May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)

Contents Bulletin Scripting in shell and Perl Network troubleshooting History Humor

Diplomatic Communication

News Corporate bullshit Recommended Links Recommended Papers Negative Politeness Six ways to say 'No' and mean it
Groupthink Conformism Disciplined Minds Bureaucracies Bureaucratic Collectivism Belief coercion within religious groups
Socratic Questions Never complain about your boss to coworkers Minimize office gossip Seven Typical Corporate Email Errors Five Points Verbal Response Test Rules of Verbal Self Defense
Communication with Corporate Psychopaths Fighting direct verbal abuse Soft propaganda Talleyrand quotes  Humor  Etc

 "Above all, not too much zeal!"
Talleyrand’s warning to young diplomats,

“Speech was given to man to disguise his thoughts.”

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand


Diplomacy can be defined as making the best possible in the circumstances effort for getting your own needs met in a way that preserves the dignity of other people. In essence, this an art of preserving the dignity of others (aka "saving face"). In a way politeness (especially negative politeness) is the most basic form of diplomacy.  In many cases limiting communication to essentials helps to ensure this difficult to attain goal and help to avoid mistakes as larger volume of communication increases chances to commit a blunder. The ability to avoid certain themes (see for example Minimize office gossip) also is an integral part of the art of diplomatic communication. 

“Wise men speak because they have something to say;
 Fools because they have to say something.” Plato

In a narrow sense diplomacy means communicating your needs, wants, feelings, beliefs and opinions to others in a manner that does not hurt anyone’s feelings. Characteristics of diplomatic communication include, but are not limited to, using clearly inoffensive communication, flexibility, specific wording, a positive approach, being nonjudgmental and demonstrating a relaxed manner both verbally and nonverbally. It is connected with the concept of  tact, being tactful.  The latter is a personal trait  that some people have naturally but all can develop with enough effort. As Wikipedia states.

Tact is a careful consideration of the feelings and values of another so as to create harmonious relationships with a reduced potential for conflict or offense. Tact is considered to be a virtue. An example of tact would be relating to someone a potentially embarrassing detail of their appearance or demeanor without causing them distress. Tact is a form of interpersonal diplomacy. Tact is the ability to induce change or communicate hurtful information without offending through the use of consideration, compassion, kindness, and reason.

A tactful person can tell you something you don't want to hear and you will be thankful for the information when they are finished.

Diplomacy is especially valuable during conflicts. It actually emerged from dealing between states which typically have diverge interests, clashes of which led to wars.  The key part of any diplomatic communication is the ability during confrontation to express your feelings, needs, legitimate rights or opinions in a inoffensive fashion. Russian president Vladimir Putin ones quipped: "Diplomacy is the art of telling someone to go to Hell in such a way that he looks forward to the journey!"

Keep a Diary

Always try to document and analyze past conflicts and your behaviour in them.  Study, document and respect the legitimate wants, needs and feelings of others. First of all remembering then and pitfalls they present is a cornerstone of diplomacy. Good Judgment Comes From Experience. Experience Comes From Bad Judgment ;-). So in a way you past mistakes are essential in preventing future. It helps to think about ways to lessen the level of hostility (and associated level of confrontation) by communicating in a more diplomatic way. Keep a diary, be honest in it, but keep it is a safe place. Never use your personal email account as a diary and generally such things are safer to write on paper, not electronically. If you want to type buy then type it in, say, in MS Word, print it and destroy the electronic copy. Never store it in your office. Lock the drawer in which you put it at home.  It should be a really private thing. Never share it with anybody.

Try to replay past episodes, trying to talk in more diplomatic way alone or with a friend.

Document implicit "rules of the game" you consider fair and each case when you or the other party are not playing by the rules. One important way to lessen the level of confrontation is to adhere to the rules. Accept that your opponents viewpoints may be different from yours, but that "the rules of the game" should be binding for both parties. Nothing provokes more hostility then breaking the rules.

Develop Situational Awareness

The most important factor in diplomacy is the level of understanding of the situation you deal with. So nothing can replace preparation and careful study of the situation.  Collect information about people you are dealing with but never spy. Keep a diary and update it daily before going to bad. 

Due to this factor there is no absolute rules in diplomacy and famous quotes (such as from Talleyrand) are mutually contradictory and following them blindly can hurt, if you misread the situation and its natural dynamic. You need to collect and analyze your own personal history to find out what is working for you and what is not. After all Talleyrand was a great diplomat not just because he was able to find apt words to express his opinion, but first of all because he simultaneously was a great, visionary politician, who was able to see the "natural direction" of development of particular historical situation more clearly then others, and act accordingly.

Also there is a danger of overdoing sound recommendations ("excessive zeal" is the major weakness of Dale Carnegie recommendations; he actually built his books empire by propaganda of excesses and hypocrisy which. in reality, instantly evoke strong hostile reaction). And if the other party suspect hypocrisy, your situation considerably deteriorate. None of your words will be taken at face value.  In a very deep way, appearing sincere is more important, then to appear diplomatic as loss of trust is fatal in any communication. So building trust is an important part of diplomacy that is far above in importance then all fancy rules and recommendations.

As diplomacy is an art. That means that compliance with prescribed formulas. checklists, and decision matrixes is of little value if it is not accompanied by critical thinking about the situation and independent judgment. People, who mastered dome printed in books are articles (including this one ;-)  "minor tactics" might be ever worse then they were before, if they are intellectually complacent, strategically illiterate and have an antipathy to "politics". Or worse wear it as a badge of honor.

Still, if you understand that no rules are absolute,  some framework might help.

Rules of diplomacy

Among such "semi-useful rules" we can mention: 

Dealing with Authoritarians and Psychopaths

Authoritarians usually try to intimidate the opponent, but at the same time they hate pushovers. To assert yourself,  incorporate the following body language:

See also

Of course, in spite of your best efforts to be direct and calm, the authoritarian you’re talking to may behave as if you're having an argument with him/her, criticizing and/or provoking you. For those interactions, practice the following:


There is no royal way to mastering diplomacy. First and foremost it requires hard work. It requires your personal growth as a person. Some people are more naturally gifted then other, but some basic staff with enough effort can be mastered by anybody. In the end, you might be surprised to discover how much more people actually like and respect the new, more diplomatic way you behave. And how many unnecessary confrontations you can easily avoid.

