by Herman J. Cohen, Ambassador (Ret.)
Four things I learned about influencing as U.S. diplomat
- Show an interest in the culture of the country to which you are assigned.
- Respect local customs for social life.
- Ask a lot of questions.
- Make local people feel important.
Three behaviors I used that helped
- Ask questions that lead to new thinking about significant issues.
- Do not rush to the subject of interest. Work up to it slowly.
- Spend a lot of time with opposite numbers without talking business.
Two challenges I faced consistently
- Preconceived impressions.
- Propaganda from Soviet and Chinese embassies
One piece of advice I would like to share
- Citizens of other countries start out with a positive view of the USA in general. Work to maintain that positive view.
About the Author
As Assistant Secretary for African Affairs (1989-93), Hank Cohen was my boss’s boss and someone whose diplomacy skills I learned to emulate. A specialist in African and European affairs, he is the founding president of Cohen and Woods International, a consulting firm that provides strategic planning services to African governments, and multinational corporations doing business in Africa. The firm’s main activity during 2018 involved the “Power Africa” initiative. He has authored two books: “Intervening in Africa: Superpower Peacekeeping in a Troubled Continent” (Macmillan, New York 2000) and “The Mind of the African Strong Man: Conversations with Dictators, Statesmen and Father Figures” (New Academia, Washington DC, 2015).
- How does Hank’s advice about influence match with your experience?
- Whom would you like to influence today?
- How will you measure your success?