language skills: Westside’s Compassionate Communication Practice Group meets every 2nd and 4th Sunday at 1 pm and is open to everyone.

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