Yesterday I had a difficult mediation which I sensed was heading towards an impasse. I suggested, after 4 tough hours of negotiation, that one of the attorneys (a smart, attractive woman) take a walk outside with opposing counsel–who had remained staunchly committed to his position all day. I won’t say it fully resolved the case, but it definitely served to break the impasse and get both parties returning to the negotiation with “thumbs up”. So it was with great amusement that I read today’s L.A. Times article, “Obama makes a point with 1 word” and was shocked to find that the photo on page 24 appears to have Obama’s thumb up, but my google image above appears to be Berlusconi’s thumb up!
This, of course, only strengthens my point in this entry: diplomacy comes from small measures of partnership, not grand gestures of dictatorship. In the G20 yesterday, apparently the world’s leaders were “stuck” over whether to “recognize” a list of tax havens being published by the Organization of Eceonomic Co-operation and Development. Obama tapped Sarkozy on the shoulder, huddled in a corner, and suggested they “note” the list, without “recognizing” it. Sarkozy concurred, and later so did Hu, resulting in a simple agreement and handshake.
Obama said: “We exercise leadership best when we are listening, when we recognize that the world is a complicated place and that we are going to have to act in partnership with other countries, when we lead by example, when we show some element of humility and recognize that we may not always have the best answer, but we can always encourage the best answer and support the best answer.”
In this case, as in my mediation, the best answer was a small gesture of partnership and a large dose of humility, leading to “two thumbs up”.