The break up coach.

August 29, 2007

Often enough, I find myself coaching a friend in distress. Most of the time, the distress is in the form of the opposite sex.

Friend in distress: “He hates me. Now I know for sure. It’s been so great for the last month and now I can see he doesn’t really like me back.”
Me: “Did he tell you that?”
F.I.D.: “No. But I know.”

That’s the point where I sigh loudly. People must stop confusing ‘no’ and ‘know’. Yes, they sound the same, but they are so very different in the context of relationships.

He may or may not like you, but if you don’t know, then the answer isn’t no. If you live in your own head, then you are certainly responsible for your own misery.

This last point never gets through, though; only rarely does an F.I.D. get it. So I move on.

Me: “Ok. It’s time to stop this chapter of your life. From here on, you are in the process of moving on and focusing on yourself.”

F.I.D.: “But it hurts.”

Me: “Of course it does. Let it hurt for a day or two. But then you close it up and refocus.”

F.I.D.: “You’re right.”

Me: “There is no more communicating with him for the next week. Try to avoid talking about him. The more you are in contact with his name or himself, the slower it takes to heal the wound. It reopens every time you are reminded of him. The goal is to push the past in the back of your head, avoid thinking about him, and focusing on where you’re going in the next chapter of your life.”

F.I.D. “You’re right.”

I know I’m right, F.I.D. knows I’m right, but F.I.D. continues to talk about ‘him’ and wallow in sadness. My advice is rarely heeded. It pains me more than these friends in distress ever know. Why? Because I’ve been through it too, and I’m trying to help get them past it. I know what works because I’ve had plenty of opportunities to test out my theories. I have the confidence to give advice because over time I grew the balls to truck through, despite getting gashed again and again along the way.

Most people refuse to see clearly; either they have never been taught how or don’t have the strength to start. I want to help people see clearly. I want to help friends in distress realize they are strong enough to take responsibility for themselves and their choices, and therefore live better lives.

Relationships are hard for everyone, and I think people need help getting into them, staying in them, and leaving them. I think that leaving them is the hardest of the three because it leaves you with the most damage if done incorrectly – and I think most of the time, it is done incorrectly.

I want to start by being a break up coach… It sounds so negative and sinister, but – as I’ve seen through myself and friends in distress – breaking up can be one of the most positive things people ever do in their lives.


Sherut drivers: Keys to peace?

August 16, 2007

Here’s a lesson I learn over and over again, as I commute back and forth to university.

In Israel, there are minivan cabs that go intercity; it’s called a sherut in Hebrew, which is the same word for service.

I frequent the sheruts on my way home from university between Bnei Brak, a very charedi (ultra orthodox) area, and Jerusalem. Often, the sherut is already mostly filled with charedi passengers by the time it gets to me, dressed in my jeans and short sleeves.

There is a delicate science to managing peace in the sherut. Charedi men and women do not sit next to each other, which means, when I get on, I automatically scan the van for a seat next to a woman or a seat next to the occasional secular or Arab man.

When a man or a woman alight the sherut, and there are no open seats of the proper gender, the sherut shuffle happens: People look around and try to work it out. That is, if the new passenger is charedi themselves. When it’s a secular straining to make it work, there is sometimes a clear resistance, and that’s when the sherut driver makes his mark.

The sherut driver is sometimes charedi and sometimes not. However, either way, his first priority is always one thing: filling his van and making the most money out of each trip. Which is totally fair, seeing as this is his livelihood.

So, whether the charedis are givingt the new passenger a hard time and dirty looks, or they are welcoming in finding a solution, the driver is all about making that solution happen. “You move there, and she can fit there.” “Go to the back, and he can sit up here.” And then, everyone is satisfied; charedi customers, new passenger and most of all, fully-paid driver.

Money as motivator. It sounds crude, but I have always believed it is the root of international conflict, including the Palestinian Israeli situation. But at the end of the day, we all want to feed our families. It’s a service humans live for and pride themselves on, and that includes the drivers of the sherut.

An Imam on vulnerability and acceptance.

August 15, 2007

Imam Yahya Hendi, of Georgetown University fame, came to speak to some of us conflict management students and faculty. His pursuit is inter-religious dialogue (mainly Islam, Christianity and Judaism) and he was very eloquent in his speech and perhaps somewhat singular in his experience.

Most of what he said, though, was the same old ‘peace la la’. He did strike on one point that I think gets lost most of the time; a point, that if only we could really work to understand it, feel it – than maybe things could change…

Hendi gave two scenarios to explain the difference between vulnerability and acceptance.

1. The sorry story of Saudi Arabian Shiites: Vulnerability -> Violence

Shiites are a small minority in Saudi Arabia, and Sunnis proclaim them dangerous and violent as a sect. However, being a minority, the Shiites are poorer, living in the periphery and acquiring less power, let alone opportunities to grow wealthy and sustain themselves properly. This makes them vulnerable, and vulnerability breeds misperception, unrest and ultimately violence. Sound familiar? It’s the same with the Palestinians, the Arabs living in France and so many others.

2. The rise of Muslim Americans: Acceptance -> Success

Muslim Americans started out like most other groups of immigrants, but are growing wealth and success for themselves, gaining in American society. They live peacefully and contently amongst their non-Muslim American neighbors. This is what happens when their existence in the country is accepted, and they are given the same opportunities to succeed as anyone else, assuming they work hard and play by the rules. The Muslim American community serves in the army and works in the government. They are neither vulnerable nor violent.


Societies get violent when they have no where else to turn; when they feel down low with no way up. If only we could all master what Hendi calls compassionate listening – actually hearing the other’s experiences – then so much of the miscommunication and lack of understanding would cease; or maybe it wouldn’t. But at least we’d actually hear what is going on, instead of blocking it out and going to the battlefield already deaf and blind.

Word of the day: rapprochement.

August 2, 2007

Today’s word of the day from

(rap-rohsh-mahnn, rah-prawsh-mahnn)

A closer approach of two groups to each other. Rapprochement, a French term, is often applied to two nations, especially ones that become reconciled after relations between them have worsened. © Houghton Mifflin Company

Usage: “The rapprochement of peoples is only possible when differences of culture and outlook are respected and appreciated rather than feared and condemned, when the common bond of human dignity is recognized as the essential bond for a peaceful world.” — J. William Fulbright