Just reading a pep talk about believing in yourself, taking the other side seriously, and not being manipulative does not get you anywhere. Hard daily work on keeping your diary, finding better ways to deal with common situation and avoiding past mistakes will. It just not take you anywhere to know that it is important to "see the other person as someone who has goals" you need to know what particular goals the other person has and is he/she able to play by the rules. This is difficult to achieve without important without home analysis and documentation of past behaviors.  You do need to do your daily push-ups and sit-ups though, and keep a diary in order to succeed.

Gradually you will see improved understanding of the situation, greater moral courage and more creative intelligence in your interactions.  Again this is an art, not a science, but hard work eventually gives positive results. Age also helps ;-) Keep trying !

Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov

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[Jun 22, 2014] Crowley Personal and Business Change

While I am very sure much has been written to explore the ‘Six Principles of Influence and Persuasion’ (by Dr. Robert Cialdini) in practice: to criticise and debunk their simple or superficial nature, I have to admit that I rather like them for that very reason: their simplicity and because they appeal to my sense of ‘ah ha, that’s one of the reasons I fall for that ploy every time’!

In my training workshops on behavioural change around building effective relationships at work and in learning how to become more influential to get more of the right things done in the right way, I often explore Cialdini’s principles and candidates are always intrigued.  So often, in my career in human resource management, training and development, I was given feedback like: ‘you need to be more influential: you need to influence a wider group of people, you need to get more back-up for your ideas by influencing better’. I am so sorry I did not discover Cialdini sonner!

So, here’s the advice, for those working in organisations who have to get agreement and buy-in for their ideas, plans and projects; who have to do that difficult thing of influencing without direct authority, in a world where everyone is very busy and only wants to get out into the sunshine.

Principle One: Reciprocity.  We feel obliged to return favours: one good turn deserves another.  It’s just a simple fact of life.  The secret is to be the first to give and choose the person to whom you give wisely.  It sounds a bit ‘calculating’ but actually we do this naturally every day in lots of subtle ways e.g., I help you with that spreadsheet and then a few weeks later I feel totally okay about going back to you to ask for your support in a meeting.

Principle Two:  Commitment (and Consistency). We like to be consistent and to honour our commitments.  A brilliant example of this in practice was given to me only yesterday in one of my training workshops.  The candidate said that he wanted to influence someone on his team to take on more responsibility and to consider taking on a management role.  The individual was reluctant to do so, and therefore required some persuading.  What he did was give the individual a ‘taster’ first to get some initial up-front commitment.  He gave them a trial in the role, with no obligation to continue afterwards. At the end of the trial period they took up the offer to continue in the role. Ideally, an early commitment needs to be in writing to secure the commitment completely.

Principle Three: Social Proof.  We will do what others are doing, especially if they are similar to us.  For example, we’re more likely to work late if others in our team are doing the same and we are more likely to do this if we feel uncertain e.g., maybe we are newly hired.  In my role as a Trainer and Coach within the organisational setting I spent time creating an interest in my projects with people who influenced others: it could be a Senior Operator whom other Operators respected and then highlighting the number of people who were happy with the process already, people similar to the audience I was targeting, using testimonials and case studies.

Principle Four: Liking.  We are attracted to people we like. Taking time to build rapport, showing an interest at a personal level and sharing personal stories, all work in our favour when influencing others and bringing them towards our ideas.  Developing your emotional intelligence (EQi) and active listening ability, will increase your influencing power especially when using this principle.  We can all recall the many times at work when we were really attracted to a senior manager and wanted instinctively to follow them, just because they had shared some personal stories with us and revealed to us their humanity and vulnerability.

Principle Five: Authority.  We feel a sense of duty or obligation towards authority. We do what our manager asks of us; we comply with the health and safety rules when the Company Doctor explains how breaking the rules can result in personal injury (especially if they wear a white coat!).  We are susceptible to the ‘trappings’ of authority, and that is why I always used my qualifications after my name to increase my authority in the field of HR/Training and in one company I worked, we were encouraged to display our certificates on the wall behind the desk: it works for Doctors, Dentists and other Practitioners in the health area in particular. You can also use the authority of others to influence and once I agreed a plan with the Managing Director, I used their authority to help get support for my ideas with other people in the organisation.

Principle Six: Scarcity.  We are attracted to things and services when we think they are scare or will become scarce. You can use this principle at work by emphasising the urgent important nature of your project and the possible consequences should your ideas not be taken up on time. For example, this is an effective principle to use in organisations with ethical, environmental, quality or safety regulations, if you can sit your project well within the parameters of compliance.  The scarcity principle can also be used where there are bottom-line customers who are affected directly by your work.

There are always ‘terms and conditions’ of use so here they are:  the 6 principles are to be used wisely and ethically to the benefit of everyone.

Anne Marie

Customer Reviews Influence The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials)

PEJ Pty Ltd (Melbourne, VIC, Australia) - See all my reviews
July 31, 2004

This review is from:  Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Paperback)

This is the sort of book one is inclined to wish one had read carefully at a young age. All successful people have developed skills to get what they want. As a young man for a while I got my way with a particular person by advising "A" when what I really wanted was "Not-A". But Robert Caldini's great book lays it all out systematically, and I guess I now regard the A/Not-A device as an example of abnormal psychology at work.

Caldini starts by saying: "I can admit it freely now. All my life I've been a patsy." An "easy mark...." This "long-standing status as a sucker" made Cialdini interested in the "psychology of compliance." Why do requests put one way mostly fail while a slightly different approach often wins? For nearly three years Cialdini combined experimental studies with "systematic immersion into the world of compliance professionals - sales operators, fund-raisers, recruiters, advertisers, and others."

There are thousands of different tactics used by those aiming to get someone to say "yes", but the majority fall within six basic categories, each of which is governed by a "fundamental psychological principle that directs human behaviour and, in so doing, gives the tactics their power." The principles are consistency, reciprocation, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity. This list deliberately does not include "the simple rule of material self-interest" since this is an obvious motivator not worthy of detailed examination. (As an economist, I am put well and truly in my place by this observation. One assumes that, as in the famous story, Cialdini chose to experiment on economists rather than rats since one gets to like rats after a while.)

