“A soft answer turns away wrath”
Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting communication between representatives. They are the skill sets for building relationships, developing allies and collaborating with adversaries and naysayers to promotes and advance ideas, thoughts and beliefs. Diplomacy is the cumulative effect of a number of qualities working together; insight into human nature, sympathy, self-control, influencing others, minimizing friction and patience. Exercising these wisdoms in combination with sensitivity in our communication with others often determines the wellbeing of our relationships. It is not enough to speak a truth, but to voice that truth with care and consideration. It is that sense of touch, intuitive perception and skill in dealing with people, to find the proper fit in recognizing mutual rights and expectations of what, how and the way we communicate. It is not only kindness, but kindness skillfully extended that culminates the act of diplomacy.
Most people focus exclusively on content and the direct elements of influencing others in their communications, while ignoring the vital components of timing and tact. The skills of exercising patience in thinking before we speak, questioning the timing and appropriateness of if and when we respond, by actively listening to our partner and controlling our emotions when we do, are fundamental to developing tact, which is an essential element of being diplomatic. Equally as important, is controlling the tone and delivery of how we state our position utilizing empathy. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it that leaves a lasting impression and shapes the future of the relationship. Knowing how to choose the appropriate words, emotional tone and non-verbal body language will insure your message is delivered appropriately and effectively. Ultimately it the speaker who is responsible for the communication, because they are the author of it.
It is not enough to be skillful in carefully navigating through tense discussions, delicate situations or critical confrontations. Leaders today are expected to artfully develop the atmosphere conducive to communication, foster a network of shareholders and stakeholders, while finding a consensus among the opposed and removing alienation, to progressively move ideas and ideals forward. The founding element to establishing this is making sure that your audience will be prepared to give you the time, opportunity and reception, to hear your ideas and positions when you need it. This is accomplished by effective socialization prior to any event, to make sure that time and emotional distance does not play a factor in communicating when you need to. That in effect, you have on deposit a reserve of emotional trust, respect and familiarity upon which you can draw when needed. It is critical that if we are to influence large groups that we start with individuals, to start to build any collaboration upon. The best allies are those you already know and have established relationships with and having share mutual emotional needs, not those born out of necessity.
The first element in building a consensus is to hear what the parties have to say. None is more important than to hear from your potential detractors, as they have a perspective and point of view to which they are partial to cling to and influence others from. Understanding it, where they are coming from, and what their interests are, can be critical to preemptively addressing it. By building a collective knowledge base of those around you and not laying claim to any single idea or solution, you set the ground work to discuss the merits of, rather than the position of an idea, and vastly increase the likelihood and probability that an idea or solution will be picked up and championed by those that are exposed to it or potentially against one initially.
Dealing with Naysayers
Naysayers may feel like an obstacle and hindrance. Don’t take that bait. Your emotional control and your ability to bring them along will allow you to building better insights and better arguments and plans to move an idea forward, which is the essence of leadership. It will be important to foster rapport, respect and trust by listening fully to what they have to say and understand not only what they say, but also what they mean. It is infinitely more effective to engage a naysayer in private, where the risks are low, than to do so publicly, when there is more at stake and vested than just the issue at hand. Brining them into the process early, by asking their opinion or seeking their influence can strengthen your position by exploring, finding and jointly determining the crux of an issue and formulating a response to it. By developing an amiblicle relationships with a naysayers in advance, you are aware and can recognize when an opportunity exists to capitalize upon moments of opportunity, when the potential naysayers will be more inclined to be receptive to an idea or solution, while simultaneously removing much of the hostility and alienation that comes with conflict and open disagreement, where both parties can agree to disagree, with the naysayer being a party to and along for the ride with a solution, even while holding opposing views.
When you master the art of diplomacy you will be a better leader, agent of change and a better relationship builder and partner, by cultivating power, authority through influence and creating an atmosphere that is open and receptive to communication, without being intimidating and domineering. It is important to realize that a person convinced against their will, is a person of the same opinion still, just silenced. That silence is a poisoned well upon which you’ll surely drink eventually.
I hadn’t thought of diplomacy as a leadership style. Thanks for this post. Very insightful! Your blog is a great read.