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Civility In Diplomacy




Some musings on Civility and Professionalism.

It's important to know your own strengths and weaknesses.

There is a difference between a minister of foreign affairs and a negotiator. The first is just that, a minister, a person who can organize many people and programs, plan for the future, and know how and when to use the people under his or her command effectively. While hopefully the minister does have an understanding of mediation and negotiation, and capable of doing so in a pinch, the job of minister is not synonymous with being a negotiator and one should not confuse the two. Sometimes a minister is a capable negotiator but it should not be assumed. The skills of negotiation are not automatically conferred upon those who receive the keys to the ministry. It's important to know your own strengths and weaknesses in this regard.

A negotiator is some one who understands tact, civility, and protocol and uses them to further the ends of his or her alliance. They may be doggedly firm with a point, aggressive when stating what they want, or challenge others to prove their cases. But one thing they are not, is disrespectful. They understand that to get what they want, the "arena" must be preserved. The quickest way to destroy the arena is to disrespect a person or party to such a degree that those people must leave the stage with their self respect in tact lest they have trouble sleeping with themselves at night. If that happen, unless the point was to sabotage the talks, everybody loses. One does not win a political debate by blowing up the podium. (some people may dispute that, but you get my point).

A common mistake to new ministers is to assume, when dealing with a numerically smaller alliance, that their own alliance's size and their position within the alliance will allow them to come into negotiations dictating terms or ultimatums. Or swing their position around like a stick. Or stomp out like a petulant child when others object to such aggressive behavior. Those tactics may work in a soap opera, but between alliances that hold themselves to a professional standard, belligerence and a lack of basic civility is known to be counter productive and poisonous to relations.

No, real progress is made between those who are calm, respectful and patient. Not quite as exciting as hurling veiled threats or acting the prima donna, but much more effective at getting what both sides want with ease and efficiency. To remain committed to seeing an issue resolved takes determination to master the ego and one cannot quit in the middle simply because he or she hears something not to their liking. Negotiation is a discipline.

True, a person does not have to act as if everyone in the negotiation are their best buddies. And sometimes one has to act a part to emphatically make their point. But that's all it is, an act, because everyone knows that its hard to think clearly when besieged by powerful emotions. And the most capable agents are one who can detach themselves emotionally and view things objectively. To come in and cause a scene and stomp out is only a waste of energy and makes the person look bad in the eyes of everyone involved. A professional is keenly aware of the difference between using some dramatic flare and getting their own emotions involved. One who cannot separate the two, even if they are a capable minister, should stay out of negotiations.



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