Dove with Branch
April 20, 2009 Insights From the Dean of Peace
Notes from the Dean's Desk

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Ask the Dean?
Dean Van Leuven   Global Struggle

Dear Dean, We have retired on a fixed income and have family members spread all over the country. They like to visit the Puget Sound and always seem to want to stay with us. We actually enjoy them staying with us but we just don't have the extra money for food and gasoline to show them the area. How do we let people know that we need them to help with expenses if they are going to stay with us? - Harold in WA

Dear Herald, Staying with you doesn't seem to be a problem except for the expense. Since you are glad for the visit why can't you simply let them know your situation? Being with friends is still a good deal for both of you. Be honest and things will work out fine. They will be happy to cover expenses, or stay elsewhere. Be ashamed to tell the truth and everyone will end up upset. - the Dean

Dear Dean, My fiancée's family does not approve of me. They think I am not good enough for her because I am of a different culture. They are Norwegian. They think I act like an American, and they are always finding fault with me and telling their daughter that she needs to find someone of their own ethnic background. The problem is that she will go there for holidays without me. I want to be with her on the holidays but she says he can't neglect her family and that if I keep coming with her that they will eventually accept me. - Darrell in CA

Dear Darrell, The inability to understand ethnic differences frequently results in problems. This is something both you and your fiancée need to work out. Neither you nor she is obligated to handle it in a certain way, or do a certain thing. What you do need to do is find a solution that will work for both of you. Look hard at the possibility of going with her, even if the reception is cool. They may warm when they grow accustomed to you, and see that she truly cares for you and that you are nice to be around. The important thing is to resolve this problem in some way before you marry. Issues that could break up the marriage need to be resolved before the marriage. How the two of you are at resolving differences is usually more important than the differences. - the Dean

I welcome questions and/or comments from our readers. Send your Ask the Dean questions or comments to: 90022 Sheffler Rd., Elmira, OR 97437, or visit to submit by e-mail.

Law, Politics & Society ... As I see them
  Globe Magnify Glass

The events of 9/11 were a significant event in world history that we do not want to have repeated. How well are we doing so far? We have entered into a "war against terrorism" so that those events will not be repeated. It seems more like punishment to those who have carried out or advocated violence against our country. It seems that punishment is more important than prevention. Violence begets violence. We want to stop violence. Is punishment (or eradication) the best solution to preventing further problems?

If we really want to stop this from happening, we must try to understand why people hated us so much they were willing to give their own lives to punish us. Within their belief system, they have enough reason to hate us that they are willing to sacrifice their own lives to punish us for who we are and what we "have done" to them. If we want to solve the problem without more violence from them we must give up violence ourselves. We must not condemn their beliefs just because of what they have done.

Respect their differences. Seek a way to live in a world where we accept and respect each others right to be, and to choose for ourselves. Let's tell them this is the way we feel and that we seek a way to resolve our differences without imposing our beliefs on them. Let's put the days of the crusades behind us and live together in an interesting new world.

Creating a Peaceful New World
  World Peace

Train yourself to be a good listener by learning how to "listen deeply." To do this, you must put your own thoughts and beliefs on hold, and really focus on what the other person is saying. Unfortunately, most conversations can be characterized as "my stuff/your stuff." They can be likened to a strange game of tennis - played with separate balls. You serve your ball to me. I let it pass and serve my ball back to you. You let it pass and serve your ball back to me. The game continues in this way - with neither player returning the other person's ball. In such an instance, it obviously isn't a game at all. And in a conversation with the same characteristics, it's not really a conversation at all. You want to tell your story and I want to tell mine.

We never hear the other person's story because we are too busy telling our own. How many conversations have you had lately that went this way? We can defuse another person's anger simply by putting an end to the "my stuff/your stuff" game and truly listening to that person. Interestingly, very often when you give an upset person the courtesy of politely listening to what they have to say, without interrupting them or retaliating in anger, their anger is reduced. And they will be better able to listen to your story after you have fully listened to them.

As you are listening; focus on the feelings being expressed by the other person, rather than the strict meaning of their words. The feelings are the most important part of any message. When a child tells us, "Billie hit me," we tend to focus on the hit instead of how the child feels. If you can respond in a way that lets the child know you understand how he feels, this will tend to calm him down. For example, "It sounds like you feel hurt and angry." Learn to deal with an angry person's feelings in this way. Their feelings are usually far more important to them than the event itself.

Tips for Peaceful and Joyful Living
  Left Arrow

Monday: Think about how closely you listen when other people talk.

Tuesday: Think about how to recognize other people's feelings as they talk.

Wednesday: Learn to listen completely to the other person's message before you think about responding to them.

Thursday: Learn to allow the other person to tell you their story fully before you tell them your story.

Friday: Learn to ask questions so you can fully understand what the other person is saying.

Saturday: Learn to ask questions so you can fully understand how the other person is feeling.

Sunday: Resolve to always listen thoughtfully and fully to what the other person has to say before you respond.

Dean Van Leuven is a psychologist, conducts workshops and is the author of A Peaceful New World and many other books dealing with quality of life issues. Contact him on the web at:

Additional Notes

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