4 Steps to Perfecting the Art of Diplomacy

Jul 2, 2021

In any career or relationship, the art of diplomacy is essential to preserving the relationship and having the other people or person have YOUR way.

Before I had ever started Passion Struck, I was busy working my way up the ladder at Lowe’s home improvement. At that time, I was already the youngest Vice President in the company and was on a fast track for promotion.

The consulting firm Korn Ferry had been brought in to evaluate the senior team members in Information Technology for the company. I was set to interview one-on-one with the consultant, Brigitte Morel-Curran, brought out to my location.

I remember clearly that Brigitte ended our interview by telling me two things:

  1. She recognized my hard work and subsequent successes up to that point. 
  2. She told me that what had gotten me where I currently was would not be enough to get me where I wanted to go.

She was talking about the need to practice and perfect the art of diplomacy.

“The art of diplomacy moves forward an idea, proposal, or initiative without unnecessarily igniting passions or creating a catastrophe. It involves an understanding of the many facets of human nature that can undermine agreement and stoke conflict. It also is about having a commitment to analyzing these with foresight and grace.”

 

-John R. Miles

What is the Art of Diplomacy?

The word “diplomacy” tends to conjure up images of well-dressed ambassadors attending international embassies. But diplomacy also refers to the ability to deal with people in a sensitive and effective way. 

The art of diplomacy moves forward an idea, proposal, or initiative without unnecessarily igniting passions or creating a catastrophe. It involves an understanding of the many facets of human nature that can undermine agreement and stoke conflict. It also is about having a commitment to analyzing these with foresight and grace.

Click on the image below to watch my YouTube Video on this topic from the Passion Struck Podcast

 

Thumbnail with the secret to diplomacy

Why is it Important to Be Diplomatic?

There are many benefits to successfully practicing the art of diplomacy. Conducting your interactions with tact helps improve communication and understanding, allows you room to be persuasive or assertive during negotiations, improves respect within relationships, reduces stress, and leads to more successful outcomes.

Being diplomatic can be more than just a benefit to you in your professional career. The ability to work with others tactfully can stretch into all types of relationships, improving your understanding of someone else’s opinions and their understanding of yours. 

Benefits of Practicing the Art of Diplomacy

While all the above benefits are fundamental reasons to strive for diplomacy in all your interactions, the art of diplomacy really comes into play when faced with a situation that involves disagreement, negotiation, or confrontation. When faced with these complicated situations, a tactful approach can achieve two crucial goals: preserving the relationship and avoiding embarrassment.

Preserve the Relationship

There will come a time when two people – even two people with the same intentions and ambitions – disagree. And sometimes, that disagreement is over something hugely fundamental to a project. When you are working closely with someone, it is essential to conduct yourself in a way that will preserve and grow your relationship without becoming a pushover. 

Using a diplomatic approach, you may come to understand the other person’s ideas more fully and decide to take their approach. Alternatively, they may come to better understand you and decide to adopt your way of thinking. Typically, the result falls somewhere in the middle, finding common ground and compromise – even if the compromise is deciding on your approach with the understanding that they will be allowed input on something else down the road.

However the chips fall – your way or theirs – it is crucial to maintain a sense of professional integrity, respect, and diplomacy.

Avoid Embarrassment Through Diplomacy

Everyone can think of a time they reacted poorly to a professional situation. Perhaps you learned of a new management protocol and blew up, divulging your frustration about a new manager to someone untrustworthy in your office. Maybe you made a poor joke and effectively called out a chronically late colleague at a meeting in front of the entire team, only to find out later they have a valid and private reason to come later in the day. Or you found out a position will be dissolved and the employee in that role will be laid off next month, and you immediately rushed to discuss all the projects you were collaborating on. 

All these situations can leave you feeling humiliated and ashamed. These situations could be avoided by practicing a few simple steps of diplomacy.

Four Steps to Perfecting the Art of Diplomacy

Remain Calm

True diplomats are able to remain calm even when others around them are not. People naturally become dismissive and avoidant when someone is behaving or speaking belligerently. Do not allow your opinions to be overshadowed by acting in a way that is volatile. Try to remain calm and keep an open mind.

