Friday, February 24, 2017


Insight provided by Danielle Van den Bosch, HR Projects, Valesta Belgium

The importance of effective communication skills at the workplace can’t be underestimated. It leads to better relationships and higher productivity. For a consultancy company as Valesta, it is crucial that our employees have excellent communication skills. After all, they are our ambassadors towards our clients and need to be able to interact with all types of personalities.

Recognising this, Valesta invests in training to enhance the communication skills and interpersonal skills of our employees. This is done through Valesta Academy.

“People should connect to themselves first in order to be able to connect with others”

This month, Valesta Academy organised a workshop on Communication Skills. Arriving at the Valesta office on the day, I find a crowded parking lot. This workshop is very popular, and with good reason.  The trainer, Ann Daenekindt is a real inspiring person. Her starting point is that people should connect to themselves first in order to be able to connect with others. This makes her training a very personal experience.

This introductory course is designed specifically for Valesta employees who collaborate day-by-day with a variety of stakeholders such as research centers, company team members, Ethics Committees... It is the first workshop in a series of interpersonal skills trainings. One has to get the basics right before moving on to the more complex work!

On my way to the kitchen around noon I meet some participants and can’t resist asking how they feel about the training. I get reactions such as ‘interactive’, ‘original’, ‘surprising and confronting’...

Especially the part about the giraffe and the jackal seems to have catched on. 

   “Do you talk like a Jackal or like a Giraffe?” 

The term ‘Giraffe language’ was introduced in the sixties by Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of a model for ‘non-violent communication’.  In our culture, we mostly talk in jackal language. Jackal language is attacking and can hurt. The jackal is good at criticising and blaming - as well as towards others as towards oneself. The giraffe on the contrary is empathic and compassionate, is able to connect with a person’s needs.  We all have both the jackal and giraffe in us.

Trying to explain Rosenberg’s model in a few sentences would do it injustice. There is so much in it.
I can only recommend watching one of the videos on YouTube in which Rosenberg himself explains key points of the model. (e.g.   or )

“What is it that you need?”

What I personally like best in the model is the focus on the needs of people. If someone talks like a jackal, it’s because he has certain needs which need to be fulfilled. This also applies for yourself: if you feel the jackal loom up again, ask yourself what it is that you need. We are often so preoccupied with our anger, disappointment and frustration without realising what our underlying needs are. Understanding these needs helps to get to a solution with respect for the relationship.

Allow me to add a personal touch: writing this article made me realise that I got out of bed this morning in a jackal mood. I have even been angry with our chickens – and what can a little chicken do wrong? So I asked myself: what unfulfilled need made me act as a jackal? I found the answer, which helped me to stop blaming the people around me. Now I am in search for a solution so my need can be fulfilled. And I have to admit, I feel much better now than I did this morning.

I would say: give giraffe language a try yourself, it is worth it!