March 17th, 2014
07:43 PM ET

Why negotiations can get so tricky

Fareed speaks with the Council on Foreign Relations' Richard Haass and the Harvard Kennedy School's Meghan O’Sullivan about negotiations, and what they learned from the six months they spent with the parties in Northern Ireland trying to broker a compromise. Watch the video for the full interview.

Richard, you're somebody who taught negotiations at the Kennedy School at Harvard. Having gone through one of these classic, intense, grueling, six month processes, what did you learn about negotiations?

I mean the short answer is that negotiations and diplomacy isn't for sissies.  It's tough business, particularly in the modern age, where there's no news cycle and everything you do, even if you try to keep it confidential, comes out.

What do you think were the biggest kinds of reasons that it didn't work, because it didn't work? And so what would you say were the top three things that happened?

...One is that what happens at the table is only a small part of a negotiation.  You can negotiate with people and you have an understanding, even an agreement.  But then, when the agreement gets exposed to public opinion or to a passionate minority, say a tax agreement in this country, and then when the Tea Party would take a look at it, it's very hard sometimes for the people around the table who have made certain compromises...They understand it, they understand the needs of the opposite party, it's very hard, then, to explain that to someone who comes at it cold.

And that's when these passionate minorities, in the full sunlight of public opinion, can really lead to the unraveling of an agreement. So it's never enough, if you will, to concoct a deal that has trade-offs and may make sense. You've got to always think about how do you prepare the outside world for it, so the individuals can sell it into their respective constituencies.

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soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. David Isa

    With all that is being discussed about Putin's endgame in Ukraine, I think it would be helpful to have some discussion about Belarus and Kalinigrad. A few years ago, Putin told a Polish reporter that "we are all one people." It was an off-hand comment, but one that gives us an indication of his thinking, and perhaps a glimpse of his vision for the future of Eastern Europe. To get to Poland, Putin needs a long border. Russia already has Kalinigrad in the north, and he has Belarus. If he gains Ukraine, then he will have almost the entire eastern border with Poland under his control. From there, launching into Poland, would be quite simple. We need to fund dissidents in Belarus, and engage in a bit of diplomacy with the residents of Kalinigrad to thwart his moves. Just a thought...

    March 18, 2014 at 2:13 am | Reply
  2. j. von hettlingen

    It's never a gratifying task to negotiate and mediate on behalf of a nation, as it will never make everybody happy!

    March 18, 2014 at 11:30 am | Reply
  3. chrissy

    Aww @ j von, my dad who was a very wise man, used to tell me many things that have helped me immensely in life. And the one thing he told me most often and has helped me more than any of the others was: You can please SOME of the people SOME of the time BUT, you cant please ALL of the people ALL of the time! This is one of the times when this would apply.

    March 18, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Reply
  4. ✠RZ✠

    So is it true that full decompression of a jet airliner at 45,000 feet will render you unconscious in about 12 seconds?

    March 18, 2014 at 9:58 pm | Reply
  5. chrissy

    @ RZ, thats what ive been reading. And if that plane WAS hijacked then it was humane to render the passengers unconcious.

    March 19, 2014 at 8:24 am | Reply
  6. chrissy

    And...if that is correct it would kinda confirm the latest theory...that it was hijacked to pakistan. And thats a whole lot easier to believe that then the theory of alien abduction right? Lol

    March 19, 2014 at 8:26 pm | Reply
    • ✠RZ✠

      Decompressing at 45000 feet would likely cause much more harm than mere unconsciousness. However, it has been reported that following it's ascent, the jet quickly dropped back down to 25000 feet. Any which way you look at it, the situation has gone from bad to worse which might suggest to a devastating oitcome.

      March 19, 2014 at 10:29 pm | Reply
  7. chrissy

    Thats true @ RZ. I dont think whoever is responsible wasnt considering the passengers at all. I feel so bad for their families!

    March 20, 2014 at 11:00 am | Reply
  8. sdafsfsd

    i negotiate drugs. a lot. i love drugs. buy drugs. stick drugs in your ass

    May 16, 2014 at 11:40 am | Reply

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