Yoda was right, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Fear and anger can also lead to poor decisions, including those we make when we are trying to build consensus out of some type of difference or disagreement.  This is why, in Bridges to Consensus, I recommend cultivating calmness.

It’s easy to feel fearful these days.  The world presents many legitimate causes for concern—hurricanes and droughts, crime, economic concerns, and on and on.  TV news sensationalizes these events and builds them up.  It reinforces scary words with scary images, often viewed on large screens in high def.

We are continually subjected to “fear marketing.”  An ad for home security systems tells us there is a home invasion every six minutes.  One touting a touch free liquid soap pump features nasty-colored germs the size of tennis balls.  But sellers of goods and services aren’t the only ones who use this technique.  People promoting political causes, and even charitable organizations, use the technique:  “Donate now to stop [insert description of scary event].”

My minister, Rev. Meg Riley, recently sent us a little tip about dealing with fear that I would like to share.  She recommended that, when we feel fear, we extend love to someone, in some way.  I’ve tried extending love by making an unsolicited donation to the Red Cross for Horn of Africa relief, or by phoning someone I haven’t spoken to in awhile to ask how they are doing, or by simply offering a smile or a kind word to a stranger I pass in the grocery store.  I’ve found that it works.  It turns that fear around on its heel and makes me feel calm and hopeful.  If, as Yoda said, fear ultimately leads to hate, then it makes sense that the antidote to fear would be love.

We can extend this practice to any situation that makes us feel anxious, angry or upset.  And we can extend it further to any situation in which we want to do our best.  This includes doing our best at building bridges of consensus.  I recommend extending a little love to someone, in some way, before entering into a consensus-seeking conversation.  You can extend the love to the person with whom you seek consensus, provided you don’t give the impression you’re just buttering him up.  But you don’t have to choose that person.  Just give the love to someone, and feel your calmness and confidence grow.