In your capacity as a working professional, job seeker or business owner, you will deal with people from all walks of life. It is knowing how to communicate and negotiate with them in a manner which doesn’t discriminate against any opinion or outlook that is essential though. The art to negation is a diplomatic attitude. Learning to assess all sides of a discussion before verbalizing your thoughts and opinions is extremely important. We want people we are dealing with to feel like their opinion is respected and understood, but at the same time, having our own opinion (even if it’s the polar opposite to theirs) respected and understood also. Learning the art of balancing communication with diplomacy will help you build great relationships in business and the workplace while having the power to communicate your point or opinion in a strong, organized manner.
I learned a little about practicing diplomatic behavior in perhaps the strangest, most unexpected situation. I was in the run for Miss. Universe Canada. When scouted for this position I figured all I would have to do is get dolled up, pick the most beautiful pageant dress, and smile on stage. What I didn’t realize is the amount of preparation needed for such pageants.
On my first day to meet with my agent, she briefed me on the 6 month training program that all the girls were to go through before they made it to the stage. A lot of the training was typical as you would expect, such as how to ‘walk’ properly on stage with proper posture, presence, and grace.
Public speaking was another part of the training. Learning how to speak confidently in front of a large audience was never a problem for me but keeping your answers diplomatic was the number one rule when it came to responding to questions on stage. I figured since I was going to represent my city of residence at the time (Vancouver), that I would get to speak my mind on stage about my opinions on everything from current events and political issues to controversial topics. I was so wrong. The biggest part of my training was learning to respond to the questions in a DIPLOMATIC way. What did this mean?
At the time, I felt it meant that I couldn’t have my own opinion! I hated it. I had to please every angle of the audience with a well-rounded response, choosing no particular side.
I remember one of the practice questions we had was: “What is your opinion on euthanasia”. Now how on earth am I supposed to please everyone with an answer for this question? I need to have an opinion! I need to communicate it in a strong, confident way on stage so that I influence people to agree with me! I quickly learned that this is not ‘diplomatic’ behavior. Instead, I was told to calculate both the pro’s and con’s on the subject and come up with an answer which would keep every individual opinion satisfied. Being an extremely opinionated person, this was probably one of the biggest challenges I had to face. So much for just choosing a pretty dress, and getting my pageant hair and makeup done!
Learning diplomatic behavior ended up being one of the most valuable life lessons for me. In business or in the workplace - just like in my beauty pageant – being put on the spot is something that is to be expected, and learning how to respond diplomatically is something that is key to success. When you are put on the spot when negotiating or even in a social business environment it is important to practice diplomatic behavior in order to be likeable and show people you have a respectful, easy line of communication.
It’s true that nobody likes a no-it-all. But there is an art to making a point, while remaining diplomatic. I find that balancing pro’s and con’s of a topic is a great introduction and conclusion to whatever message it is you are trying to get across. I find that sandwiching my opinion in the middle is the way to get my point across in a way that leaves no room for frustrated debate or disagreement.
Being diplomatic comes in handy especially when dealing with someone in a higher position than yourself such as your boss, or any person of authority in your life. It shows you are intelligent, that you think before you speak, and that you are willing to negotiate either way on a topic or at least understand another person’s point of view.
Try to remember my advice next time you are put in a position where diplomatic behavior could make or break somebody's opinion on you.