Chapter one is entitled "Weapons of influence." Animals and people (even economists!) operate with certain automatic rules that usually produce a good result. Often in this book Cialdini introduces experiments from animal or people studies to buttress the psychological arguments. In this chapter he discusses how mothering behaviour in turkeys is triggered by the "cheep-cheep" sound of young turkeys, a response often observed in the Thornton household, incidentally.

A reflex of many people, especially it seems Americans on holiday, is to use the rule "expensive = good." In fact the example that starts chapter one is of a seller of jewelry who accidentally doubled instead of halved the price of some jewelry it was proving hard to move. After a short absence from her shop, to her surprise she found that the previously difficult-to-move items had all been sold.

Another rule is that people are more likely to agree to a request if a reason is given - "People simply like to have reasons for what they do." So if you need to go to the top of the queue, give a good reason, and most of the time people will let you in. In fact, the research cited shows it was the use of the word "because" rather than the inherent strength of the reason that produces this result.

Then there is "the contrast principle." An example from the retail world illustrates. Salespeople in retail stores are often instructed to sell the most expensive item first. Having paid a lot for a suit, for example, most people it seems pay more for shirts and ties than if they started with those relatively inexpensive items first. Car dealers first sell you the car, then add the optional extras. With a different use of contrast, real estate salespeople start by showing you the undesirable properties first - they have a set of these, called "set-up" properties.

The process of using "weapons of persuasion" is subtle, not crude. "With proper execution, the exploiters need hardly strain a muscle to get their way ... the approach is not unlike that of the Japanese martial art form called jujitsu."

And now to the principles themselves. Each chapter starts with a nice quote, that I have reproduced.

Reciprocation - "Pay every debt, as if God wrote the bill." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The rule of reciprocation "possesses awesome strength." This is not basically related to liking - people are programmed to respond positively to a request if they have previously accepted a gift even from a stranger. The famous case is the Krishna organisation whose members give people a flower or a book before asking for a donation - works like a charm apparently.

Retailers know the power of the "free gift" - eg the cubes of cheese in food halls, the wine tasting in wine shops or at wineries, the Amway phenomenon, the power of the Tupperware party.

Politics works like this also - "logrolling" being a powerful American example, Lyndon Johnson being the master of this game. The power of the political donation in Australian politics shows this is not just an American trait, although I suspect reciprocation reaches its highest art form there.

A more subtle version of reciprocation comes when one feels bound to respond to a concession. "Will you buy my raffle tickets for $10?" "No" "Will you but two chocolate bars for $2?" Often one does, the original requestor having made a concession one is forced to match.

The most stunning example given by Cialdini concerns the Watergate break-in. Apparently G Gordon Liddy first presented an absolutely outrageous plan. When he was told "no" he later came back with a less costly but still outrageous plan. After a second "no" he finally came up with a stupid but even less expensive plan which several apparently sane men approved.

This chapter ends with a section on "How to say no."

There is another famous quote that says something like: "No good turn goes unpunished." Cialdini does not discuss this apparent contradiction of the reciprocation principle - perhaps it is another example of abnormal psychology.

Commitment and Consistency - "It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end." - Leonardo da Vinci.

Two Canadian psychologists have shown that , immediately after placing a bet, punters become far more confident about the chances of the horse they back Humans have, Cialdini asserts, a "nearly obsessive desire to be (and to appear) consistent ..." This is another example of a trait that in many circumstances is useful and adaptive. "Without it our lives would be difficult, erratic and disjointed." Too much thinking is difficult. But there is a more perverse attraction of mechanical consistency. "Sometimes it is not the effort of hard, cognative work that makes us shirk thoughtful activity, but the harsh consequences of that activity. Sometimes it is the cursedly clear and unwelcome set of answers provided by straight thinking that makes us mental slackers."

But the forces making for consistency can readily be exploited. Cialdini provides a nice example of how toy stores use this principle to boost post Christmas sales. (Coles Meyer, if you do not know this trick, now is the moment.) But what is it that produces the "click that activates the whirr of the powerful consistency tape?" "Commitment" is the answer. If we take a stand, we are likely to behave in ways stubbornly consistent with that stand.

Telephone marketers routinely ask: "How are you feeling this evening, Mr Jones?" Apparently, once you have said you feel fine, it is hard to refuse to give to the anti-cancer fund or to help a third-world orphan, even thought the initial question and answer were for all appearances a stylized exchange. The researchers have, incidentally, tested whether or not it is the politeness of the initial approach that does the work - no it is not, it is his initial response that has committed Mr Jones.

Cialdini goes on to examine the far more serious issue of how to get prisoners of war (POWs) to cooperate with their captors. The Chinese did a far better job of this than the North Koreans during the second world war - by asking first for a minor act of compliance (which was rewarded) and gradually upping the ante. An important part of the process was that the minor commitment initially achieved was made public - people's written and public commitments being far more powerful than private, unwritten ones. And small inducements are often far more powerful than large ones - since if the inducement is large one will feel one has been paid for the act of compliance, not accepted it as a firm commitment.

This chapter looks quite deeply into the techniques used as well as their application in business situations - eg when people sign on to challenging KPIs. Again it ends with a section on how to say no.

Social proof - "When all think alike, no one thinks very much" - Walter Lippman

TV producers use canned laughter, bar-people often "salt" their tip jar at the start of a shift and evangelical preachers have been known to seed their audiences with "ringers" who are programmed to come forward and commit at the right moment. Cialdini examines the famous case of a cult that has wrongly predicted the end of the world. When this did not occur, the group had to establish another truth, which in this case was a crusade to persuade the world about their peculiar beliefs.

The principle of "social truth" works especially well in conditions of shaken confidence and uncertainty - in the previous example when the beings in flying saucers did not arrive on schedule.

This example leads on to a far more horrible case, that of the murder of Catherine Genovese in New York City in 1964. "For more than half an hour thirty-eight respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a women in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens." No-one called the police during the murder, and only one witness called after the women was dead. Everyone was stunned and the witnesses themselves could not explain their inaction. The newspapers seized on the theme of an "uncaring" society.

