The Elephant Puppet

The Giraffe and Jackal puppet are symbols we use when sharing Nonviolent Communication. The Giraffe reminds us of our compassion whereas the Jackal is a symbol for our state of judgement, comparison or evaluation.

Recently I had a one-on-one session with a new client. She was introduced to these puppets for the first time and towards the end of our time together, she said: ‘isn’t there an elephant puppet’? I was struck by this light-hearted comment. So much so that I bought an Elephant Puppet, a few days later!

This one….

Wikipedia tells me that elephants have been present in living rooms for a long time. A very long time. In 1814 the poet Ivan Krylov wrote a fable which tells of a man who goes to a museum and notices all sorts of tiny things, but fails to notice an elephant. The expression ‘the elephant in the room’ has become a metaphor for an important or enormous topic, question, or controversial issue that is obvious or that everyone knows about but no one mentions or wants to discuss. It is expected that this particular topic can bring up discomfort for at least some of the people in the room. So we just don’t go there, eh?

For me this elephant puppet is a symbol of absolute non-communication.
Ouch! 🐘
I would choose a jackal expression over an elephant in the room, anytime. With a jackal, at least I can make some guesses about what is going on behind the (albeit tragically) expressed unmet needs in the other. I can bring empathy in the room, but an elephant takes up so much space that nothing else seems to fit! I find it takes a lot of courage to actually broach an ‘elephant’ topic.

The polarisation that has taken place around the topic of “Covid” has brought separation into many families, friends, workplaces and communities. In some cases our connections are hanging on by a very thin thread. And the unspoken strategy we choose, is to ‘not go there’ and at least have some sense of belonging with each other still. My experience is that there is huge elephant in many rooms.

Is there another way? How about naming the discomfort, inviting open dialogue and walking into that room as a tall giraffe with a huge heart, and gently asking the elephant to leave.

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