A powerful leadership skill that is necessary for moving up in the legal market is diplomacy. This refers to the art of communicating with others in an assertive yet discreet and thoughtful manner. It requires taking into consideration the many cultural, economic, social, or academic differences of the person you are communicating with. With the exception of the naturally gifted, this often entails a lifelong learning process, yet the benefits of further developing this skill are paramount. Practicing the following tips to further develop your diplomatic skills can lead to improved relationships with others and obtain more successful outcomes in difficult or stressful conversations.
Think Before You Act
To create the right environment when communicating with someone, it’s best to choose your words and your behavior carefully. That’s right, preserving a positive body language is one of the main components of maintaining a constructive conversation. In fact, Chris Firth evaluated many studies in which he concluded that a lot of our everyday conversations are conveyed through nonverbal elements such as facial expressions. Therefore, thinking before we act is just as important as thinking before we speak. Some diplomatic mannerisms you should try practicing in your everyday conversations are:
· Adopting a relaxed and open demeanor by relaxing your shoulders, hands, and brows.
· Try avoiding self-limiting behaviors such as smiling too much, pointing fingers, nodding too much, tilting your head or crossing your arms and/or legs.
· Maintain good eye contact. Don’t look down in response to another person’s gaze.
· Speak in a normal pitch. Don’t whisper or get too loud as this will communicate your willingness to work together.
· Practice good posture. Your body should be fully upright while sitting or standing.
Become an Active Listener
The best way to connect with others and create mutual respect is by seeing things from perspectives other than our own. In diplomatic conversations, it’s important to first stay focused on what the opposing party is saying, and how it’s being said. This makes it so that we can understand their side of the argument enough to be able to find a solution that is agreeable to all involved. Being a good listener also helps in making a good judgment in a situation. To apply this principle, you should:
· Never interrupt others when they’re talking.
· Let people know you’re listening by asking questions for clarification.
· Listen to understand, not to reply. Resist jumping into conclusions or trying to think of a rebuttal until the other person has finished their statement or idea.
Choose Your Words Carefully
Remember: It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear. Being diplomatic is not about keeping your opinions to yourself, but delivering them in an assertive yet non-aggressive wording style. This will often lead to influencing your listener to become more open and more positive to what you have to say. Some non-confrontational yet assertive choice of words you should keep in mind are:
· “I understand what you’re saying” or “I appreciate your point of view”. Validating another person’s feelings or thoughts are especially useful during negotiations and disagreements.
· Avoid aggressive language such as: “You have to…”, “You always…”, or “You never…”.
· Opt for indirect language like: “It looks like…”, “You might consider…”, or “I think…”.
· When saying no, be decisive and fully explain why you’re refusing without being overly apologetic or demeaning.
· Only say what you need to say. Being concise decreases your chances of saying something you might regret.
Using this 3 step approach can greatly increase your professional image considering you will know how to successfully negotiate problematic situations into win-win outcomes. Are there any tips you use to get your message across in a tactful manner? We’d love to hear from you!