Two psychologists examined the case. To them the really odd thing was that there were 38 witnesses, none of whom did anything. They found two reasons for the lack of action. When there are more than one person witnessing a crime, personal responsibility is diluted. This is a common issue - eg when a group is asked to do something without someone nominating who is responsible. "(Shared responsibility is no responsibility") But the second reason is more interesting and involves what psychologists call the "pluralistic ignorance effect." At times of uncertainty, people naturally look round to see how others are reacting. If others seem calm and unruffled, one is inclined to act the same way and to convince oneself that the event in question is not really an emergency.

The chapter goes on, covering another example of the consequences of "social proof" - the well documented case of sudden jumps in apparently accidental deaths in the period immediately after a newspaper or TV account of a suicide

A final horrible example concerns the mass suicide in Jonestown.

Learning how to resist the automatic pilot of social proof might be vital. There is also a message for anyone in danger in a crowded situation - do not issue a general cry for help, but try to focus on one person and ask him for explicit help.

Liking - "The main work of a trial attorney is to make a jury like his client" - Clarence Darrow.

Most of us prefer to say yes to the requests of those we like. This principle works, however, when used by total strangers - eg if he pays one a compliment such as "That is a great suit/haircut/car, etc. This much is obvious, but Cialdini goes on to apply it to important matters like the impact of school desegregation upon racial tension, the "good cop/bad cop" situation and the behaviour of sports fans.

How to say no is handled deftly, as usual. ("Say no")

Authority - "Follow an expert" - Virgil.

Again the simple point is obvious, but we learn of more subtle and insidious effects involving the use of fake titles, film stars advertising coffee and trappings of con-men such as flash cars.

Scarcity - "The way to love anything is to realize it might be lost" - GK Chesterton.

This is a ripper chapter, containing as it does the scheme used by the author's brother to fund his way through collage and some severely practical advice on how to deal with toddlers and teenagers.

The scarcity principle is understood by all of us, even economists, who associate scarcity with high prices. But what would you think of a collage student who purchased second hand cars, gave them a cut and polish and advertised them for sale at a distinctly higher price than he had paid? His secret weapon was to ask everyone who responded to his ad to arrive at, say, 2 PM. The first guy to arrive was shown the car and while he was looking another prospective buyer would arrive. Then another. The first guy would be told a queue is forming and given a few more minutes to make up his mind. You could imagine the anxiety that built up in the potential buyers' minds. If the first guy did not buy, the second one almost always did.

This chapter goes on to provide advice on coping with the "terrible twos" and the teenage years based on the theory of "psychological reactance" that is linked to scarcity in some interesting but non-obvious ways. The link concerns the loss of freedoms, and withdrawal of privileges is a classic case of loss of freedom leading to psychological reactance."

Cialdini relates this to the Russian counter-revolution that restored Gorbachev to power ("Freedoms once granted will not be relinquished without a fight.") Another case concerns the close bonding between Romeo and Juliet in the face of parental opposition to their relationship. ("... the teenager will sneak, scheme, and fight to resist ... attempts at control.") Another interesting example concerns directions to a jury to ignore a particular piece of evidence - the conjecture in this case is that such directions may in fact make the jury give greater weight to the banned evidence.

I have provided a far longer account of this book than I intended at outset. To a mere economist, who is drilled to assume the simplest possible mental models of behaviour - "maximizing welfare, "simple self-interest" - both the examples as well as the logic and clever experiments are full of interest. If it is too late for you to benefit, give this book to a much loved member of the younger generation.

John Kay - Obliquity

Strange as it may seem, overcoming geographic obstacles, winning decisive battles or meeting global business targets are the type of goals often best achieved when pursued indirectly. This is the idea of Obliquity. Oblique approaches are most effective in difficult terrain, or where outcomes depend on interactions with other people.

If you want to go in one direction, the best route may involve going in the other. Paradoxical as it sounds, goals are more likely to be achieved when pursued indirectly. So the most profitable companies are not the most profit-oriented, and the happiest people are not those who make happiness their main aim. The name of this idea? Obliquity

... ... ...

George W. Bush speaks mangled English rather than mangled French because James Wolfe captured Quebec in 1759 and made the British crown the dominant influence in Northern America. Eschewing obvious lines of attack, Wolfe’s men scaled the precipitous Heights of Abraham and took the city from the unprepared defenders. There are many such episodes in military history. The Germans defeated the Maginot Line by going round it, while Japanese invaders bicycled through the Malayan jungle to capture Singapore, whose guns faced out to sea. Oblique approaches are most effective in difficult terrain, or where outcomes depend on interactions with other people. Obliquity is the idea that goals are often best achieved when pursued indirectly.

Obliquity is characteristic of systems that are complex, imperfectly understood, and change their nature as we engage with them. Forests have all these features. Fire is the greatest enemy of the forest. From the late 19th century, the policy of the US National Parks Service was of zero tolerance towards fire. Every outbreak, however small, would be extinguished. But the incidence of fire did not fall: it increased.

Computer simulation of fire control policies suggests the explanation. Most forest fires are small, and burn themselves out. In doing so, they remove combustible undergrowth, and create firebreaks that limit the spread of future fires. In 1972, the National Park Service determined a new policy: it would put out man-made fires, but allow natural ones to burn.

Sixteen years later, the largest fire known swept through Yellowstone National Park. In extremely dry conditions, several fires – some sparked by lightning, some by arsonists – joined together. The blaze was fought by 25,000 firefighters at a cost of $120 million; more than a third of the park’s vegetation was destroyed.

Today’s guidelines allow forest rangers to use their judgment in deciding which fires should be tackled and which left to burn. Experience has shown that too much effort devoted to fire extinction is counterproductive. Time demonstrates, but only slowly, whether policy has gone too far in one direction, or the other. Forest management illustrates obliquity: the preservation of the forest is not best pursued directly, but managed through a holistic approach that considers and balances multiple objectives.

