James Goodbye: 17 Lessons of Diplomacy

This is written from the perspective of an American negotiator who has international experience on wide range of issues. This is how he summarized the lessons he learnt. I have found through my class on Diplomacy and Negotiation that it is exactly like life. The passion, norms and difficulty that you find self accustomed to in diplomacy is really just a way of life.

Lessons learned at the Five Nations Disarmament Conference: (1-2)

1.     Make sure that the allies of the US know what you are doing and have been given a chance to agree or disagree.

2.     Make sure of your power position at home.

Lessons learned from the Nuclear Test Ban Negotiations 1958-1936: (3-6)

3.     There will be groups in or out of government whose support will never be obtained because they are fundamentally opposed to the goal you have been assigned to seek.

 Lessons that are part of the negotiating cannon—real test of the negotiator’s talent

4.     Don’t give up in the face of opposition.

5.     Be ready with more than one acceptable outcome.

6.     Look for ways to work around negotiating obstacles in order to introduce fluidity into a frozen situation.

Lesson learned at the Conference on Preventing Surprise Attack, 1958: (7)

7.     Take time to explore the subject matter with other parties to a prospective negotiation before entering formal talks—helps when parties are on the same level of information.

Lessons learned at START 1981-1983: (8-9-) [Aimed more at the leader of the nation rather than the negotiator]

8.     There should be some coherence between a president’s policy and the mindsets of the people he appoints.

9.     Presidents need to lead or yield what amounts to the lowest common denominator.

Lessons learned at the Stockholm Conference 1984-1985: (10-11)

10.  Develop an easily explainable concept for what you are trying to do.

11.  Procedure is substance.

Lessons learned at Cooperative Threat Reduction 1993-1994: (12-14)

12.  Keep your eye on the most important goal.

13.  Seize the moment! You may never get another chance.

14.  Legal framework is necessary for sustainability.

Lessons learned at the Nuclear Warhead Dismantlement 1994-1996: (15-16)

15.  Don’t overreach.

16.  Make sure the political leadership really supports what you are trying to do.

Lesson learned at the Biological Weapons Convention 1995-1996: (17)

17.  Sometimes you should take no for an answer.


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