Negotiating: A Toolkit for Advancing Your Interests

(light music) – Journalism and diplomacy both rest fundamentally on empathy and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and trying to see what their objectives are, what their fears are, what they want. And the great diplomats, which is not me, I tell this story in War on Peace of Richard Holbrooke, for instance, who brokered peace in Bosnia, are people with tremendous powers of persuasion partly because they have an uncanny knack for getting inside other people’s heads. There’s a lot of theater to old-school diplomacy. You know, someone like Richard Holbrooke, during the Bosnia negotiations at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, you know, he had luggage delivered prominently outside of the doors of the American diplomats present, so that the other side would think, ‘Oh no, the clock is ticking. The Americans are going to pull out.’ You know, and it was a complete feint, but it worked and it got people back to the table at a tough time in the talk. During the same negotiations, he seated Milošević, you know, one of these players in these incredibly difficult talks, right underneath an American bomber plane. You know, just sort of leveraging that symbolism of American might. (light music) Henry Kissinger says an interesting thing in War on Peace. He remarks on the sidelining of old school diplomats and he says it’s one of the great American myths that you can always try something new. And one of the many facets of what makes diplomacy so useful is the historicism it brings to the table. These are a dedicated core of experts who specifically are tasked with understanding the pressure points of a region and the last time we had a conversation there and why it failed, and know how to have the long, careful conversations because they understand the history of how all those conversations have gone. History repeats over and over again. And I think what Kissinger is referring to is the constant willingness in the name of political expedience to throw out that history. (light music) Diversity is such an indispensable part of any team that runs well and has an impact. And I think Richard Holbrooke acutely understood the importance of a diversity of ideas and backgrounds. And he’s a great example of something who is both an institutional player with a lot of institutional memory and also, an upstart and you know, a rogue kind of character who brought in new leadership and wanted to move fast and upset the apple cart. He had both of those qualities in him. He had been a young foreign service officer in Vietnam and had been in and out of government for years. He knew that bureaucracy at the State Department inside and out, but he also wasn’t afraid to challenge it. And when he came in during the Obama administration, he recruited this motley crew of outsiders and detailed players from around the US government, but also, brought in non-government players, brought in, you know, a kid like me essentially. I was, you know, far too young for any of it, was straight out of law school. But he believed in some of the ideas that we wanted to pursue together. Likewise, he brought in, you know, activists from the outside, a prominent Afghan women’s activist named Rina Amiri. He brought in academics, this guy Barnett Rubin, one of the great professors of Afghan studies at NYU. He brought in an Iranian-American scholar named Vali Nasr. You know, this crew with all of these different ethnic backgrounds, ideological backgrounds, experiences in totally different walks of life that you wouldn’t normally see in the corridors of the State Department. And he really believed in that diversity of ideas and I think that is an extraordinary lesson for anyone running any team. (light music) The results of diplomacy do require patience and can be less immediate than things going boom. And I say that without any aspersion cast on things going boom, and the brave men and women who dodged those explosions and are in the line of fire. But we need both and both are important kinds of public servants. The diplomat deserves the patience that they need to be afforded. That if you give it the time and understand that the results might look imperfect and buckle down say, ‘Okay, we’re going to keep talks going no matter how tough they get,’ you very often end up with results and results that can save lives. (light music)

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