I always thought that diplomatic people are basically manipulating, selfish people who can go to any lengths to ensure that they are safe..even if the world around them is burning. I was advised by someone to become more diplomatic because I was too straight forward. I started maintaining a distance from that person because the idea of being anything less than authentic disgusts me. Like I wrote yesterday, we often get confused: are we uncomfortable because something requires to move out of our comfort zone or because it is against our principles? It turns out that when it comes to diplomacy, it is bit of both. Most of us have some skewed ideas about diplomacy. I request you to read this post with an open-mind and THEN draw your conclusions.
I still stand by what I felt when the person I mentioned above asked me to be diplomatic. I still believe that in some matters, you need to be straight-forward. It is also important to express your anger. We need to stand up against injustice and sometimes, that requires us to be angry. But let’s move to little less serious situations. What if you are trying to give feedback to someone? Most people are ‘nice’ because they don’t want to come across as a rude person. It is because they will “feel bad” if they are the reason why somebody is upset. Notice how it is still about their self-image. So, they don’t say what they have to say and they call it ‘kindness.’ But are you really thinking about the other person? If you genuinely feel that the other person can benefit from your feedback, aren’t you doing him/her a disservice by not giving it?
Then there are people who are brutally honest. One might say that it takes courage to be honest and to a some extent, it does. I admire and practice honesty to a large extent but I have started noticing a pattern in “brutally honest”statements. Most of the brutally honest statements are actually black and white. And it might be a surprise for most of us: our so called ‘brutal honesty’ is not completely honest! For example: someone might say that your work is not good enough and let’s say it is true. However, is there any rule that your work won’t improve in the future? Is there any rule that just because you are not good at this type of work, there is no possibility of you being good at some other type of work? The thing is, the person criticizing you may be an expert in that particular kind of work but he/she is not an expert in all kinds of work! So, when you say things like, “I am sorry but you are stupid” you are not making an honest statement. In fact, if you are *really* honest, you will admit that you don’t know the other person completely. You don’t know what he/she is capable of! And you don’t know whether this person is stupid because of his/her inability or because his/her lack of interest. When you say “Sorry, you are not a hard working person and this is the truth,” you might be right in a way but this is not the complete truth. Maybe, this person is very hard working in some other area of his life. And there is another possibility: maybe *you* don’t know how to inspire this person to work hard!
One can be ‘brutally honest’ about people hurting us. For example, Some children say, “To tell you the truth, you are a bad parent” and they could be right. But that’s not the complete truth. Because you don’t really know how much (more or less) effort your parent has put into the parenting. And even if the parent was purposefully neglectful, you can only guess the reasons. You cannot know if your guess is the complete truth. Because we see people through our experiences, prejudices, beliefs etc.
Yes, diplomacy can used for all the wrong reasons. Some people are nice to arrogant or bigoted people because they want to keep their jobs. But some people talk to bigoted or arrogant people in a calm manner because they feel they do not know the complete truth. Instead of making statements like, “You know what! You don’t put in enough effort and that’s why your life sucks!” they say, “Okay let’s try a different approach” not because they are afraid of the reaction but because they truly respect and acknowledge the fact that effort and everything else in life is subjective.
There is also another reason why diplomacy is important. Fear can only motivate you in short run. And if no one likes to be told that they are wrong but no, you don’t have to lie. The truth is, we don’t know who is right and who is wrong. In a way, everybody is right. Diplomacy acknowledges this. But here’s something about diplomacy that might shock you: if you are going to ‘fake’ it i.e. if you are calm on the outside and cursing the person inside, the other person will eventually know. A skilled diplomat genuinely tries to understand both the sides. Even if she takes sides, she won’t feel self-righteous and hate the other side because she is empathetic.
Like everything in life, diplomacy can be used because of fear or because of love. It is completely your choice.