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How to Achieve Effective Diplomacy in the Workplace

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Being diplomatic at work or in your business is all about knowing how to deal with people effectively so no hard feelings arise. It’s about finding the right balance between your needs and the needs of your colleagues, subordinates, or superiors.


No textbook or manual can fully prepare you for life in the workplace especially in terms of your professional relationship with others. Without diplomatic communications though, you will be severely limited when it comes to navigating your requests and the requests of your colleagues and in settling disputes effectively. This could lead to disagreements and challenging work situations that shouldn’t be there in the first place. 


Advantages of Effective Diplomacy

The ability to communicate with diplomacy is a skill that professionals and business owners need to master. It will teach you how to deliver bad news or critical feedback in professional situations the right way, with as little negative emotional results as possible. It will also strengthen your reputation and help you manage existing relationships with maturity, integrity, and professionalism. Lastly, effective diplomacy can help you avoid conflict and find common ground. Needless to say, this particular skill is a useful asset in negotiations, may it be within the company or with external entities.


Negative Emotions in the Workplace

Our emotions also have a major role to play when it comes to communications in the workplace. Emotions serve as survival mechanisms—they’re ingrained into our biology. Cruel criticism or a co-worker’s deceptive attacks can often send us reeling. Our minds and bodies have to struggle to respond appropriately to these negative circumstances. We might end up showing signs of aggression or sadness, depending on the situation we encounter. 


According to a study carried out by neurologist Dr. William H. Frey, women cry approximately 5.3 times per month in comparison to men, who cry, on average, 1.4 times per month. This makes the issue of dealing with negative emotions in the workplace especially relevant for businesswomen. However, those who shed tears at work, regardless of gender, may also end up feeling ashamed, especially if it relates to a conflict situation or performance issue. Emotions like anger or sadness can potentially derail a person’s relationship with his or her colleagues. This is the reason why it’s imperative to know how to communicate diplomatically and handle conflict at the workplace or within your team.


Tips for Achieving Effective Diplomacy


1. Make Sure you’re Aware of Cultural Differences

What might ordinarily be seen as good or fair feedback in some cultures may be perceived as rude or negative in others. To be a tactful businesswoman, you have to be aware of cultural differences when you’re communicating with people from different backgrounds. To play it safe, you can use a gentle approach. Try to be assertive without being submissive.


For example, if you know one of your team members is often late to work, avoid calling him/her out during a staff meeting. Consider speaking to them privately instead. Tell them you noticed that they’re having a hard time coming to work on time. Ask them if you could do anything that could help them overcome their tardiness.


2. Select your Words Carefully

Try to avoid placing blame on someone. That will only make the other individual feel defensive. Instead of saying “You need to work on your presentation skills,” you could instead say “I think your presentation will be better if you spend some more time on research.” If you disagree with someone’s opinion, don’t shoot them down. You could say “I appreciate your opinion, but I see things differently.” You can then go ahead and make your true opinions known.


3. Look for the Right Time to Raise Concerns or Requests

In workplace communication and diplomacy, timing is key, especially when it comes to negative issues or situations that may involve negative emotions. It’s bad to add more fuel to the fire, as they say, by going ahead and being insensitive about when you want your voice to be heard.


As an example, if your colleague or someone on your team has just received news that they will be laid off sometime towards the end of the year, don’t rush into a discussion with them regarding the things or pending tasks you asked them to do. Wait until the time is right before pushing forward your requests—it could be when things are calmer, or when their minds are clearer and they have had time to think.


4. Learn to Be Flexible

It’s equally important to be open to other people’s opinions, especially in business or in a professional setting. There’s bound to be differing opinions and perspectives when people discuss business ideas, so you need to learn to roll with the punches and move on without being negative or disrespectful. If you’re flexible, you’ll learn how to achieve common ground with others who may disagree with your views, and also present your own ideas without coming off as someone rude or as someone who doesn’t value what others have to say.


5. Watch your Body Language

Even if you’re saying the right things, your body language may communicate something different to your colleagues. Remain calm, maintain eye contact, and a neutral facial expression during discussions or negotiations. Avoid using your fingers to point at team members as this could be seen as an expression of aggression.


One trick that could help you give off a calm vibe and body language during discussions that can become heated is taking a deep breath before talking. This enables you to release some of the tension and clear your mind, letting you think more clearly and speak more diplomatically rather than emotionally.


Achieving effective diplomacy can help gain and maintain a good working environment for your business or push you up the corporate ladder, especially in professions that involve lots of internal and external communication such as public relations and human resources. If you practice, you can develop this skill and improve your interpersonal relations at work or in your business. To help you out, BPW offers valuable guidance and mentorship that can help you achieve better communication and diplomacy skills in the workplace, as well as other tools to help business and professional women grow in their respective fields.



BPW International develops the professional, business and leadership potential of women on all levels through advocacy, mentoring, networking, skill building and economic empowerment programs and projects around the world.


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Guest Thursday, 19 July 2018