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<xTITLE>Have Empathy like Eleanor (and be Perceptive like Princess Diana)</xTITLE>

Have Empathy like Eleanor (and be Perceptive like Princess Diana)

by Andrea Schneider
March 2021


Andrea  Schneider

My next examples of negotiation skills come straight from the pandemic–and by that I mean watching television for hours during the pandemic!   Again, let me note that these are examples, not of negotiation per se, but rather examples of women in action showing the skills that we need for negotiation.  And, as we teach negotiation, these are the examples we can use to demonstrate what effectiveness looks like.

Last fall, CNN was running a series on the First Ladies (totally worth the time–very well done).  They were all quite interesting but the thing that really stood out for me was the episode on Eleanor Roosevelt.  One could write volumes about how Eleanor Roosevelt should be a role model–her volunteer work with immigrants, her work with the Red Cross, the fact that when the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let Marion Anderson perform in Constitution Hall, Eleanor both resigned the organization and arranged for the concert to be at the Lincoln Memorial, or–another one of my favorite stories–when the White House press corps would not admit women, she, as First Lady, instituted press conferences only for women so that each major news organization would have to hire a woman in order to cover her.  And this is not even diving into her later work at the United Nations and in negotiating the Declaration of Human Rights.  She was incredible.

But today’s story is one of empathy.  What I hadn’t learned growing up (or at least did not focus on) is that she became the eyes and ears of FDR for the country.  She regularly toured around the country throughout his presidency to report on what the situation was and how the Depression was impacting the population.  She was a journalist, columnist and radio show host throughout the 1930’s.  And she was perceived as having such empathy, that citizens wrote to her by the thousands telling her about their lives, struggles, and challenges.  In her first year as First Lady, she received (and responded to) 300,000 letters!  It was, in fact, her empathy in action–to the poor, to the downtrodden, and to minorities–for which she was beloved among the U.S. citizenry.  As a profile in the Washington Post put it,

Roosevelt’s process started with empathy for the individual. Being with people fueled her activism. “My interest or sympathy or indignation is not aroused by an abstract cause but by the plight of a single person whom I have seen with my own eyes,” she wrote in her autobiography. “Out of my response to an individual develops an awareness of a problem.”

This empathy and knowledge of others gave her a seat at the table when it came time to create and implement policy.  Because she had the direct line to what was actually happening on the ground (before widespread polling and lobbying existed), she had influence.

This adulation and belief that a leader had real empathy was mirrored in Princess Diana’s experience as well.  Of course, I lived during Princess Diana’s life and vividly recall both her wedding and the awfulness of her death.  And yet, this past few months, re-watching this all through The Crown on Netflix has reminded us all about her remarkable popularity and public adoration.  (The Golden Globes also apparently loved The Crown. )   Yes, she was beautiful and had great clothes but it was her actions that gave the UK  the “People’s Princess.”  She was known for visiting children in the hospital and not wearing hats (contrary to protocol) in order to get closer to them.  She wrote handwritten thank you notes by the thousands to anyone who gave her a gift.  And, perhaps most well-known, she was willing to shake hands and hug those who were dying of AIDS.  As she said at the time, “HIV does not make people dangerous to know.  You can shake their hands and give them a hug.  Heaven knows they need it.”  She also later traveled to leprosy hospitals to convey the same message–that these diseases cannot be passed on by touch.  One could argue that her public persona was manufactured (by her and by her fans) and that it was helped by the contrast with the royal family who were far more formal and withdrawn.  Nonetheless, that ability to be seen as someone who cares for others is the key skill here to highlight.  And with that perception, Diana was far more influential than she would have been otherwise.

Okay–here are my examples of empathy in action.  What do you think?  And who else would you include as role models on this list?  Thanks much!


Before Andrea Kupfer Schneider even knew or understood the words negotiation or mediation, she figured a way to outsource her chores to her younger brother by paying him a part of her allowance.  Not a new trick, but noteworthy that she hit upon the idea naturally. Such is the somewhat tainted beginnings of what would become a notable career as a professor and prolific writer in the disciplines of legal practice, deal making and conflict management. Only many years later, having obtained her A.B. degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs and Public Policy at Princeton University, and her J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School, and studying with Roger Fisher and others associated with the Negotiation Project, did her interest and passion for understanding how people deal with difficult issues and make decisions begin to gel. And afterwards, she enhanced the breadth of her perspective with study and a postgraduate Diploma from the Academy of European Law in Florence, Italy. She joined the faculty of Marquette University Law School in 1996, where she continues to teach ADR, Negotiation, Ethics, and International Conflict Resolution and is the Director of the nationally ranked Dispute Resolution Program.

Andrea’s writing reflects an integrated perspective of the importance of negotiation and mediation that is not bounded to one or a few particular disciplines.  She is either an author, co-author, co-editor, or contributor to   numerous books, texts and articles in the field of dispute resolution, including: the forthcoming Negotiation Essentials for Lawyers (ABA 2019) building on the two volume Negotiator’s Desk Reference and, earlier, The Negotiator's Fieldbook all with Christopher Honeyman; Negotiation: Processes For Problem-Solving and Mediation: Practice, Policy & Ethics, and Dispute Resolution: Beyond The Adversarial Model with Carrie Menkel-Meadow, Lela Love & Jean Sternlight; and co-author of two books with Roger Fisher, Beyond Machiavelli: Tools For Coping With Conflict and Coping With International Conflict. And beyond practice theory, strategies and techniques, she also explored the frequently overlooked presence of negotiative process in every part of our society; her book, Creating The Musee d’Orsay:  The Politics of Culture in France, explores the place of negotiation and politics in art and architecture, and her most recent book, Smart & Savvy: Negotiation Strategies in Academia, written with her father David Kupfer, a researcher and emeritus professor of psychiatry, as the title suggests, explores the necessity for negotiation in an arena that is not  easily or openly admitting of the need for such skills.  Andrea has also published numerous articles on negotiation, ethics, pedagogy, gender and international conflict and currently serves as the co-chair of the editorial board of the ABA Dispute Resolution Magazine.    She is a founding editor of Indisputably, the blog for ADR law faculty and the 2017 recipient of the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Award for Outstanding Scholarly Work, among other awards. All of this is capped off with her 2016 TEDx talk entitled Women Don’t Negotiate and Other Similar Nonsense.

Her range and scope of interest in how negotiative work can be done more effectively not only in legal practice but in the surrounding politics and culture of our society makes her perspective all the more valuable.

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