Learn to be a diplomat in your daily life

By Max Low, Li Po Chun United World College
By Max Low, Li Po Chun United World College |

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P5+1 and Iran representatives announced an agreement on Iran nuclear talks.

After intense talks in Lausanne just last Thursday, top diplomats and negotiators from the P5+1 and Iran have devised a comprehensive action plan in regards to Iran’s nuclear program.

This has been hailed as a once-unattainable victory for international diplomacy and peace in one of the most unstable regions in the world, and many believe that the hostile relations between Iran and the West are beginning to thaw.

The excellent handling of these very tough discussions, held in a very civilized, honest manner – despite the severe mistrust between both parties – shows that there is much to learn from the diplomats when it comes to negotiating or interacting with our personal network of friends, family, and acquaintances. 

Before last week’s success, these nuclear talks had gone on for more than a decade without much success. In the same way, we should be patient when we ask for favours from our fellow classmates, friends, and superiors at work. Good things come to those who wait, whether for ten hours or ten years. 

However, don’t just sit idly. All the delegations at the talks had their own opinions and stances on the issue. Don’t be afraid to speak up, challenge the status quo, or disagree with authority. Just choose the right time to do so and avoid being rash, as that often leads to mistakes and misunderstandings. And do not be afraid of making concessions, just make wise ones that do not compromise your values or goals.

It is also important to demonstrate a logical and analytical temperament. Instead of just blindly succumbing to your emotions and letting yourself be controlled by your mood, think critically about events. Deconstruct them. Think about the causes and potential effects of something as you deal with the flurry of challenges that you may face daily, and let those guide your decisions. Think of everything that may result from your decisions when tackling a problem or arguing with someone else, and come up with multiple solutions that handle different facets of the issue. The diplomats at the nuclear talks carried a whiteboard with them to the negotiation room in one of the fanciest hotels in Switzerland to rapidly brainstorm every possibility without having to make a final decision.

Diplomacy is all about appeasing other humans, who usually have a different set of fundamental values than you. As bitter, opposing states, Iran and the West have widely differing viewpoints on the issue (they still do), yet their diplomats reached an agreement through an extensive understanding of the human psyche, and familiarity with their own position, and their opponent’s. Try to understand the other side as much as possible and you will find many conflicts resolve themselves before they even happen.

Although we may never live the stressful yet exciting life of a diplomat, the skills they use in state-to-state relations can be applied to our interpersonal relations.