Ambassador Wendy Sherman of the Center for Public Leadership talks about effective leadership and what it takes to negotiate with Iran and North Korea.
Featuring Wendy Sherman
September 30, 2019
37 minutes and 52 seconds
Ambassador Wendy Sherman has been at the table for some of the most challenging negotiations in recent history. She’s held talks with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and sparred with Iranian officials to hammer out the 2015 nuclear weapons deal.
Now she’s brought what she’s learned about authentic leadership, diplomacy, and succeeding as a woman in a male-dominated field to a new book, which is titled “Not for the Faint of Heart: Lessons in Courage, Power and Persistence”
Ambassador Sherman is a professor of the practice of public leadership, director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, and a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. She is also a senior counselor at Albright Stonebridge Group and former U.S. under secretary of state for political affairs.
For more information, please visit the Center for Public Leadership.
This episode is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.
(The following transcript has only been lightly edited.)
Thoko Moyo: Hello and welcome to the Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast. I’m your host, Thoko Moyo.
Thoko Moyo: Today we’re joined by Ambassador Wendy Sherman, who is Professor of The Practice of Public Leadership and the Director of the Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership.
Thoko Moyo: Ambassador Sherman served as the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs at the United States Department of State between 2011 and 2015. During her remarkable career, she has been at the table for some of the most challenging negotiations in recent history. She’s held talks with the late North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Il. She sat across a table with Iranian officials to hammer out the 2015 nuclear weapons deal. And she’s brought what she’s learned about authentic leadership, diplomacy and succeeding as a woman in a male dominated field to a new book, which is titled, Not for the Faint of Heart: Lessons in Courage, Power and Persistence.
Thoko Moyo: Welcome to PolicyCast, Ambassador Sherman.
Wendy Sherman: It’s great to be with you, Thoko.
Thoko Moyo: So my first question, given you’re a diplomat, has to be about protocol. May I call you Wendy, Ambassador Sherman?
Wendy Sherman: Please do.
Thoko Moyo: So maybe let’s start with your reflections. So you’ve worked as a diplomat, you’ve been at the table in some of the most challenging negotiations. What’s the common thread? What are some of the things that you think about now as you look back on those times and the work that you’ve done, particularly in the context of you coming to the Kennedy School and now teaching courses on negotiation and leadership?
Wendy Sherman: Well, it’s very interesting that you ask that, because I’m about to teach my first course here at the Kennedy School in the second half of the fall semester, and it’s called ‘Leadership in Negotiations: Away From the Table, Everything You Need to Know to Get the Job Done.’ And the reason for the course is that a lot of students think that the way you really get a deal done is to be in the room.
Thoko Moyo: At the table.
Wendy Sherman: At the table, when in fact it is all the things that happen away from the table that really get the job done in any negotiation.
Thoko Moyo: And what are some of those things?
Wendy Sherman: Some of those things include the history, the norms, the culture of the parties sitting the table. People negotiate differently depending on their culture. The history among and between parties may have a lot to do with whether there’s any respect at the table, let alone trust. It has to do with politics and power. Do you understand the power relationships? Do you understand all the stakeholders? Do you understand the politics that are playing out, not only in our country, but in any other country or with any other party in the context of their organization? It has to do with policy development. What’s going to be your objective at the negotiation? What are the right and left guardrails? How will you know if you succeed? And it also has to do with setting the table, all the tools that are at your disposal to set the table, including your arena, which is communications and public affairs can very much shape what happens in the room.
Thoko Moyo: So let’s talk a little bit about some of those elements in detail. So culture, I know when I was reading your book, you talked a little bit about the culture interplay that came into the negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal. And you talked about one very specific example about how women and men don’t shake hands. And you put your hand to your chest and a little bow. That’s an example. What other examples of culture and the interplay and impact that you’ve seen happen?
