by Susan Dunn, M.A., The EQ Coach
Matthew is not ambivalent about the war. He's for
it, 100%. This is his "first" war, being 30 years
old. He's watching the news avidly on T.V., is
glad we're over there, and sends me emails to that
My client in Australia has strain in her voice
when we talk. She assumes I'm "against war"
without asking, and wants to know why I'm not
"doing something to stop Bush." She's furious
that John Howard "does everything Bush says to
do." I point out to her that were I against the
war, which we haven't established, and isn't the
issue, I would be in the same position she's in -
my "leader" would be doing something I didn't want.
She says Australians don't like "Americans and
their Imperialism". I tell her this is a surprise
to me, as I've always been treated so well by
Australians. Later I suggest something and she
returns with a barely disguised reference that I'm
being pushy ... the American Imperialism
personalized? ... I get it out on the table. I ask
her in all cases not to consider me "an American,"
in the sense that I don't pretend to represent
any group, much less region or country.
Fiona, in Scotland, says the anti-American
sentiment over there is "palpable." We talk about
war ... we were both kids during WWII. She says
she's cynical; she thinks "they're" doing it so
"they" can make more mass weapons and sell them
again. This is a new spin on the "it's about
money" thing. We agree that John Blair has aged
terribly. We wonder what the world would be like
if there were a female in any dominant position in
any government right now. We end up talking about
personal incidents she's experienced of one human
treating another inhumanely -- emotionally, not
killing them with a weapon. We move on to the
business of the day.
I worry about my coach-friend, an American in
Paris right now. April in Paris ... for him ...
is not going to be like the song, I suspect. And
I worry about my friend who's a doctor in Israel.
I send them both cheery 'thinking of you' e-cards.
At the same time, I receive emails from my friend
in California who has a son-in-law and also a good
friend from Iraq. Ameen and Adel, she says, are
ecstatic about what's going on. Their families,
still in Iraq, are safe from the conflict, but for
years have suffered; little food, no medicine.
They have wanted Hussein out of there. Ameen's
father was shot by a firing squad for opposing
Hussein years ago. Ameen and his mother were
forced to watch it. Then their lands were seized.
When they watch troops surrendering on television,
Adel says, "You can't imagine how happy they are
to be surrendering."
Freda, who works in the Tenderloin District in San
Francisco tells me she's had a hard day. "It's
like a war zone here," she says. She doesn't give
an opinion about the war, nor does she ask one.
She says she wants "relief from conflict."
IS THIS WHAT YOUR DAYS ARE LIKE?
I receive emails - cartoons about blowing up
Hussein, war photos, links to peaceful and
beautiful websites, pleas to demonstrate against
the war, prayer chains, ads for anti-Iraqi
t-shirts, les quotations about the French.
I talk with people from all over the world, being
a coach, and a remarkable number haven't brought
up the war with me. Many aren't watching it on
television. My opinion isn't what this article is
AMBIVALENCE & CONFLICT
You may feel ambivalent, and the nation is
ambivalent. A poll today in New York found the
city deeply divided, with 47% supporting the war,
and 49% disapproving it.
Here are some tips for coping:
· If asked your opinion, give it. Be honest about
how you think and feel, but be saying it for the right
reason - not judgmentally, to make the other
person wrong, but as an exchange of thoughts and
feelings. It's a chance to find out something
about one another.
· Don't assume other people want to hear your
opinion and force it on them.
· Don't catastrophize - "never" and "always" and
"those people" statements are hardly ever true,
and rarely productive.
· If someone presents you with a stereotypical
statement, ask them if they've ever really had
this happen, or seen it happen.
· Speak in a neutral tone of voice.
· Emotions are contagious. Consider what you're
· Feel free to decline to give an opinion. It
takes energy you may want to save for something
· If interchanges with this person in the past
have made you uncomfortable, say so and decline to
· If it's an important relationship, make sure to
clarify and not leave any ends hanging.
Particularly with young people you're in a
position to influence, you don't want to appear to
be advocating something you don't.
· It's important to 'protect' certain age groups
and situations, i.e., a young teenager, a child,
an aged person living alone, or someone who's
seriously ill. As the mayor of New York said,
"Don't scare young children with war talk. They
can't do anything about security."
· If you feel you've unintentionally offended
someone, say so, apologize, and stress that your
intent was open and honest communication.
· Consider whether you want to watch this on
television, and have "killing people" become
"television" to you. We can become desensitized
to such things.
· It's a good time to focus on something positive
yourself - a work project, planting the spring
garden, taking a new course.
This is a good time to practice emotional
intelligence - applying both your emotions and
your intellect to the situations at hand.
Managing your emotions, and helping others do so,
and applying your "learned optimism" is helpful;
letting your emotions get out of control, and
distracting or bombarding others with cynicism
and pessimism are not.