Community & Government

Traits of a Good Diplomat

The secretaries reveal the qualities that all good diplomats should have—whether pursuing a career in diplomacy or just looking to incorporate diplomatic skills into everyday life.

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Topics include: The “Doability” Doctrine * What It Takes to Be a Diplomat


[MUSIC PLAYING] CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Madeleine, people tend to think of diplomacy as something that's done in gold-gilded rooms. And yet, you and I have both been Secretaries of State and we know that there are some skills that we brought from our other lives, from our former lives as professors, as people who've been in the world. And there are skills that I think our students could actually take into their lives that you gain from diplomacy. So how would you describe for students some of the things that they might learn from what diplomats do and do well that they can carry into their own lives? MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I think there actually are a lot of transitions that do work and a lot of kinds of experiences. First of all, I think the part of putting yourself into the shoes of the person that you're talking to, which really means knowing who they are and wanting to know who they are and developing a relationship by finding out. And then also, I think trying to figure out how, when you have conversations and try to do things, is not have everything be a zero-sum game, that it has to be a win-win. Also, there's nothing wrong with having people that are able to help you and, in fact, encouraging people to be a part of a group that can help each other. So a lot of the things are transferable, I think is the way to really put it. CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Yeah. And I think also, wherever you are going, one of the things that we often talk about is you have to be a good listener. Because if you're not a good listener, you can't do any of the things that you talked about. You can't find the place that it's not zero-sum. You don't learn enough about the other person to really know where they're coming from. If you are listening very carefully, you might even hear little openings where you can think, oh, I didn't realize that that might be a place that we could start to get what I used to call "interest overlap," where my interest actually overlap yours. I remember once, I had this happen to me, Sergei Lavrov, who was the Russian Foreign Minister, we'd been at odds about Iran and what to do about the now growing Iranian nuclear threat. And we knew that the Iranians were enriching uranium. They were moving toward a nuclear capability. And the Russians had built a reactor in Iran called the "Bushehr Reactor," which was a nuclear reactor. We had been hypercritical of this. Every time we had a press conference, we talked about how bad the Bushehr Reactor was. But what we wanted the Iranians to do was to stop processing the uranium themselves. And so at one point, I said to Sergei, are you telling me that, if we stopped criticizing the Bushehr Reactor which you're building, that you would do the reprocessing yourself and take the residual back to Russia so that the Iranians could use it for a nuclear weapon? Are you telling me that? And he said, well, yes, if you would stop criticizing for a moment, we've been saying that for months...

About the Instructor

Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice stood toe to toe with dictators, counseled presidents, and managed to find common ground on issues that still polarize us today. Sit down with two legendary secretaries of state as they reveal how to build bridges, hold boundaries, and apply history’s lessons to everyday challenges. The class presents an intimate portrait of the late Dr. Albright’s legacy for the next generation.

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Madeleine Albright & Condoleezza Rice

Former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice teach you to settle differences in everyday life like a diplomat.

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