Wendy Sherman: Well, I’d start in the Iran situation with history. Most Americans think that history begins in 1979 when the Iranians took Americans hostage for 444 days right at the start of the Iranian Revolution. In fact, for the Iranians history starts back in the 1950s when the United States working with British Intelligence knocked off a democratically elected prime minister because we were afraid that Iran was going to nationalize all the oil and make it difficult for us and for Great Britain. So the Iranians hostility towards the United States historically started long before ours because we put in place the Shah of Iran who was very good to the United States, but truly a horrible dictator to his people and brought about the Iranian Revolution.
In the case of North Korea, the United States obviously fought a war on the side of South Korea against the North. The North at the time of the Korean War was the growing economy and the South was the poor economy. Now the South is the behemoth in Northeast Asia along with of course Japan and the North is the poor cousin. So where you start, what the history is, how people negotiate differently. Some countries are very transactional. I’d say the North Koreans are more transactional than the Iranians are.
Thoko Moyo: What does transactional mean?
Wendy Sherman: It means they’re ready to do a deal if they can get what they need and you can get what you need. They’re quicker to do a deal, I think than some. The Iranians are much more sophisticated negotiators, very legalistic, very complex. It’s not to say either of these negotiations are easy, they’re quite, quite difficult. But people have different negotiating styles and some countries negotiate top-down, others negotiate bottom up, and the same would be true for businesses and any organization.
Thoko Moyo: So the history matters. So when you walked into, for example, the Iranian negotiating table, it was fairly hostile. I mean you were looked at with distrust. I mean how do you get from that given the history to a point where you’re actually talking and developing some trust that you are working towards common ground, which we’ll talk about later on?
Wendy Sherman: I actually think it’s not about trust. I think it’s about respect. I don’t think that given the history between the United States and Iran, that one can really have a basis for trust. And I think it is however, about having some respect that the people across the table from you have interests and you may not think they’re legitimate interests, but they have interests and they have politics that they have to deal with. And I respect that they have interests and that they have politics and I need to understand that and I want them to understand my interests and my politics and see if we can’t find a place where some of their interests can be addressed. But I never lose sight of the objective, which in the case of Iran was to make sure they never have a nuclear weapon.
Thoko Moyo: And at which point did you feel that you’ve got to a place where there was respect and how did you know you were there?
Wendy Sherman: We got to know each other quite well because we spent hours and hours and hours with each other. And remember this was a multilateral negotiation, so I not only had to get to know the Iranians, but I had to get to know the English. I had to get to know the French. I had to get to know the Germans, the Russians, the Chinese, and all of their delegations, what all of their interests were, the European union. I had to understand US politics.
I joke all the time that I negotiated inside the US administration. I negotiated with Capitol Hill. I negotiated with interest groups in the United States. I negotiated with each one of the partners in the negotiation bilaterally and with them as a group. I negotiated with Israel, which had a huge interest in what we were doing. I had negotiated with all the Gulf countries. I negotiated in any country that had an interest in this and yes, I occasionally, I even negotiated with Iran. It is a very complex, time intensive process and all the while I was doing this negotiation, I was the under secretary of state responsible for all rest of the world.
Thoko Moyo: Right. So it was one of the things that you were doing.
Wendy Sherman: One of the things that I was doing, but not the only thing. I went to 54 countries while I was the under secretary over four years, from 2011 to 2015, some of them more than once. So it was a privilege to have the job, but an exhausting job.
Thoko Moyo: It was. And you were saying that you got to know the other parties at the table fairly well and that the relationships that you built over the time started to develop into respect.
Wendy Sherman: Yes. I think respect for each other’s positions and interests, even if there was not agreement. Respect that we couldn’t get to a solution unless we all sort of came to agree on what the objective was. During this negotiation, Russia for instance, invaded Ukraine, and took over Crimea. And that was a situation where the United States was going to have to take some significant action to sanction Russia for this. But at the same time I was at a negotiating table with the Russians trying to solve another problem. And I had gotten to know Sergei Ryabkov, my counterpart quite well because we had actually worked together with Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov to negotiate the Syria chemical weapons agreement. So I know knew Sergei rather well by now as a negotiator and I had great respect for his skill.
