Saturday, April 3, 2010

Rules of Diplomacy

I'm compelled to share this excerpt from Shannon Hale's Princess Academy:

When they arrived at the academy, the girls arranged themselves before the steps in a straight line... In the silence of waiting, Miri became aware of the jagged rocks poking through her boot soles... She wanted to hop around or say something funny to relieve the nervous tension, but she was the diplomat and thought she had better appear respectable...

Finally Olano emerged, fists on her hips...

Miri brought to mind the first rule of diplomatic negotiations: State the problem. "We know we are not welcome inside," she said.

Olana blinked. That was not what she had been expecting to hear.

"We left without your permission and violated your authority," said Miri. The second rule: Admit your own error. "That was wrong."

Frid shuffled her feet nervously. Miri knew the girls had not been expecting to concede fault... But she wanted Olana to see that they had listened and learned.

"You kept us from our families, punished us for unfair reasons, and treated us like criminals. That was also wrong. We're here now, willing to forget our mutual offenses and start over. Here are our terms."

Olana blinked rapidly, a sign that her composure had slipped. Miri felt encouraged. She reviewed the other rules: State the error of the other party. Done. Propose specific compromises and end with Invite mutual acceptance. She hoped she was not forgetting anything.

"For each rest day, we will be allowed to return home to our families and attend chapel... When traders come, we will return home for one week to help... Rule breaking may be punished with a missed meal, but no one will be hit, locked in a closet, or grounded from a return home."

Olana clicked her tongue to show that she was not impressed. "I have a steep task to turn twenty mountain girls into presentable ladies. These measures are the only way I can keep you in line."

Miri nodded. "Perhaps they were, but no longer. As part of these new terms, we will vow to focus on our studies, respect your authority, and obey all reasonable rules."

Just one more: Illustrate the negative outcome of refusal and positive of acceptance. "If you don't agree to this, whichever of us [becomes princess] will report your bad behavior and demand that you serve the rest of your days in...a territory that is swampland--smelly, sticky with mud, and poorer than the mountains."

Olana cringed visibly.

"And if you live by these terms and treat us as you would treat noblemen's daughters, whichever one of us is chosen as the princess will commend your teaching and see you get comfortable work..."

"I see..." said Olana.

"We accept these terms and invite you to do the same," said Miri, waiting for Olana to respond. The silence poked at Miri's confidence, and she shifted her feet in the rock debris and tried not to squirm under the weight of Olana's hesitation. "Um, so do you?"

"Do I accept these terms?" Olana pulled long each vowel sound, an effect that had always made Miri cold for what she would do next. "I'll go ponder the matter, and I'll be sure to let you know."


Now before we practice, let's review the rules. ('tho they're really more what you might call...guidelines!)
  1. State the problem.
  2. Admit your own error.
  3. State the error of the other party.
  4. Propose specific compromises.
  5. Invite mutual acceptance.
  6. Illustrate the negative outcome of refusal and positive of acceptance.
But alas, Miri DID forget a rule. Can you guess what it is???

"See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil... I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in [the Promised Land]... I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life." --Deuteronomy 30:15-19

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