Learning Diplomacy at Work: 6 Simple Methods

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Diplomacy at work is often associated with people pleasing behaviour, but on the contrary, it is more of a daily life skill which helps us to make a better assessment of situations as well as take cautious decisions. To put in another way, “Diplomacy is an art of coping with matters in a careful and tactful way. 

It’s a soft skill which all professionals are advised to master, as it is suggested to help to improve workplace environments by:

  • Maintaining good relationships 
  • Avoiding conflicts and clashes
  • Building credibility 
  • Preventing emotional outbursts
  • Building objective viewpoints in situations to make better logical decisions. 

Furthermore, it also helps to communicate sensitive information and communicate difficult feedback to the seniors without impacting the relationship. 

Diplomacy is strongly influenced by culture, such as, one culture prefers open feedback whereas it can be considered as rude in the other. Henceforth it is suggested that the employees be aware about their organisations culture, especially those who transferred to different cities and countries for work. 

How to build this skill?

The first step to build diplomacy is to understand and define your expectations clearly. Start by asking yourself:

  • What do you seek from this situation?
  • What needs to be done in order to achieve the desired goal?

It is also important to consider everyone else’s perspective while moving towards your goal. Oftentimes, finding a balance between what everyone involved wants turns out to be crucial for diplomacy. For situations where you have to deal with a difficult employee, taking help or mediation from a higher authority is suggested to be a good diplomatic approach.

There are 3 simple rules of diplomacy influenced by Dale Carnegie’s book “How to win friends and influence people”. These are:

  1. Don’t criticize

As Carnegie said in his book, 

“Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.” 

But this does not mean that you should not point out the mistakes of others. 

As workplaces include assessing and evaluating the work of others, the key here is to learn how to give constructive feedback including areas of improvement in the present and future rather than just criticizing what went wrong. Therefore, it’s important that in each feedback given, you are first of all, gathering all the relevant information, and secondly, to bring a solution-focused approach in your feedback. 

Similarly, the role of words and body language becomes crucial in every communication. For example, you should avoid aggressive language such as, “You have to..”, “I don’t care…”, “Never..” and choose positive language such as, “It would be awesome if…”, “I think it might be better if…”. And try to use positive body language with good eye contact and occasional smiles, while avoiding negative cues, such as rolling your eyes and clenching your fist. 

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  1. Learn to appreciate more

Think about the last time you appreciated someone’s work at your workplace and its impact on others as well as how you felt when someone appreciated your work. 

Appreciation has proved to be effective for both employees to build a sense of community as well as organizations to retain their employees. And it just takes a simple “thank you” to communicate your admiration for their work. However, it should not be misunderstood as flattery, appreciation is a genuine and honest effort put in to recognize the work of others. What distinguishes a tactful employee from an untactful employee is that they not only appreciate the successes of other employees but also appreciate their own hard work even if it results in failure. 

Hence, try to develop a habit of appreciating others, you can do this by: 

  • Appreciating all members of a project personally or through e-mail after its completion.  
  • And also recognize the personal accomplishments of others as well.

  1. Find common ground

Finding common ground is not only an effective method to deal with conflicts, but it also helps to understand the perspective of others. Hence, if you are in a disagreement with your coworker, then introspect on the following questions:

  • What could be the one thing similar amongst the two of you?
  • What one thing do you both agree on? Now, can you find more such things you both agree on?
  • What do you think are some basic needs and/or desires of the other person?
  • Is there any communication barrier between the two of you? How can you overcome that barrier?

Additional Strategies to boost diplomacy at work: 

  1. Learn to manipulate the environment

A good diplomat knows when it is best to talk about a certain issue. For example, if a manager has to let go of one of his employees, then choosing a time that does not impact any current and future projects is required, along with being considerate about a notice period for the employee to find another job. Similarly, the role of a setting is also important as when two employees are in conflict, then picking out a neutral or informal setting can help in de-escalating the situation.

Moreover, using a storytelling method to convey your ideas is effective as it makes it easier for others to visualize and relate to. For example, Instead of saying, “Social media marketing is this much effective” say, “I was watching this funny video on social media where this and that happened and later I realized it cleverly showed me a few advertisements in-between”. 

  1. Master emotional intelligence

Our negative emotions can result in conflicts and miscommunication, therefore, it’s important to promote emotional intelligence at work. It’s usually better to take a preventive approach especially in cases of emotional behaviours, as finding triggers of such behaviours is more apt than managing an aftermath of the emotional outburst. Additionally, this further helps to deal with issues at their root level, thus cycling back to the prevention of the said behaviour in future.

Try to ask yourself, as well as your employees, the following questions to investigate triggers:

  • What are a few common triggers that evoke strong emotion within you?
  • Who are a few people that usually invoke these emotions within you?
  • In what circumstances do you usually lose your control of emotions?

Furthermore, You can use the ten-second rule to gain composure, you can even use mindfulness exercises to control your breathing and reassess the situation. Taking deep breaths while counting 1 to 10 is one of the most effective strategies for that. 

  1. Balance openness with assertiveness

It’s great to be tactful, however, you also need to convey your message in an assertive way to ensure that your own rights are respected as much as you are respecting others. 

To learn assertiveness you can try using the four key components of being assertive, which are, the situation, the feeling, the consequences, and the request. Start with explaining the situation along with how that’s making you feel, then explain the consequence of the situation, and at last, add in your request. 

For example, The situation is that because of you there is a two day delay in the delivering of a report. Then to make your coworkers prioritize this project you can say, “I know I am two days late for submitting this report and I am grateful for our hard work but because of the delay, I am feeling frustrated, annoyed, and embarrassed. The consequence is that our head manager is doubting our competency and my request from you is that we make this report our priority now and get this done by today itself”.

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Practice: Think about a situation where you need to deflect office gossip and comment on how you can do it with diplomacy. 

Diplomacy is all about managing your interests while keeping positive interactions at the workplace. It surely takes time to build, but it is a force that can boost your career. 

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