Thoko Moyo: And you went up to him at a cocktail party, I think you said. I think in your book you mentioned that sometimes-
Wendy Sherman: Yes, it was actually a morning coffee-
Thoko Moyo: Oh, coffee, sorry.
Wendy Sherman: It was a very busy room and I went over to him and I said, “Sergei, how could you possibly do what you have done?” And it took him a moment to realize what I was talking about, and then you realized it was Ukraine. He looked at me for a moment, he said, “Nothing is amiss,” and he walked away. And the reason he walked away was to say to me, “If I stay here, we are going to have a fight and that will not serve our purpose in this room. We will have to deal with this issue for sure, but not right now, not right this moment while we’re trying to ensure that Iran doesn’t obtain a nuclear weapon.”
Thoko Moyo: That makes sense.
Wendy Sherman: Yes, makes perfect sense. And you have to be able to walk and chew gum and run and skip all at the same time, and that’s what we did.
Thoko Moyo: And so essentially he compartmentalized. He was able to say there’s something else that we’re working on, let’s focus on that and we’ll come back to that. Did that increase your respect for him or was that just the … How did you feel?
Wendy Sherman: Ryabkov is a very, very skillful diplomat, so it increased my respect for his skill.
Thoko Moyo: Okay. So let me just come back to of getting to know the parties at the table and building up to a point of respect. It didn’t always go very smoothly. And there’s a part in your book that you describe where you said something in a senate hearing, I think it was, and you said that, “Deception is in their DNA,” to the Iranians, and that made it all the way to Tehran. How did that affect that? When you look back on that, what’s the lesson there? Let me stop there.
Wendy Sherman: Yeah, it was quite a moment. It was a senate foreign relations committee hearing and I said in response to a question, “Deception is in their DNA,” and I really was not thinking at the time. It resulted in Iranians taking to the street in Tehran, probably encouraged by the government, shouting, “Death to Wendy Sherman,” which did not make my family very happy. Did cartoons of me as a fox up in a tree. It came to be the moniker among my team. It became team silver fox because of my silver hair, we had t-shirts and everything.
Thoko Moyo: Oh, you had t-shirts?
Wendy Sherman: Of course, you can’t negotiate for so long and not end up with t-shirts.
I realized that what I had done was I had really said something very bad about every Iranian, whether they were the regime in Tehran or whether they were an Iranian American. And it was really terrible on my part, quite frankly, and thoughtless. And so I asked for a Voice of America Persian interview and made sure the interviewer would ask me the question and I said I greatly regretted the comments that I had made because broad brushing an entire group of people is rarely if ever a wise thing.
Thoko Moyo: And how did that play out? I mean, was that well received? Was that recognized and were you able to continue?
Wendy Sherman: Yes, I think it was well received, but quite frankly, I probably rarely do a speech about this where someone does not bring it up. It’s still a sensitive subject. You never waste anything in a negotiation. There were times when the Iranians would say what terrible victims they were, they had such difficult politics. If we really made them do X, Y, and Z, they were going to be impeached. They were going to end up in jail. Woe is me. And I could say to them, “Excuse me, you all went to the streets and shouted, ‘Death to Wendy Sherman,” so don’t tell me that you’ve have some tough challenges. So do I.”
Thoko Moyo: So in your book you talk about courage, you talk about building or finding common ground power and influence, building a team, persistence. Tell me a little more about those specific elements and why you picked them as the areas of focus in your book and the lessons that you’ve learned over your career.
Wendy Sherman: I think to do hard things in life, you have to have all of those elements. And I’ve had the privilege to do some hard but wonderful things in my life. I helped to run the campaign for the first democratic woman ever elected in her own right to the US Senate, Barbara Mikulski. That was a really hard thing to do, but one of the most extraordinary nights of my life when she won. And I was able to do the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran deal, which of course now president Trump has said was the worst deal ever. But it did indeed stop Iran from having a nuclear weapon.
