Center for Strategic Communication

[ by Charles Cameron — sincerity and symmetry as the basis for dialog and negotiation ]


If you read me regularly, you know I’m passionate about form as well as content.

Here’s the New York Times report on the interactions between Presidents Obama and Morsi in the runup to the Gaza ceasefire negotiations:

Mr. Obama told aides he was impressed with the Egyptian leader’s pragmatic confidence. He sensed an engineer’s precision with surprisingly little ideology. Most important, Mr. Obama told aides that he considered Mr. Morsi a straight shooter who delivered on what he promised and did not promise what he could not deliver.

“The thing that appealed to the president was how practical the conversations were — here’s the state of play, here are the issues we’re concerned about,” said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. “This was somebody focused on solving problems.”

The Egyptian side was also positive about the collaboration. Essam el-Haddad, the foreign policy adviser to the Egyptian president, described a singular partnership developing between Mr. Morsi, who is the most important international ally for Hamas, and Mr. Obama, who plays essentially the same role for Israel.

“Yes, they were carrying the point of view of the Israeli side but they were understanding also the other side, the Palestinian side,” Mr. Haddad said in Cairo as the cease-fire was being finalized on Wednesday. “We felt there was a high level of sincerity in trying to find a solution. The sincerity and understanding was very helpful.”


And here, by way of context, is David Bohm on dialogue:

One way of helping to free these serious blocks in communication would be to carry out discussions in a spirit of free dialogue. Key features of such a dialogue is for each person to be able to hold several points of view, in a sort of active suspension, while treating the ideas of others with something of the care and attention that are given to his or her own. Each participant is not called on to accept or reject particular points of view; rather he or she should attempt to come to understanding of what they mean.

Bohm, Science, Order and Creativity, p 86


What interests me here in the Obama-Morsi interaction as described is the dual emphasis on sincerity and symmetry. Sincerity is needed so that each of the two sides — Israel’s POV, as presented by Obama, and that of Hamas, as presented by Morsi — is in fact presented, and not hinted at, watered down or reneged on. And when both sides are in fact sincerely represented, they are mutually present — heard – and there is symmetry.

That symmetry, it seems to me — symmetry of form in the presentations of contents — is the facilitator of successful negotiations.