Well, the thing that I learned as a diplomat is that human relations ultimately make a huge difference. – Madeleine Albright
Diplomacy is the heart of what I do for a living. And so, it is exasperating when diplomacy fails to resolve personal conflicts at home or the workplace. It can really weigh on a person’s head and heart. I have found working in a very diverse environment with people from all different backgrounds and personal histories that you will never please everyone. And with that, I have learned the hard lesson of trying to let it go. But often times that is difficult, because with all my heart I want to “mend fences” or at least be on “cordial” terms with someone who I perceive does not like me. I find myself leaving the office or going home and saying to myself, “The hell with that guy!” or “He can piss off!” and still coming full circle thinking, “Good grief, what is their problem and why can’t we get along?” In reality there is not a lot I can do to “mend fences”. But still I want to at least engage in dialogue with that individual and try to fix it.
My work environment includes let’s just say strong Type- A personalities, comprised of men and women who have done some amazing things and are some of the smartest people I have met. Having a strong personality myself, at the same time a “quiet people pleaser” has been a challenge. I have always been a big proponent for diplomacy and mediation for conflict both professionally and personally. (Before I continue, let me be clear I when I say “diplomacy” and “conflict” I am not talking world politics or international affairs, I use these terms in reference to interpersonal relations). Okay, now that I have said that, we are back on track with our topic. For the most part it seems that people in this day and age are very good with masking their feelings and emotions. But I fear this is largely because of the advancements of technology and the ever-expanding influence that social media has on our day-to-day lives, more so for the younger population.
One good example is the subway in a large metropolitan area, where there are a lot of people coming and going. If you look around you will see people with their faces buried in their phones or staring off into the distance – but mostly buried in their phones. Or people walking to work, school, or wherever their destinations are will be wearing ear phones and have their face planted in their smart phone, completely oblivious to the world around them. My personal opinion about that is meant for another blog. But the point I am trying to make is our social interactions are increasingly occurring online in social media, blogs, or other online platforms, which cause us to inch away from face-to-face social interaction.
This online interaction changes the whole way we communicate with one another for good and for bad. This includes the relationships we forge in our professional and personal lives. For example, while Facebook is an amazing tool to keep in touch with friends, family, and co-workers, on the downside it can be breeding ground for negativity and bullying. Let’s say I “friend” a colleague of mine at work, someone I think seems pretty cool or someone I would like to keep in touch with. We become “friends” on Facebook and the next thing I know I see all of these political postings or offensive material on their profile and think, “What did I just open myself up to?” or even better they get mad at me for one of my postings and “unfriend” me. On top of that their attitudes change around me at work. All the while I have not even spoken to them face-to-face. That is the power of social media. What makes it even better is when they will not talk to you about their “beef” with you. That blows my mind and to me is completely illogical, but not to them, because see to them, I am now the office “asshole”. Being the person I am, I notice these changes in their personality and want to resolve them. But it is when they either try to avoid, deny, or outright not talk to me anymore, that I begin formulate a diplomacy strategy and resolve this perceived conflict. Meanwhile, I am screaming inside my head going, “What the hell is wrong with you?!” or “What can we do to fix this?” Honestly, in some cases, when you try to talk to that person, they take offense for even bringing it up. So what is best, to avoid them, try your very best to “mend fences”, or just treat them like shit? That, is the magic question, that I ask myself every time I find myself in such a situation.
I consider myself a forever student of military history, international affairs, and psychology as these are some of my interests. When dealing with co-workers, family, or friends I am always trying to formulate strategies to improve or maintain positive relationships with them. Much like a battle in war you will win and lose at times. I feel that strategic patience and emotional intelligence play an important role in our personal relationships both professionally and personally. In the earlier part of my blog I wrote how I wished I could fix or salvage these perceived “damaged” relationships with my co-workers (family and friends are a whole different blog). And that no matter how hard I try to forget or let it go, I find it difficult to do just that. As by nature I am a “people pleaser” and have learned to accept that and grow with it. I cannot change that no matter what I try, so I will have to adapt my manner in which I develop my relationships. Because the old phrase, “you can’t please everyone” has a lot of validity in life.
My definition of strategic patience is having enough patience to know when to act, complementing how to act. If I have someone at work that does not like me and I want to open dialogue between me and that person, there is a proper time and place to do it. First off, if my head and my heart are telling me that this person is worth trying to establish dialogue with, I am compelled to act on it. However, picking that time and place is critical and devised in a manner which is not perceived as hostile, accusatory, or embarrassing for the individual. There are many times I have had success using strategic patience and there are times I have failed, but the point being is I put that lesson learned in my diplomacy “backpack” and evolve my strategy.
My personal definition of emotional intelligence is actually multi-faceted, meaning I will read the person’s mood, demeanor, body language, then this evolves into how I will speak to them during our dialogue. This is critical because there are certain “trigger points” that could derail my diplomatic strategy. I want to avoid those “trigger points” at all costs and keep the conversation open and moving in a positive direction. Maturity also is a part of my definition of emotional intelligence, because having the maturity to know when to speak and when to be quiet is key in any social interactions. Cultivating my emotional intelligence, keeping it fluid and adaptive is key to successful diplomatic engagement.
Strategic patience and emotional intelligence accompanied by common sense are the components that make up my diplomatic foundation. But regretfully, there are times that no matter how hard you try fix things, there is nothing you can do. Some people are just never going to like you and that is when accepting to “agree to disagree” is the key to sanity. Acceptance is sometimes all we can muster out of failed diplomatic attempts. Regardless, it never hurts to try and repair broken relationships. But understanding the emotional risk that comes with it is critical to planning open dialogue.
In closing, I concede that I find those that can shut out the negative people from their life with little effort, quite enviable. However, for those who try to connect with negative people the outcome is not always the desired one. The longer I journey through life, and the more I continue to help and grow with others, the more I realize that not everyone will like you or want to be your friend. But at the end of the day negativity shouldn’t change how you treat others or being the person you were meant to be. At least that is how I see it with my hopeful nihilistic view of the world.