Thoko Moyo: And in a minute we’ll get your reaction to that. I want to hear that, but keep going.
Wendy Sherman: So I’ve had been able to do a lot of really amazing things, some historic, and I wanted to reflect on what does it take to do that. And those elements that you described, it takes courage and courage usually comes at a price. I’ve had people say terrible things about me and call me names and I’ve suffered some from choices I’ve made in life, but don’t regret that I’ve had those amazing opportunities.
Wendy Sherman: It takes a team. None of us do these things on our own. People know in the case of Iran that Barack Obama was very courageous. They know about Secretary John Kerry, Secretary Clinton, maybe even Secretary of Energy, Ernie Moniz, maybe even about me, but they don’t know about the core team of 15 extraordinary professionals from across our government and literally the hundreds of people in our government that backed up this effort. I mean hundreds, thousands of people in our government.
Wendy Sherman: It takes persistence, which doesn’t mean patience. Sometimes it’s good to be impatient, but it does take persistence because the Europeans had negotiated with Iran for a good deal of time before America ever got involved. And then I negotiated the entire four years I was under secretary. These things are hard. It takes an understanding that sometimes you’re going to lose. Sometimes you’re going to fail and you have to begin again and try again.
Wendy Sherman: So there you have to understand power. Who are the people in the room? Who’s got the levers of power? You have to embrace your own authentic power and own it and use it for good reasons and good means.
Thoko Moyo: So there are a couple of points that I want to come back to. I want to come back to this idea of owning your power, where the power sits. I want to come back to building a team just to explore that a little more. I think I’d love to hear a bit more about how you set out to build the team. But let’s go back to courage because within that as your own sort of background, your own story, start off by telling the story of your father’s personal courage at almost personal cost when he worked to try and integrate the housing in Baltimore. Tell us a little bit about that story.
Wendy Sherman: Sure. So my father was in residential real estate. My mother was largely a homemaker and incredibly supportive of helping my father build his business. And he went to a Rosh Hashanah service. Rosh Hashanah is one of the high holidays in the Jewish faith. And the Rabbi Morris Lieberman had just two weeks prior been arrested for trying to integrate an amusement park called Gwynn Oak Park just outside of Baltimore. This was a time when there weren’t open housing laws or civil rights laws as we know them today. And the rabbi thought he owed his congregation an explanation about why he was arrested. And he said that he had been at Dachau as a chaplain in the liberation of the concentration camp in World War II, and he wondered what ministers and priests had said to their congregations as Jews were being taken away. And he thought that in his time his responsibility was to end the degradation and discrimination of African Americans in Baltimore.
My father was incredibly moved by the sermon and went to see the rabbi and said, “What can I do to help?” And the rabbi said, “Well, you’re more powerful than any minister or priest or rabbi; you could advertise the houses that you sell to anyone who wanted to buy them.” And my father said, “If I do that, I will be run out of town. And the rabbi said, “Well, you asked me what you could do; this is what you can do.” And he and my mother talked about it and he decided to do it. And so within a month he advertised all of his houses as long as someone was willing to sell to anyone who wanted to buy. Within six months, my father had lost 60 percent of all of his listings.
Thoko Moyo: 60 percent.
Wendy Sherman: 60 percent. By the end of the 60s he had to close his business …
Thoko Moyo: And it was quite a successful business …
Wendy Sherman: … quite a successful business. And even though he added other services to what he did, he had to close the office. And my parents never regretted what they did. They believed it was the right thing to do and it was worth the cost. And it taught me just a remarkable lesson. My parents took our family on civil rights marches and to sit-ins and restaurants to try to desegregate those public accommodations. And I learned a lot by my parent’s courage that if you want to do something that’s important, you may pay a price for it, but it is worth it.
Thoko Moyo: And when you look back at that time, and you think of it as a family, you believe that that was the right thing, because it did have an impact on the family-
Wendy Sherman: Absolutely, we had to sell our house and move to a smaller one.
Thoko Moyo: So as a young child growing up, I mean, did you understand that? What were you thinking?
