Don Chea­dle

Newsweek International - - POLITICS - Chea­dle and fel­low ac­tor Ge­orge Clooney were pre­sented with the Sum­mit Peace Award by the No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ates in 2007 for their work to stop geno­cide in Dar­fur.

Fear is the thing that helps us get from rock to rock and not be eaten by the scary thing. Fear is hard­wired into us and will never not be. But we have a hard time distin­guish­ing be­tween dif­fer­ent kinds of fear. The fear of not be­ing ac­cepted, for ex­am­ple. We don’t think that; our body feels it at a DNA level, in the same way as “I’m go­ing to be eaten.” Fight or flight is trig­gered im­me­di­ately, and it takes crit­i­cal think­ing to go, “Wait a minute, I’m not about to be eaten right now. I’m be­ing chal­lenged on a per­spec­tive or idea that I have. Some­one is be­ing crit­i­cal of my work.”

The men­tal­ity of “I have to stand my ground, and I have to not back down”—that’s a fear-fu­eled idea. Our leader right now, “In­di­vid­ual 1,” is all about that: “I can­not be pushed back off of my per­spec­tive—that makes me weak!” He is a mas­ter at lean­ing into fear, ex­ploit­ing it, whip­ping it up. And most peo­ple aren’t adept at un­der­stand­ing how to deal with that and still move for­ward.

That De­cem­ber 11 press con­fer­ence with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer [in the Oval Of­fice]? You saw that at­ti­tude on dis­play, but you also saw how not to suc­cumb to it. In­di­vid­ual 1 said to Schumer that “Nancy Pelosi’s hav­ing a hard time talk­ing right now.” Pelosi was

like, “You don’t have to talk around me. I’m sit­ting right here! Do not char­ac­ter­ize my strength as some­thing else.” I thought that was very im­por­tant, be­cause she demon­strated how you can con­front an at­ti­tude fu­eled by fear.

But it takes prac­tice. Most peo­ple don’t like con­flict; it’s fight or flight, and you re­act in one of two ways. Few peo­ple can sit there and deal with it. So we need to in­vest in diplo­macy and cri­sis man­age­ment. We should have an em­pa­thy class in school, teach­ing kids how to lis­ten, how to take it in and not just be on your heels about ev­ery­thing.

Ac­tors do this all the time. We’re al­ways think­ing, How does some­one else feel? How would I feel if I were in that po­si­tion? We’re forced to do in­tro­spec­tive things. Most peo­ple are just try­ing to get from day to day, to get to Fri­day, to get their check and then go watch some­thing to take their mind off this stuff. Find­ing the peace to not al­ways be gov­erned by your re­flexes takes work and con­cen­tra­tion.

I don’t know that I have the an­swer for how peo­ple can do bet­ter at that. Get­ting off so­cial me­dia helps, par­tic­u­larly if you’re thin-skinned! I don’t leave Twit­ter stressed out and want­ing to go punch some­body in the face, be­cause if some­one calls me a dick­head, we have a dis­course. It’s tai chi: If you don’t at­tack back, pretty soon [the name-call­ing] is over, and now you’re talk­ing about what­ever started the de­bate. Then that per­son has moved from their re­flexes back into their brain. (Ex­cerpted from an in­ter­view with Anna Menta.)

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