“Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy” – Isaac Newton

“Diplomacy is the art of letting somebody else have your way” – David Frost

Visualize this:

  1. Your colleague delivered a new business pitch presentation to an important prospect. Otherwise a great co-worker and most often dependable somehow didn’t do her best. Her research was half-baked, no specific strategy, multiple errors in the presentation, clearly indicating she didn’t invest the required amount of time in building a good pitch. You are unhappy with the outcome and when she asked you for your feedback, you snapped back saying the presentation was lousy and it could have been much better. Your colleague is upset not only because of your negative feedback but also in the manner it was shared in front of other colleagues. In a month’s time, you have her resignation on the table.
  2. You arrange a very high-profile media interaction with a large publication for your client. The client, not a very savvy spokesperson fares below average and creates a lot of blunders for you to clean. He blames you for not briefing him properly and not knowing all the questions well in advance. You give it back saying, you had shared all the necessary information but he ignored and faced the interaction without preparing himself for the same. Before you reach the office, the client is gone.

Such incidents are not uncommon, we lose our cool and speak something, which we regret even if you were factually right. You could have probably better handled the situation if you had trained yourself in being tactful and diplomatic. Tact or diplomacy is nothing but understanding why someone is speaking or acting in a certain way and responding sensitively.

5 tips towards your diplomacy journey:

  1. Practice patience – when your client is complaining or your colleague is pouring his heart out, listen and don’t jump in to defend or clarify. Let them finish, once their story is heard, they will be more open to listening to your opinion or advice.
  2. Practice composure – no matter how frustrated you are, wear a smile. Your tone can make or break the relationship
  3. What the Facts – keep pieces of evidence ready to support your opinion, if your client wants his funding story to be covered in Tech Crunch, then collate info on the past coverage on funding in Tech Crunch and also gather additional tangible facts on what would get them coverage or why it is not the right kind of story for the publication.
  4. Take yourself less seriously – You must be genius in your field and have been hired to give the best and unfiltered recommendation, but in the end, if a client tells you to do exactly the opposite, do it. Even if that suggestion comes from a newbie who has just joined, I have seen sometimes the worst recommendation from the client doing wonders.
  5. This may sound cliché, but memorize these lines:
    1. “I understand where you are coming from, but let me play a devil’s advocate for a moment and think through the whole situation.”
    1. “You have a really good point there, I had been thinking about it from a different perspective, which is…”
    1. “Have you considered this approach…?”

These are few tried and tested traits, but if you apply yourself tactfully in every situation, you would be a master of diplomacy and best at retaining clients, team and even building new relationships.