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 affect.

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 she didn’t ask, 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 dominate 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.”


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 about.


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:

· Share positive coping strategies.
. If asked your opinion, give it. Be honest about 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.
· But don’t assume other people want top 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 ‘spreading around’.
· Feel free to decline to give an opinion. It takes energy you may want to save for something else.
· If interchanges with this person in the past have made you uncomfortable, say so and decline to engage.
· 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.

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