Wendy Sherman: I’m not sure I understood it entirely, though by then I understand more of it. My dad took me once to Coppin State College, which is a historically black college outside of Baltimore to here Lena Horne. And it was not to hear Lena Horne sing; it was for her to talk about what it had been like to be a target of McCarthy during the McCarthy era or when she was blacklisted in Hollywood. And my recollection of going there was that my father and I were the only white people in the room and I was scared. And I had a sense of what it was like to be the other. I don’t know if we were the only white people in the room. That’s a memory that’s sort of seared inside my head. And I think that all of that had an impact on me that part of life must be for justice and I’ve hoped whatever I’ve done in my life that trying to find more justice for more people has been part of everything I’ve done.
Thoko Moyo: Can you think of any other examples of sort of day to day people taking positions or acts of courage that you want to sort of highlight or surface, particularly in this time that we’re living in in the US that where we’re so divided.
Wendy Sherman: I think people do courageous things every single day. People will never know anything about, I wish that the press and the media, and here at the Kennedy School we highlighted more of those acts of courage and heroism. You know when the students in Parkland organized around our country for better gun safety and went to Chicago to try to raise up the Chicago kids who face gun violence every single day and help them get some press that they should have gotten that the Parkland kids had gotten and went on to register voters, I think those young people, all of those young people from Parkland, from Chicago were teaching us a lesson about courage. When Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old, who is trying to get young people to understand the importance of climate change and that action needs to be taken, shows those of us who are older, that courage does not just come from someone who’s 50 years old, that it’s something that each one of us can do every day.
Wendy Sherman: I hope here at the Kennedy School, some of the courage that we need to show each other is to really hear a wide range of views, to listen to different points of views, to not have contempt for each other, to make sure that even if we violently disagree with someone, we can hear them. We can try to understand what is behind their point of view.
Thoko Moyo: But some things are hard to hear.
Wendy Sherman: Yes they are. Yes, they are. Certainly hard for me to hear much of what the Iranians said to me, but we never would have come to an agreement had I not really tried to listen. And that’s not to say that there’s moral equivalence to everything. There is not. There is right and wrong. There is good and evil. I believe in those things. Hate is hate and there’s nothing any good about it. So it’s not to say that whatever anybody wants to say about anything should go, that’s not the case. We have to have some moral guardrails.
Thoko Moyo: So it must be hard for you to hear President Trump say this is the worst deal in history.
Wendy Sherman: It is hard for me to hear it, but he said during the campaign, that’s what he believes, so I wasn’t surprised when he left it. And my concern sure it’s painful for me personally and for the team that worked so hard on this, but the most painful part of it is it has put our country more at risk and it has hurt America’s national security. There is just as much state sponsorship of terrorism in the Middle East after he pulled out. The Iranians are now headed in the wrong direction on the deal. The president has split us from our allies in Europe in trying to ensure that Iran never have a nuclear weapon. So I don’t think anything about it has made us safer and that is my greatest concern.
Thoko Moyo: And you’ve said that there’s a difference in the approach, sort of the art of the deal as it were, sort of type of approach versus what you have experienced, have seen to be successful. Can we just talk about that a little bit?
Wendy Sherman: Sure. You know, students here at the Kennedy School take courses in negotiation and they know that often negotiators think in terms of win-lose or maybe win-win. But what we really try to teach here is three dimensional negotiation that you have to look at the entire landscape and all the moving pieces and try to reach your objective, but understanding that the interests of everybody at the table have to get addressed in some way. And I believe that President Trump is what I would call a win-lose negotiator. It’s really about beating out the other guy, not finding an answer to a difficult problem. And when the president negotiated for a new high rise to be built, if it didn’t work out, if he couldn’t get the zoning, if he couldn’t make the deal, he’d just go onto another project. When it comes to national security and foreign policy, the stakes are much different. It’s about life and death. It’s about the future prosperity and safety and security of our country. It’s quite a different matter.
