An appropriate degree of diplomacy at the workplace is critical for effective communication and maintaining relationships with your colleagues and clients. It is useful in both conflict aversion and conflict resolution, whichever circumstance applies. Moreover, business prospects are not rosy and when you are tasked to deliver negative news and feedback, being diplomatic can facilitate professionalism and fairness. More importantly, it is entirely transferable and applicable to every setting in life!
Below are several tips from Young BPW International on how to achieve and maintain effective diplomacy:
1. Being 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. Tact and Choosing 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. Raising Concerns or Requests… at the Right Time
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. Maintaining Flexibility
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. Watching 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.
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