Forests are not the only systems structured in this way. Obliquity is equally relevant to our businesses and our bodies, to the management of our lives and our national economies. We do not maximise shareholder value or the length of our lives, our happiness or the gross national product, for the simple but fundamental reason that we do not know how to and never will. No one will ever be buried with the epitaph “He maximised shareholder value”. Not just because it is a less than inspiring objective, but because even with hindsight there is no way of recognising whether the objective has been achieved.

... ... ...

The 20th century saw the rise and fall of modernist rationalism in many activities. Nowhere was the change more visible, or the results more disastrous, than in architecture and town planning. In the modernist vision, technology emancipated builders from tradition and accumulated knowledge. Twentieth- century planners could redesign our environment from first principles.

Charles Jencks, the architectural commentator, announced that modernism ended at 3.32pm on July 15 1972, when demolition contractors detonated the fuses to blow up the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St Louis, Missouri. Less than two decades earlier, the scheme had won awards for its pioneering, visionary architecture. Tower blocks were the supreme expression of Le Corbusier’s view that “a house is a machine for living in”. Corbusier himself designed the first such buildings, the Unite d’Habitation on the edge of Marseille.

But a house is not simply a machine for living in. There is a difference between a house and a home. The functions of a home are complex and the utility of a building depends not only on its design but on the reactions of those who live in it. The occupants of the Pruitt-Igoe scheme, like those of similar buildings, were alienated by the isolation of a living environment that saw no need for accidental, unplanned social interactions. They showed no respect for its public spaces. The functionality of the blocks proved, in the end, not to be functional.

Communities are complex organisms, imperfectly understood, and their functioning depends on their social relations. Great architects implicitly understand obliquity, but obliquity is so important to the design of towns that the most successful towns have no designer at all. The planned city was conceived in the late 19th century. Baron Hausmann swept away the jumble of Paris streets that had developed over the centuries to create grand boulevards. From the 1920s to 1968, the powerful, autocratic Robert Moses controlled the physical environment of New York, driving expressways through apartments, offices and factories.

The zenith of these ideas was reached in planned cities such as the designed capitals of Brasilia, Canberra and Chandigarh. But all these cities are dull. They lack the vitality of real communities. As with tower blocks, their very functionality is dysfunctional.

The National Park officials who thought they could eliminate fire; the managers who thought they could reinvent ICI and Boeing; the architects who believed they could discard thousands of years of experience and redesign buildings on purely functional lines; the planners who attempted to rationalise the patchwork evolution of historic cities: all made the same mistake of underestimating the complexity of the system with which they dealt and the value of the traditional knowledge they inherited. And the answer to their problem is not better analysis and more sophisticated modelling, but more humility.

Such humility is not commonly found in the business world. Re-engineering the Corporation by Michael Hammer and James Champy became a New York Times bestseller in 1993. Hammer and Champy are as radical in aspiration as Le Corbusier: “Re-engineering means asking the question `If I were re-creating this company today, given what I know and given current technology, what would it look like?’ Re-engineering a company means tossing aside old systems and starting over. It involves going back to the beginning and inventing a better way of doing work.”

Obliquity gives rise to the profit-seeking paradox: the most profitable companies are not the most profit-oriented. ICI and Boeing illustrate how a greater focus on shareholder returns was self-defeating in its own narrow terms. Comparisons of the same companies over time are mirrored in contrasts between different companies in the same industries. In their 2002 book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras compared outstanding companies with adequate but less remarkable companies with similar operations.

Merck and Pfizer was one such comparison. Collins and Porras compared the philosophy of George Merck (“We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been”) with that of John McKeen of Pfizer (“So far as humanly possible, we aim to get profit out of everything we do.”)

Collins and Porras also paired Hewlett Packard with Texas Instruments, Procter & Gamble with Colgate, Marriott with Howard Johnson, and found the same result in each case: the company that put more emphasis on profit in its declaration of objectives was the less profitable in its financial statements.

Similarly the richest men are not the most materialistic. Sam Walton, founder and principal shareholder of Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, drove himself around in a pick-up truck. “I have concentrated all along on building the finest retailing company that we possibly could. Period. Creating a huge personal fortune was never particularly a goal of mine,” Walton said. Still, five of the top 10 places in the Forbes rich list are occupied by members of the Walton family.

Henry Ford was sued by stockholders who resented his determination to expand his automotive business rather than distribute the profits. When they won their case, most of the dividend that the court required the Ford Motor Company to pay went to Henry himself. He used the money to buy back stock and regain freedom of operations. The dissatisfied stockholders would have done better to keep quiet.

Warren Buffett, the most successful investor in history, still lives in the Omaha bungalow he bought almost 50 years ago and continues to take pleasure in a Nebraskan steak washed down with cherry Coke. For Buffett: “It’s not that I want money. It’s the fun of making money and watching it grow.”

The individuals who are most successful at making money are not those who are most interested in making money. This is not surprising. The principal route to great wealth is the creation of a successful business, and building a successful business demands exceptional talents and hard work. There is no reason to think these characteristics are associated with greed and materialism: rather the opposite. People who are obsessively interested in money are drawn to get-rich-quick schemes rather than to business opportunities, and when these schemes come off, as occasionally they do, they retire to their villas in the sun.

And so, the greatest happiness is rarely achieved by those who set out to be happy. The development of psychology and neurophysiology gives us more insight into the real determinants of happiness. Author and psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explores the nature of happiness by listening to what people say about their activities through what he calls experience sampling. He pages people frequently to write down structured reports of exactly how they feel about what they are doing at that moment.

Although we crave time for passive leisure, people engaged in watching television reported low levels of contentment. Csikszentmihalyi’s systematic finding is that the activities that yield the highest for satisfaction with life require the successful performance of challenging tasks. These moments are encountered as frequently in work as outside it, and they constitute the state of mind which Csikszentmihalyi describes as flow. “Flow tends to occur when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable.”

Csikszentmihalyi’s formulation exactly parallels that of Boeing’s Bill Allen – “the greatest pleasure that life has to offer is the satisfaction that flows from participating in a difficult and challenging undertaking.” Flow is as characteristic of the successful business as of the contented individual.

