Today I had an interesting call. I spoke with Kristen Silverberg, the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs. She's a very charming woman, sharing anecdotes about her three year old niece, as well as being as intellectually stimulating as they come. We brainstormed some great ideas for incorporating ERM (executive relationship management) and PRM (personal relationship management) into international relations.
Kristen brought up the conflicting ideas surrounding our country right now, not only involving criticism from the outside, but debate from the inside as well. She focuses the bulk of her time on the Security Council working on negotiations with resolution language. Funny, one of the main criticisms the United States faces is that of "going it alone," and this is becoming a dignity issue for the rest of the world. We are starting to appear, from the outside, as though we don't need the help of other countries, and that couldn't be more untrue.
I couldn't help but see how this relates to each of us as individuals – the struggle with being able to ask for help, and letting other people help. The interesting thing about it is that when a person, or in this case, a country, is brave enough to ask for help, it increases the value of that country as a brand. I can't remember a time when brand USA was more valued than after 9/11, or when Katrina devastated our southern coast. The pinnacle of intimacy is letting people help you and being able to ask for help. When you ask for help, you're at once showing respect for their abilities and letting them inside your walls.
There are so many things in our lives that make us build up walls around ourselves. The sad thing is that we think our walls are so unique, that no one else has the same ones, but at the end of the day, we all have similar worries and frustrations and we are all looking for the same things, deep mutual understanding with others. The way we get there is to help people get comfortable to "exhale." Get them to talk about things they are passionate about. Tell people about our own past struggles. It comforts others to know that we haven't had it easy either, that life is a struggle for all of us.
Kristen sees this all the time. She said that people in foreign diplomacy are always traveling to ask someone for a meeting, or to ask people to stand on their side. They want to be sure they haven't been abandoned. To ask for this kind of help means asking to share some level of intimacy with them.
While some people may look at this plane of intimacy as insincere, it's important to realize that if your heart is in the right place then it isn't trite at all.
I believe what Kristen is doing is so important and needed right now. I have said for a long time that the "brand" of the United States of America needs some attention, and Ms. Silverberg appears to share that sentiment. Not that we should focus too much on promoting brand USA for the sake of promotion. Without changing our relationships, that sort of marketing would be hollow and only alienates people and countries and groups that could help us, and us them. We need genuine relationships to strengthen our country's brand just like our personal brands.
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