Skip to main content

I recently attended a presentation by John Rakolta, a former United States ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), formed by seven Arab countries precariously positioned amidst Muslim countries whose values do not support the UAE’s peace and prosperity agendas.
Ambassador Rakolta’s lecture differentiated between exercising soft and hard power in conflict resolution.

Hard power is military force (or the threat thereof), and soft power achieves results through patience, listening, and respecting another’s point of view, even when you don’t entirely agree. Using soft power, Ambassador Rakolta focused on repairing broken relationships and successfully helped to facilitate the Abraham Accords. Consequently, the UAE and then Bahrain recognized Israel as a sovereign country, restoring diplomatic relations for the first time in decades. This was crucial in the Abraham Accords and a peace treaty between Palestine and Israel.

The most compelling part of the Ambassador’s presentation was his discussion on Kintsugi. During his negotiations, he learned about the Japanese art of repairing broken pots with precious metals. The spokesperson for the UAE used this as a metaphor for “healing broken relationships.” The concept implies that mistakes are merely opportunities to heal and repair them by applying precious metals to wounds and creating a more beautiful relationship. Something that can never happen with war.

During the presentation, I thought about soft and hard power and how they could be applied to everyday relationships.

Listening– Most people never listen to one another. It’s more important to win a fight than to heal a wound. Consequently, the argument escalates, and the crack widens – both feel worse instead of better.

If people attempt to listen, they will have a much better understanding of the other person. For example, if they exercised kindness instead of attack, they would have more cooperation. Trying to understand another person’s perspective builds effective communication.

Listening is the silver that heals past mistakes.

Patience – It’s not easy to be patient when at war with someone. It’s normal to feel discouraged and seem to be wasting your time – especially when the progress isn’t fast enough. But it’s during stressful moments that we need to be the most patient.

If you only look at the time it’s taking to build a house, you won’t see the progress. It’s more important to pay attention to small amounts of gain than focusing on the time it’s taking. Every time you walk away from conflict because you’ve run out of patience, you’ll only have to start over with someone new next time.

Patience is the gold that heals old wounds.

Kindness – People are often harsh and cruel to one another when upset. They yell, blame, interrupt, call one another names, and otherwise attack. Instead of attacking, Ambassador Rakolta spent time with the representatives of the UAE. He went to their homes for dinner and had them dine at his residence. They shared cultures. His wife, Terry, made an impression by honoring the dress customs, promoting local artists, and even writing a book. The participants went above and beyond obligatory dictates. They demonstrated genuine care and interest for one another.

Kindness is when you treat someone with respect and make personal efforts to get to know the other person. You can’t erase the past, but you can build a new future by how you treat someone now.

Kindness is the platinum that fills the cracks in a relationship.

Rather than focusing on all the mistakes someone makes or the damage done in a relationship, you can pick up the pieces. Instead of leaving the broken relationship scattered all over the place, you can make the relationship stronger and more beautiful by applying precious metals (listening, patience, and kindness). Then, instead of something to throw away, you have turned a damaged relationship into a precious treasure.


Dr. Donna Marks has been an author, consultant, public speaker, and psychotherapist for over thirty years. She was licensed as a Mental Health Counselor in 1987 and then certified in Addiction, Gestalt Therapy, Hypnosis, Sex Therapy, and Psychoanalysis. She currently has a concierge psychotherapy practice in Palm Beach, Florida.
She has appeared on numerous podcasts and local television. She is the author of two books, Learn Grow Forgive – A Path to Spiritual Success, and Exit the Maze: One Addiction, One Cause, One Solution (revised), and winner of multiple book awards. Her next book, The Healing Moment: Seven Keys to Turn Messes into Miracles, will be released in 2023.

Sign up for the mailing list

You will receive the latest articles, meditation tracks, inspirational content and much more

    Leave a Reply