Thoko Moyo: But if you were looking to sort of criticize the approach and thinking about all interests, I mean some people might point to the fact that part of the challenge we have when you read a communique being issued after multilateral multiparty negotiations is very often they don’t really hit the core of the issue. And as you read it, you can tell that various people drafted this and debated and looked at every word, and in the end it doesn’t feel very substantive, feel as though you’ve actually reached a point where there’s this very specific action that can be taken.
Wendy Sherman: That is indeed true sometimes, but sometimes progress is incremental and not ultimate. When it comes to something like the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, you want to reach an objective, which is to ensure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon. In the Paris Climate Agreement it is about trying to take a major step forward, which the Paris Climate Agreement did. Did it do everything that needs to be done? In my view, no. But was it an important step forward? In my view, yes it was. And had we all stepped up to those voluntary commitments perhaps the world would have been able to take the next step and the next step and the next step to get us to where we really need to be.
Thoko Moyo: So let’s go back to some of the elements that you talk about in your book, and I’m particularly interested in the piece about power. I think you’ve written or said somewhere that people, particularly women shouldn’t see power as a bad word, a dirty word, and they should feel accustomed and get accustomed to their own power. Let’s talk a little bit about that.
Wendy Sherman: Yes, I’ve said that often women think that power’s icky. Power is-
Thoko Moyo: And you said, “I like power,” which I liked.
Wendy Sherman: I do. I do, I do. I like power and I like power when it’s used for good. It’s how power is used, which makes it good or bad.
Wendy Sherman: But one of the things that people often ask me is, “Was it more difficult being a woman in these negotiations?” And Madeline Albright, my former boss, my business partner, my dear friend once said to me, “You know Wendy, when you go in a negotiation, you’re less Wendy Sherman or in my case in American Jew or a woman, you are the United States of America, and that’s a pretty powerful thing. And if you understand that and own it, you can do quite a bit.” And when I was at the table in these negotiations, I was the United States of America. That’s pretty remarkable.
Thoko Moyo: That is pretty remarkable.
Wendy Sherman: Yes.
Thoko Moyo: So if you take that to sort of individual level for women in general who are not sitting at the sort of high stakes negotiating table and they’re not America, what would you say? What are the instances where you’ve seen women shirk away from their power or deny it or not grab it?
Wendy Sherman: Well, one of the things that happens often when I give a speech is that if it’s to a co-ed audience, the first three or four questions are from guys in the audience. And I was actually at a meeting with a Kennedy School Alumni in London and speaking to the group and this happened. And I stopped, which I normally do after three and I said, “Okay folks, I have a rule. If no women raised their hands after the first three questions, I’m going to stop until one of you smart, capable women raises your hand.” So I got some hands and then I was talking with women afterwards and they gave me a really good insight. They said the reason they don’t raise their hands is because they think they have to construct the perfect question in their head before they raise their hands.
Wendy Sherman: And I said to them, “Well, give that up. No guy constructs the perfect sentence in his head before he raises his hand. He raises his hands and he figures by the time he’s called on, he’ll think of something smart to say. And if he says it with enough confidence, nobody will care. So raise your hand and you’ll think of something good enough by the time you’re called on.”
Wendy Sherman: So it’s partly a matter of confidence and appreciating that you have something valuable to bring to the table, so own it.
Thoko Moyo: And you also use … you refer to the research that was done about women applying for jobs. Women focus on … what was it?
Wendy Sherman: Hewlett Packard did a study that looked at women applying for jobs and men believe that if they have 60 percent of the qualifications they can apply; women believe they have to 100 percent. And I have said to women, “You know, give that up too, if you have 60 percent of the qualifications apply and then do what the guys do, either make the job the 60 percent and forget about the 40 or learn it on the job. You’re smart, you’re capable.”
Thoko Moyo: But women are judged differently and at times more harshly, so you go in knowing that people most instances will expect you to have 100 percent or very quickly get up to that point. So there is that piece as well.