Know the Facts and Figures 

Whenever possible, arrive at the situation already prepared for the discussion. Find out the facts, as well as what is and what is not possible, before you react. It can feel very shameful to make an impossible demand and later must admit ignorance. More importantly, coming into the conversation with a realistic idea of goals and objectives can help you appear informed and set the tone for the level of professionalism you will bring to the table. If you get caught off-guard in a situation where you do not already know the facts, work to see if you can withhold judgment and opinion until you are better informed.

Perform Attentive Listening 

Attentive listening is more than allowing someone to vocalize their thoughts while you mentally prepare your response. It is an active process of working to understand the person. There are many types of listening, and in order to bring attentive listening into a diplomatic conversation, you need to utilize three methods simultaneously. 

· Informational listening: Seeking to learn from what is being said.

· Critical Listening: Evaluating and understanding the message.

· Empathetic Listening: Understanding the feelings, beliefs, and emotions of the speaker.

To achieve active listening within your communications, you should be able to perform these three skills synchronously.

Use Emotional Intelligence and Non-Verbal Communication 

This step is really the ability to take attentive listening one step further. When we talk about different types of listening, they all go back to the two foundational listening skills, discriminative and comprehensive. 

Discriminative listening is the ability to differentiate between different sounds and communication patterns. This skill begins in the womb – differentiating between sounds made by the mother and father versus other sounds and noises – and continues to develop quickly through young childhood. Discriminative listening includes recognizing non-verbal communication cues as well as verbal. Infants recognize faces that are happy, sad, or angry and respond accordingly. 

Two men in conversation using the art of diplomacy

As we grow and expand these skills, we develop a more advanced ability to discern meaning and understand the speaker. Discriminative listening allows you to recognize the tone of voice, mannerisms, facial expressions, and body language. You can use discriminative listening even if you do not understand the language of the speaker by watching them as they speak.

Comprehensive listening is the ability to process and understand the words and vocabulary of the language being spoken. Non-verbal communication that is specific to culture can fall under comprehensive language, especially if the gesture or sound has a different meaning to people of another culture. 

Comprehensive listening can become complicated when more than one person listens, as words can be inherently subjective. Clear and compelling goals without complicated jargon or overly technical language can help ensure that your message is received correctly. And by asking appropriate questions as part of active listening can confirm that you understand the intended message as well.

Important Strategies and Tips

1. Think Before You Speak

Consider your favored outcome before you speak. If the situation allows for it, write down your objectives, final goal, or intended message.

2. Choose Your Words Carefully

Think about what the other person is trying to say. What are their ideas, and what is their final goal? Can you word your response in a way that mirrors their intended message and draws common ground? Can you foresee what their objections might be and address those concerns before you allow them to arise? If they have already raised a concern, can you address it in a positive and productive way? 

3. Watch Your Body Language

Obviously, you should be watching their body language and non-verbal cues, but you must also be mindful of your own. Be aware of your facial expressions and body posturing. Do you raise your eyebrows sarcastically or roll your eyes when you hear something you find stupid or unreasonable? Or cross your arms defensively across your chest when you feel threatened? These behaviors are perceived by the other person. Make sure you are displaying yourself appropriately for the situation at hand.

4. Never React Emotionally

Do not enter the situation in an angry or stressed state. If necessary, excuse yourself until you can regain your composure. When someone reacts emotionally, it is easy to dismiss their message or belittle their opinions.

5. Refrain from Going on the Offensive

Instead of going on the offensive, hold back and think about the deeper issue. Use non-threatening and inclusive language. Telling someone what they need to do is far more aggressive than proposing an agreement on what actions should be taken by each party. Or better yet, pose your statement as a question that requires others to consider your perspective and draws common grounds.

The Takeaway

Bringing a diplomatic approach to your interactions with others can ensure that your message is received and increase your ability to build rapport and effectively negotiate. A successful approach allows you to enter a disagreement, communicate effectively, and walk away with your relationship intact. Maintaining a style of communication that is both calm and educated while also actively listening can help you to bolster this important skill set and allow you to be assertive and sensitive simultaneously. 

The Passion Struck podcast is helping men and women unlock their true potential and become passion struck every day. Listen to the Passion Struck Podcast anywhere you listen to podcasts online. For more information if you are in a toxic relationship, click here.

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