Rule 71: Cultivate diplomacy

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Nigeria's Sport Enthusiast,Politician and Publisher, Dr.  Orji Uzor Kalu with Blogger, GDA 

Smooth Rules players move rapidly up the corporate ladder because they are diplomats.  They don’t start fights, they stop them.  They don’t sit on fences, they mend them.  They spread calm around them and others turn to them for advice and inspiration.  You too will be a diplomat.  You will be known for your objective appraisal of any situation, your impartial attitude and your even-handed dealings.

                 …And ask questions in times of conflict


So you are at a meeting and things are getting hot under the collar.  The chairman isn’t handling things particularly well and Steve and Rachael are going for each other’s throats yet again.  What are you going to do?  Ask questions.  It is easy to defuse dangerous situations by getting the protagonists to look at some detail.  You don’t have to break up the fight – that’s not your job.  But you can be the diplomat; this gets you noticed and earns respect from your colleagues.

Turn to Steve and ask him, ‘Steve, why are you convinced that your department is going to find these new invoices unworkable?’  If Rachael carries on the fight just say to her, ‘Hang on Rach, I really want to hear what Steve has to say’.  You’ve made it clear that you aren’t taking sides but you are diffusing the situation.  Hear Steve out and then turn to Rachael.  ‘You are convinced that Steve is wrong.  Tell me why?’

What you have effectively done is taken over the chair’s role, become the head honcho, and assumed control.  This is both diplomatic and clever.

“Asking questions invariably takes the heat out of potentially explosive situations.  You turn to one of the combatants and ask them a simple question.  Don’t get bogged down in psycho-babble of the ‘Why do you feel like that?”

Asking questions invariably takes the heat out of potentially explosive situations.  You turn to one of the combatants and ask them a simple question.  Don’t get bogged down in psycho-babble of the ‘Why do you feel like that?’ ‘Can you share your anger with us?’  Instead ask them to focus on an aspect that needs explaining.  They will have to break eye contact with their opponent to think about answering you.  Thus the heat dissipates and you have proved yourself as a diplomat.

Avoid doing this if either protagonist looks like the blood has drained from their face – white face means they will hit someone, red face merely blowing hot and hard.

Avoid doing this if the chairman is handling the situation effectively – obviously they aren’t if the fight has started, but they may be making an effort and will resent your intrusion.

Avoid doing this if you are involved in the argument in any way personally.

Asking questions usually gets people to switch their attention from the main argument to a detail.  They have to be pretty angry not to be polite enough to at least attempt to answer your question.

 (Excerpts from THE RULES OF WORK by Richard Templer Read “7 ways not to take sides’” from The Rules tomorrow on Asabeafrika)

Rule-to-Work Series

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