Yet there are fundamental differences. While the quest for happiness is complementary – by achieving it we make it easier, not harder, for others to achieve the same goal – the development of business is competitive. Tolstoy claimed in Anna Karenina that “All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

However, the opposite is true in commercial life. Unhappy businesses resemble one another: each successful company is successful in its own way. Business achievement depends on doing things that others cannot do – and still find difficult to do even after others have seen the benefits they bring to the imitators. So the most profitable companies are those that are successful with major challenges – like Boeing’s creation of the jumbo jet or ICI’s development of a pharmaceutical division. For Csikszentmihalyi, flow is the accomplishment of a difficult task, involving the successful match of capabilities to environment. In the less elegant language of business gurus, Collins and Porras describe the same phenomenon in business as the achievement of “big hairy audacious goals”.

Companies that succeed in such challenges are disproportionately represented in the case studies of business schools. We don’t hear much about business innovators who adopted big hairy audacious goals and failed, although failure, not success is the norm. For every Bill Gates, Sam Walton and Warren Buffett, there are a hundred people with similar ambitions, and not necessarily much less talent, whose pictures will never be seen on the front cover of Fortune magazine.

Success through obliquity is a product of natural selection in an uncertain, but competitive, environment. It is almost certainly true that, on average, profit-oriented companies are more profitable than less profit-oriented companies. It is very likely that on average people who are interested in money are richer than people who are not. But at the same time that the most profitable companies are not the most profit-oriented, the richest people are not those most interested in money. Outstanding success is the product of obliquity.

This oblique relationship between intention and outcome is the subtle, but frequently misunderstood, message contained in Richard Dawkins’ metaphor of the selfish gene. The gene is not actually selfish: the gene has no motive at all, in the sense in which we normally talk about motive. Genes that survive the processes of selection are those well adapted to their environment, and such adaptation was not the product of any conscious design. And this is also true of the forests we travel thousands of miles to see, the great capital cities of history, the traditions of classical architecture, and the development of great businesses. All of them are the product of evolution in a universe too complex and unpredictable for any of us fully to understand. All of them survive and prosper because they are well adapted to their environment.

The University of Sheffield Sports Engineering Research Group, after analysing David Beckham’s performance on the football field, announced in 2002 that they had discovered a physics genius. The scientists had identified the complex differential equations that need to be solved to bend it like Beckham. No doubt their computers are already crunching numbers to tell Jonny Wilkinson how to drop a goal.

But little research is needed to confirm that Beckham is not a physics genius. Solving equations of motion is a means of understanding what happens, but is not a means of making it happen. Similarly, the financial returns of a business record what it achieves but are not the means by which it is achieved. Successful companies do maximise long-term shareholder value, or at least create large quantities of it. But that does not imply they were any more capable of formally calculating the results of their activities than Beckham can. Still less can we infer that such calculations were the basis of their achievement.

Would Boeing really have benefited from careful analyses in the mid-1960s of the prospective return on investment from development of the 747? An analyst would have had to anticipate the oil shock, the globalisation of world markets and the development of the aviation industry through to the end of the century. Anyone who has built models of these kinds, or scrutinised them carefully, knows that the range of possible assumptions is always wide enough to allow the analyst to come up with whatever answer the person commissioning the assessment wants to hear.

ICI might have made calculations in the 1950s that estimated the market capitalisation Zeneca would have achieved in the year 2000. Their strategists could then have put that number into a discounted cash flow calculation to estimate a return on the company’s early investment in its pharmaceutical business. But no one would or should have taken such a calculation seriously.

The distinction between intent and outcome is central to obliquity. Wealth, family relationships, employment all contribute to happiness but these activities are not best conducted with happiness as their goal. The pursuit of happiness is a strange phrase in the US constitution because happiness is not best achieved when pursued. A satisfying life depends above all on building good personal relationships with other people – but we entirely miss the point if we seek to develop these relationships with our personal happiness as a primary goal.

Humans have well developed capacities to detect purely instrumental behaviour. The actions of the man who buys us a drink in the hope that we will buy his mutual funds are formally the same as those of the friend who buys us a drink because he likes our company, but it is usually not too difficult to spot the difference. And the difference matters to us. “Honesty is the best policy, but he who is governed by that maxim is not an honest man,” wrote Archbishop Whately three centuries ago. If we deal with someone for whom honesty is the best policy, we can never be sure that this is not the occasion on which he will conclude that honesty is no longer the best policy. Such experiences have been frequent in financial markets in the last decade. We do better to rely on people who are honest by character rather than honest by choice.

In a similar way, the statement “we look after employees because we care” is not the same as the statement “we have introduced new compensation arrangements because, having calculated the relative costs of benefits enhancements and staff turnover, and commissioned a consultant’s report on the policies of competitors, we believe it will produce a net enhancement of earnings per share”. Even if the pensions and healthcare benefits are the same, the response from those affected is different. That is why companies that put the second statement in their board papers and investor presentations typically put the first statement in their press releases and communications to employees. But people who work in a business generally know its nature well enough to see the instrumentality at work.

Marks and Spencer was famous for decades for the breadth of its staff welfare programme. In particular, the company pioneered the provision of high-quality meals at nominal prices. The policy did not originate in any nice calculation of costs and benefits. It was adopted when a shop assistant fainted as Simon Marks was making one of his legendary store visits. Marks discovered that her husband was unemployed and the family did not have enough to eat. Marks was not engaged in philanthropy – he did not offer to feed his employee’s family. Nor was his purpose the creation of shareholder value. Marks was making a sincerely felt statement about the kind of business he wanted his company to be. Such statements about the nature of the business defined the iconic company Marks and Spencer became. As at ICI and Boeing, Marks and Spencer was to sacrifice that status in the rationalist 1990s in the ultimately unsuccessful pursuit of growth in earnings per share.

You don’t prolong life much by adopting long life as your goal. Nor do you learn much about the sources of longevity by asking very old people how they did it. Medical interventions don’t have a large overall impact on life expectancy – medicine is to health what fire control is to forest management. The most important influences on life expectancy are environment and general health. We extend our lives most effectively, not through hypochondria, but by caring for our bodies and ourselves in a comprehensive, holistic manner.

Happiness is achieved in the same way. As John Stuart Mill said: “Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness… aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way.”

