By REBEKAH DENN
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
Mar. 27 - The green-haired kid invades an Operation Support Our Troops rally in Bellevue, calling the thousands of sign-waving supporters "fascists" and getting in their faces until police intervene.
A man with a pickup truck and bullhorn tries to drown out demonstrators with Lake Forest Park for Peace. Another driver speeds up in an apparent threat to run the protesters down.
No matter where people stand on the war in Iraq, many face tense, even hostile, reactions when they speak their minds.
"We're at kind of a critical threshold, I think," said Ann Buzaid of the Lake Forest peace group, which has codified instructions for how to respond to hostile reactions. "The counterdemonstrators are really getting angry."
Here are the views of some experts on why emotions are running so high -- and how to deal with them in a calmer and more helpful way.
Really listen, instead of just preparing your response.
"For most of us, I think when we're in an adversarial position, when the other person is talking, we're not listening" said Kathy Tennyson, a senior mediator for Thurston County Dispute Resolution Center.
"We're formulating our response. . . . We're actually reacting to what we believe the other person said and not necessarily what they did say."
She recommends the method used by author Stephen Covey: When two people have a disagreement, the second person is not allowed to express a view until she or he can, to the satisfaction of the first person, explain that person's point of view. Then the process is reversed.
Think compassionately and avoid triggering your own fears.
"People are on such short fuses now that their anger level gets very easily triggered, and that's when it's most important to think about what is the most compassionate response one can give," said Alan Alhadeff, a Seattle mediator who has developed national curriculums for teaching mediation and negotiation.
"That usually involves two steps," he said. "One is listening as opposed to talking . . . recognizing the stress everyone is under." Another is thinking more about the long-term solutions, "the things people are going to need to do to get along with each other after the fighting is over."
Remember, he said, no one has a monopoly on being right. "It's (about) . . . recognizing everyone's humanity in this," he said, including that of the Iraqi people.
Remember that you can't control what other people think.
One of the goals of the New School at South Shore, where Gary Tubbs is principal, is for students to be aware of their own responses to issues and yet open to different perspectives.
"If you're angry about something, you own your anger. You can express yourself without being disrespectful to another person," Tubbs said. Anger, he added, is fear that is being expressed and should be treated as "an opportunity to go inside and deal with your own fear."
Remember, he said, that arguing with each other doesn't do much practical good. It just perpetuates the problem.
Turn off the TV and consider seeing a doctor.
"We have this overwhelming media that blasts us from every angle. . . . People are both fascinated by it, but also get very upset by it -- as they should," said Dr. Wayne Katon, professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington.
"For a lot of us, you have to try to limit what you're doing with it, how much you're watching, how much you're reading, how much you're talking about it." He recommends practicing good health habits -- exercising and getting enough sleep -- and at least turning off the TV the hour before going to sleep.
People with sleep problems might want to see a doctor to ask if a mild sleep medication might help; those with anxiety and depression should see a doctor fast.
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