Wendy Sherman: Absolutely, which is why I think it’s important in every job women go into to build yourself a support group so you don’t go crazy. Every place I’ve ever worked, and I’m trying to build one here at the Kennedy School, but every place I’ve ever worked, I’ve created a group of women so that I can test out perceptions. I can validate the choices I make. We can help each other out. We can assure each other we’re not nuts. And it is incredibly important and helps you keep your sanity.
Thoko Moyo: You tell a story in your book about a moment in the negotiations where you cried. And for most women, as you go into any situation, you’re told, “The last thing you can do is show weakness and people see crying as weakness.” You see that differently?
Wendy Sherman: Yes. So this was day 25 of the last round of the negotiations, which turned out to be 27 days at the Palais Coburg in Vienna. I had had exactly one meal outside of the hotel. We’d had very little sleep. It was very intense and we were down to virtually the last element that had to be negotiated and for complicated reasons I won’t go into for the sake of time, this was a negotiation where I was in the room with my Deputy Rob Malley, a great diplomat, really brilliant guy, and our two counterparts Abbas Aragchi and Majid Takht-Ravanchi, just the four of us. And it was the last element we were negotiating that would get us to the end of this deal.
Wendy Sherman: And I put a couple of formulas on a scrap of paper on the table and Abbas who was the lead in this particular round said, “Okay, I think this one will work.” And then he leaned forward and he said, “But just one more thing.” And I was fried already from lack of sleep. I was supposed to come to Harvard as an IOP Fellow, Institute of Politics Fellow and a Belfer Fellow, once the negotiation, the congressional review was done. I knew because we had extended the negotiation, I was going to be late to Harvard, at least a month late and I just lost it. I was furious. I started yelling at Abbas and saying, “Do you know what you’re doing? You’re putting this entire-
Thoko Moyo: You were yelling.
Wendy Sherman: Yes … “this entire deal at risk.” But somewhere along the line I learned that women can’t get angry, but it is okay to cry. So as I’m yelling, I am sobbing, tears coming down my face. Poor Rob had no idea what to do with me. Abbas and Majid were dumbfounded. They thought they knew me pretty well. They didn’t know who this person was. And then after what seemed like a long time, but wasn’t, Abbas leaned forward and said, “Okay, we’re done.”
Wendy Sherman: Now, I would never suggest that people adopt crying as a tactic, but I was who I was. I was authentically myself. And it was very powerful in that moment. And I tell the story to say we are our most powerful when we bring all that we are to the table.
Thoko Moyo: And I think for me, as I read that piece, I mean what really stood out and to build on what you’ve just said, that you wouldn’t advise it as a tactic, I mean this was authentic. It was a moment that was authentic. It was not being manipulative and it came from the moment.
Wendy Sherman: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Thoko Moyo: So we are running out of time. I have two more questions if you have just a little more time.
Wendy Sherman: Sure.
Thoko Moyo: I’m conscious that our listeners are in the US but as well as around the world. Is there anything that we need to talk about that gives a perspective that’s not from the US? So I’m sitting here thinking, “You know, we’ve talked about this from your perspective. If one of your colleagues from Iran or any of the other negotiations that you’d been in was sitting here telling the story, is there anything that they would want to bring in?”
Wendy Sherman: Yes, I think they would say we have interest too. It’s not all about the United States of America. I’m trying very hard in the course I’m going to teach to have international examples, not just US domestic examples, because I think it’s critical to understand other peoples’ points of view. People have different cultural norms around negotiating and transparency. You know, we learn during the negotiations, which of the delegations from which countries had to have a smoke out on the balcony to be able to negotiate, who worked well late at night, who worked better in the morning.
Wendy Sherman: But I think more than anything, it would be other countries saying respect that when we come to a table, we come with our own interests and our own history and our own culture. And you need to understand that as much as you ask that we understand you.
Thoko Moyo: I can’t think of a better place to stop. Thank you so, so much Wendy, Ambassador Sherman, for spending the time with us. Thank you.
Wendy Sherman: Thank you Thoko.