The great cities of the world lift our spirits, not because some great designer set out to achieve that effect, but because of their lack of planning, their diversity and vitality, their unexpected encounters and conjunctions. And they evolve, not through conservative preservation or planned change, but by a process in which undistinguished buildings are torn down and only the best examples of each era are preserved.

Forest management is unexpectedly complex. The regimented plantation proved as unsuccessful as the planned city, and ecologists today are tearing such plantations down. Monocultural forests are not only dull to look at, but vulnerable to disease and fire. Managed woodlands are economically and environmentally superior. But no one knows the best way to manage a forest, or even what “best” means in this context. Our objective in a complex system is not to find the optimum, because no one can know before or after whether such an optimum has been achieved. We can and should be satisfied with an outcome that is good enough.

What is true of forests is equally true of businesses. The great corporations of the modern world were not built by people whose overriding interest was wealth, profit, or shareholder value. To paraphrase Mill: their focus was on business followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else, they found profit by the way.

This is how Hewlett Packard described it: “Profit is a cornerstone of what we do… but it has never been the point in and of itself. The point, in fact, is to win, and winning is judged in the eyes of the customer and by doing something you can be proud of.”

Obliquity is relevant whenever complex systems evolve in an uncertain environment, and whenever the effect of our actions depends on the ways in which others respond to them. There is a role for carrots and sticks, but to rely on carrots and sticks alone is effective only when we employ donkeys and when goals are simple. Directness is appropriate. When the environment is stable, objectives are one dimensional and transparent, and it is possible to determine when and whether goals have been achieved. Obliquity is inevitable when the environment is complex and changing, purposes are multiple and conflicting, and when we cannot tell, even with hindsight, whether they have been fulfilled.

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[May 04, 2013] 6 Rules for Communicating with Diplomacy and Tact Dale Carnegie Blog

March 1st, 2011

We have all been awed by a Manager or a Team Member who always seems to know what to say and how to say it in any situation. These people know how to communicate with diplomacy, tact and confidence.

The way in which we communicate can elicit positive or negative emotions. If we communicate aggressively, without respect or sensitivity, defensive or angry emotions can prevent others from hearing the message we are trying to convey. Communicating with diplomacy and tact is an approach that combines strength and sensitivity and keeps negative emotions at bay.

The Six Rules for Disagreeing Agreeably

Rule #1: Give others the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the person who made that outrageous generalization isn’t really insensitive. Maybe this person has had a painful experience that made him overreact.

Rule #2: After giving someone the benefit of the doubt, listen to learn and truly understand why this person holds this belief. We must let him/her know we’ve heard them and we are genuinely trying to see things from their perspective.

Rule #3: Always take responsibility for our own feelings, when disagreeing with someone. Make a commitment to respond using “I” statements only. When we begin with “you” we come off as blaming and confrontational and immediately put the other person on the defensive. This reduces the chance of our point of view being heard.

Rule #4: Use a cushion. Connect or “cushion” a different opinion, starting with “I hear what you’re saying” Or “I appreciate your view on”. Again, begin with the word “I” and not “You said…” or it will sound confrontational.

Rule #5: Eliminate the words “but” or “however” from our vocabulary. Once we have cushioned the other person’s opinion, use “and,” or pause and say nothing, following the cushion. Acknowledging the individual’s point of view and following it with a “but” or “however” erases the acknowledgement.

Rule #6: State our point of view or opinion with relevant and factual evidence. Keep our emotions out of the equation by using the following formula:

[Mar 31, 2013] 13 Things You Should Never Say At Work by Jacquelyn Smith,

2/15/2013 |

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning. – Mark Twain

Darlene Price, author of Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results, concurs. “Words matter,” she says. “They are a key component of persuasive communication. Regardless of the audience, topic, or industry, or whether the setting is a stand-up presentation, sit-down conversation, telephone discussion, or an online meeting, a leader uses language to influence someone’s mind in order to achieve a certain result. That’s one reason they’re seen as leaders; their words compel people to follow.”

Therefore, if you want to be perceived as a leader in the workplace, a great place to start is by deliberately choosing to speak words and phrases that are empowering to yourself and others; to use language that captivates, motivates, and inspires; and to communicate a vocal image that conveys clarity, confidence, and credibility, she adds.

“In speaking with hundreds of executives and senior leaders over the past twenty years, certain phrases consistently come up as career-limiting phrases that jeopardize one’s professional image and potential for promotion,” Price says. “To the speaker they may seem like harmless words, however, to the listener they reveal a more critical issue: In a workplace where employers must be cutting-edge, competitive, and cost-effective, employees who use these phrases will likely be replaced with those who convey a more positive attitude, collaborative spirit, proactive behavior and professional demeanor.”

Here are 13 phrases that should be banned from the office:

“It’s not fair.”

She got a raise, you didn’t. He was recognized, you weren’t. “Some people have food to eat while others starve,” Price says. “Injustices happen on the job and in the world every day. Whether it’s a troubling issue at work or a serious problem for the planet, the point in avoiding this phrase is to be proactive about the issues versus complaining, or worse, passively whining.” Instead, document the facts, build a case, and present an intelligent argument to the person or group who can help you.

“That’s not my problem,” “That’s not my job,” or “I don’t get paid enough for this.”

If you asked someone for help, and the person replied with one of the above phrases, how would you feel? “As importantly, what would it say about him or her?” Price says. “Regardless of how inconvenient or inappropriate a request may be, it is likely important to the other person or they would not have asked. Therefore, as a contributing member of the team, a top priority is to care about the success of others (or at least act as though you do).” An unconcerned, detached and self-serving attitude quickly limits career advancement.

“This doesn’t mean you have to say yes; it does mean you need to be articulate and thoughtful when saying no,” she adds. “For example, if your boss issues an unreasonable request, rather than saying, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. I don’t get paid enough for this,’ instead say, ‘I’ll be glad to help. Given my current tasks of A, B, and C, which one of these shall I place on hold while I work on this new assignment?’ This clearly communicates teamwork and helpfulness, while reminding your boss of your current work load and the need to set realistic expectations.”

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“He’s a jerk,” or “She’s lazy,” or “My job stinks,” or “I hate this company.”

Nothing tanks a career faster than name-calling, Price says. “Not only does it reveal juvenile school-yard immaturity, it’s language that is liable and fire-able.”

