"A powerful, deeply personal, and absorbing book written by one of America's smartest and most dedicated diplomats. This tale of courage and persistence will inspire readers of all backgrounds, while giving them unparalleled insights into some of the most critical issues of our time."—Madeleine K. Albright, 64th U.S. Secretary of State
"Wendy doesn't just write about the value of courage, power, and persistence, she lives it. She's an example that a strong negotiator can also be a humane mentor. Her work helped prevent a war and a stop a nuclear arms race. As someone who has been privileged to be Wendy's teammate and even more grateful to remain her friend, I know every reader will learn much from her story but even more from her example."—John Kerry, 68th U.S. Secretary of State and author of Every Day Is Extra
"This is an indispensable insider's account of America's negotiations with Iran and North Korea and a timely reminder of the importance of diplomacy. Sherman and her colleagues' struggles to make peace underscore how recently expertise and careful strategy were tangible realities of foreign policy, rather than lost arts. This book is also the personal saga of a woman navigating a generation of change in American politics. At an inflection point in our national conversations about diplomacy and gender, this book is illuminating on both fronts."—Ronan Farrow, contributing writer, New Yorker, and author of War on Peace
"Wendy Sherman draws on childhood lessons of equal justice forged during the civil rights era to pioneering experiences navigating a professional world dominated by men to illustrate invaluable negotiating skills for women in all aspects of life. Interwoven with revelations about the historic Iran negotiations, hers is a compelling narrative, never needed more than today."—Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent, NBC News anchor, MSNBC
"A riveting read. Sherman's candid stories about the way women relate to success, failure, and persistence is a balm for every reader who has been one of a few, or the only woman at the table. This book is a must for anyone who wants to understand what modern, winning talent looks like, and how it can bring two sides together in a world where that is becoming more and more difficult."—Claire Shipman, journalist and coauthor of The Confidence Code
Sharp and genuine, the book is as much a testament to [Ambassador
Sherman's] accomplishments as it is a call to 'find common ground...[and] do
good' in an increasingly polarized world. Insightful reading."—Kirkus Reviews
"Sherman shares stories of her time in the State
Department negotiating the most sensitive issues of our time, bringing readers
inside the world of international diplomacy and into the mind of one of our
most effective diplomatic negotiators. Sherman also shares personal stories
that show how our private experiences affect our professional lives, offering
advice for forging common ground, and understanding the nature and use of power
to help us reach our own goals... Very much worth reading."—Bustle
I did eventually get to spend my two months at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. The subject of my seminar was “Negotiating Change: How We Took on Some of the World’s Toughest Problems and Sometimes Succeeded.” Everyone I met at Harvard was interested to know the ins and outs of the Iran negotiation—who said what and how we finally got to yes. More often, however, students and professors alike asked larger questions about how, why, and when any negotiation succeeds or fails. They challenged me to explain why diplomacy is still a useful tool in a world that increasingly seems to respect violence and ultimatums. Most simply asked me how I learned to do what I do. Liberated from the grind of absorbing technical details about uranium enrichment and intelligence reports, I had the chance to reflect deeply on what I’d accomplished and how.
My answers to the young people in my study group were frequently less about diplomatic best practices and more about what I brought to the negotiating table. I found myself explaining things I had always known on some level to be true but hadn’t articulated for myself: that the most important facets of the Iran deal were the higher principles we sought and the reimagining of the world that it took to make the deal happen. The deal was the result of our courage in setting it in motion and our persistence in seeing it through. It was anchored by a common wish to make peace and by the common ground we forged with those we negotiated with, and against.
We had to use what we had learned about wielding power to change the world and knowing when change is simply not possible. These were all values that I’d grown up with and strengths I’ve developed along the way. We all have these homegrown skills and qualities, and we can use them throughout our lives, in our careers as well as in attaining our personal goals.
In the dark political era we’ve entered since I left Harvard, it’s increasingly important to know the deeper nature of negotiation.
Leaders talk about the art of the deal and discredit the art of diplomacy, while achieving neither and misunderstanding both. Business sense, such as it is, is considered more valuable than political expertise. The fact is, whether you’re in politics or business, the world has now grown so complex that the diplomatic perspective has become indispensable to deal-making.
The contrast that we’re facing now in leadership is really between the autocrat and the diplomat. The diplomat weighs things and chooses words and actions carefully; the autocrat acts impulsively (sometimes at 6:00 a.m. on Twitter) without checks and balances. The diplomat is inclusive and expansive, the autocrat transactional and lacking in empathy. The diplomat understands that every decision is grounded in present and past history, with an obligation to the future; the autocrat sees only what’s in front of him and what’s at stake right now. The diplomat knows that every conversation, every negotiation, every action, is like a move on a giant chessboard that affects all other pieces; the autocrat simply tries to find a way out, the way a child scrawls all over a pizza parlor placemat puzzle with a blunt crayon.
Of course, we have to be willing to walk away if we can’t make a deal, just as we need competence and hard work. We have to be tough, realistic, and blunt. But flexing our muscles is hardly the only way to a deal. We have to understand the nature of power before we can use it effectively, just as we have to learn from loss and let go of those things we can’t control. We have to know how to build a team and even see our adversaries as partners in making a lasting, meaningful deal. That’s what this book is about.