Diplomacy gets short shrift in modern usage. It’s relegated to being the minor hand-servant in the political scene, whereas it should be a foremost consideration in everyone’s mind. It’s not about being sly, fake, or excessively ingratiating. Diplomacy is about interacting with others toward accepted goals.
How can this translate to everyday life? Simple: we can be honest as we negotiate our work, home, and community lives.
We can do this. We know how; have known almost since birth. There’s the saying “Everything I needed to know about life I learned in kindergarten.” Unfortunately, as we grow into our lives, we tend to forget the basics. We, instead, get indoctrinated by various untrustworthy sources to believe that life, if it’s to be considered adult and mature, must be complicated; that interactions must be murky, tangled webs; that we must battle, we must strive, we must win, we must succeed, all of which lends itself to a tone deafness in interpersonal skills and relations.
And then we wonder what we did wrong.
“Listen. Be kind. Be courteous and helpful. Be honest. Share.”
These are words that are often forgotten, but incredibly useful. In our world of constantly-evolving career, relationship, and life dynamics, perhaps a refresher in these areas isn’t a bad idea.
1. Listening Skills
How many times have we been faced with the never-ending argument, whether at work or home and in deed or in words? The one that merely cycles itself like an angry growl constantly echoing back and forth. We’ve forgotten that we’re supposed to listen to people.
The first thing we’re taught in school or home is always the ability to listen, from which all other interpersonal benefits flow: listen to direction (work), listen for understanding (love, friendship, compassion), listen for knowledge (personal growth), listen for safety’s sake (life).
Too often, though, we want our voice to be heard, even if there’s no actual conversation being held. The compulsion to have to comment, interject, or somehow make ourselves the center of attention at all times has become an illness. Nowhere is this more prevalent than the internet, where ego and Id brush aside the quaint, feeble notion of listening in favor of the latest quip, put down, or derailing comment.
Yet if we can listen before our “mouths” open, we might find we don’t need to open those mouths so often after all. There’s something magical in actually hearing what someone else says, and the fact that someone wants to reach out to us in an authentic and genuine way should engender more respect for the emotional and mental joining of the minds meant by the word “communication.” Commune. Be with. If we can be patient and listen, we might learn something that makes our interactions with the world that much better.
2. Being Kind
Does it seem that kindness has become an alien concept? Or that it’s been relegated in this dog-eat-dog world to the status of weakness?
It may seem that way as we navigate the daily noises thrown our way, but it isn’t true. We see evidence of its strength and the resonance it has inside us all the time, in ways big and small.
It’s astonishing that this simple statement needs a refresher, but: kindness goes a long way. We’ve all seen a runner help a competitor who’s fallen, who then both go on to achieve more recognition and acclaim than the actual winner of the race. We know that generosity of time, self, and spirit return to us twofold, and that being selfless and/or doing the right thing makes us practically glow in the eyes of others.
A moment of kindness is humanity’s best potential distilled to a simple act. Kindness strengthens bonds and opens pleasant possibilities for growth. All relationships, no matter the type, depend on that kind of magic.
3. Communication Skills
Listening and kindness go hand in hand with communication, for without those prior qualities, true communication can’t begin to happen in the first place. There’s a high degree of empathy involved in being able to engage others in communication as opposed to merely making identifiable sounds. If we can’t communicate our needs, wants, and objectives, how are we to expect others to even begin to meet them?
By developing our communication skills, we show who and what we are to all who will listen. Thoughts are reflections of how we see the world, and all attempts at communication reveal that view. If our main objective is solely to push words at others, communication fails. No bridge is built, no bond forged. However, if it is to seek out and respect another’s input, to merge views of the world into a shared experience, whether that be love or a group project, success is not only achieved, but nearly guaranteed.
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4. Admitting Wrongdoing
Perhaps the greatest communicative acts are the kinds of conversations we have with ourselves when we’re wrong. Internal dialogues can be so tricky. It’s far too easy to double down on being defensive when we make a mistake, do something wrong, or even totally fail to do what we were requested to do, but the ability to admit one’s wrongs without that feeling of being expected to throw oneself on a sword – which is where the need for defensive shields comes from – means we can see ourselves as we are: human.
If ever the end of the world should come solely as a result of an isolated, singular error occurring, none of us would be here now. The Earth, with its marvelous intricacy, knows how to flow around mistakes; love knows how to flow. And any workplace worth one’s time will have a similar ethos. No one is always right, no one is infallible. Owning that fallibility, rather than sweeping it under a rug, makes us honorable and true persons in the eyes of others.
5. Share Your Wealth
Hard, unavoidable fact: If we’re unwilling to share our inner selves, we don’t belong in intimate relationships. If we’re unwilling to share our abilities, we don’t belong in a work environment. We all know – and avoid – people who behave more like Tolkien’s Gollum with their resources, both tangible and internal, than perhaps Bilbo, Frodo, or Sam. Nothing given, nothing revealed. These people remain clams of indecision, inaction, and unapproachability.
“Share with others” is one of the first things we’re taught, very nearly after we initially slalom into this world. Sharing incorporates all the previous interpersonal skills, yet adds a final, highly-enriching component: it creates the wider “we” out of distinct and separate “yous.” It creates community and a willingness to explore together, which leads (at best) to love, profit, innovation, discovery, expansion. Perhaps even salvation, because if we can’t share the world, the world will surely shake itself of us.
There’s no complex geometry involved in making sure our interactions with others are as pleasant and fruitful for all involved as possible. We know to be kind, we know to show others the respect of listening to them, and we certainly know that no one wants to play with the stingy kid on the playground.
Why, then, is the world so in need of a refresher? Because the hard part is getting to one’s own “base code” to figure out a good trajectory in which to approach people. That can take a bit of doing, but it’s worth it, because it’s then that we get to the simple things, which every now and then might need this refresher course in basic math (one plus one is us), but are always exactly and precisely the best course of action.