Avoid making unkind, judgmental statements that will inevitably reflect poorly on you. If you have a genuine complaint about someone or something, communicate the issue with tact, consideration and neutrality.

“But we’ve always done it that way.”

“The most effective leaders value innovation, creative thinking and problem solving skills in their employees,” Price says. In one fell swoop, this phrase reveals you are the opposite: stuck in the past, inflexible, and closed-minded. “Instead say, ‘Wow, that’s an interesting idea. How would that work?’ Or, ‘That’s a different approach. Let’s discuss the pros and cons.’”

“That’s impossible” or “There’s nothing I can do.”

Really? Are you sure you’ve considered every single possible solution and the list is now exhausted? “When you make the mistake of saying these negative phrases, your words convey a pessimistic, passive, even hopeless outlook,” Price says. “This approach is seldom valued in the workplace. Employers notice, recognize and promote a can-do attitude. Despite the glum circumstances, communicate through your words what you can contribute to the situation.”

Instead, try something like, “I’ll be glad to check on it again,” “Let’s discuss what’s possible under these circumstances,” or, “What I can do is this.”

“You should have…” or “You could have…”

You probably wouldn’t be thrilled if someone said: “You should have told me about this sooner!” Or, “You could have tried a little harder.” “Chances are, these fault-finding words inflict feelings of blame and finger-pointing,” Price says. “Ideally, the workplace fosters equality, collaboration and teamwork. Instead of making someone feel guilty (even if they are), take a more productive non-judgmental approach.” Say, “Next time, to ensure proper planning, please bring this to my attention immediately.” Or, “In the future, I recommend…”

“I may be wrong, but…” or “This may be a silly idea, but…”

These phrases are known as discounting, Price explains. They diminish the impact of what follows and reduce your credibility. “Remember that your spoken words reveal to the world how much value you place on yourself and your message. For this reason, eliminate any prefacing phrase that demeans the importance of who you are or lessens the significance of what you contribute.”

Don’t say, “This may be a silly idea, but I was thinking that maybe we might conduct the quarterly meeting online instead, okay?” Instead, assert your recommendation: “To reduce travel costs and increase time efficiency, I recommend we conduct the quarterly meeting online.”

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These are common phrases that might be difficult to eliminate completely from your everyday conversations—but the trick is to gain awareness of the language you’re using. “As is often the case with bad habits, we are unconscious of the fact we’re saying career-limiting words and phrases,” Price says.

Here are a few tips to build self-awareness and eradicate the phrases from your conversations:

Record yourself. When you’re on the phone in a business setting, record your side of the conversation, she suggests. “Listen carefully to the recording afterward (on the way home from work). Did you use any of the phrases on this list, or any other words or phrases that may be perceived as limiting or negative? Write down the phrase you used, mark through it, and beside it construct an alternate phrase that more positively communicates your message.” Keep this list handy, by your phone or next to your computer monitor, and review it daily.

Enlist a buddy. When you’re in meetings (and may not be able to record), ask a trusted co-worker to listen carefully to your language. “Ask them to write down any career-limiting words, phrases, actions or attitudes they perceive to be negative,” she says. “Treat them to lunch, check your ego at the door, and let them tell you what they heard.”

Listen for these phrases when others speak. When you hear how jeopardizing these phrases actually sound when spoken by another, it sends a powerful message to your brain heightening your own self awareness. Price says you should ask yourself, “How could she have phrased that idea in a different way?” Or, “What words would have communicated his point more positively?”

Zuleyma Castillo
That’s not my problem,” “That’s not my job,” or “I don’t get paid enough for this.”

So your saying that if your Boss or the HR is asking you to get a drink at Starbucks or their lunch, that part of your job..

Since when do workers go out and get their boss their drink and lunches.

Michał Skrzędziejewski

I disagree with a lot of things in this article. For example, I don’t see any problem with “no problem” – saying that “you’re welcome” is much better is just nitpicking and over-analyzing a simple statement.

I also think (believe?) it’s perfectly fine to say “It’s not my job” if it really isn’t your job – some people make outrageous requests, and believing that “Regardless of how inconvenient or inappropriate a request may be, it is likely important to the other person or they would not have asked” is just wishful thinking.

Finally, take a look at the sentence: “Next time, to ensure proper planning, please bring this to my attention immediately”. I cannot imagine a human being (unless it’s a mindless corporate robot) using this in a normal conversation. Nobody speaks like that. If somebody told me “You should have told me about it earlier” and if he or she had valid reason to say so, I can admit my mistake and try to be better in the future.

As always use common sense.

Joey Mollica
1 month ago

When my dad was a boy, his headmaster would catch him saying “I think…” and retort with “Rick, the rest of the world doesn’t care what you THINK!”. I’m reminded of this every time I hear somebody say “I think ….”!

Todd Mumford

I can understand most of the called out terms to avoid however I believe that this applies to large corporations and not all of it is applicable to smaller business owners as a whole. Normally with a smaller office, everyone works together and often you will hear the “no problem” instead of “your welcome” and that is simply because it is a smaller environment and the employees are a tight group of individuals.

Peggy Puskar

Being positive but assertive and closed-lipped (meaning keep it short and to the point) is always the best practice!

Eva Rinaldi
The only thing I can’t stand is when “we’ve always done it this way.” and then suddenly I’m getting reprimanded for something I’ve been praised for or at least watched doing, a few hundred times.


Phil Tipp

Hmmm. Most of this is either self-evident, in terms of pure manners and ought to have been taught from nursery school onwards – or is otherwise utter American business-twaddle, pop-psych soundbite tosh.

A gentleman moderates his speech to suit the circumstances and his surroundings, and does so in order to communicate clearly and unambiguously to his peers and masters, his intentions and opinions when they are asked of him, in the idiom and manner most suited to his stature, voice, masculinity and lastly, perceived rank.

Ruffling feathers is something to which all men should naturally aspire. Squirming conformity is a little death – consider the brevity of life, the length of history and one’s place in it. Better to live one day as a lion, than a hundred days as a lamb.

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” Plato

Furthermore, can you imagine Caesar, or Alexander, responding to thankyou’s by squeaking “You’re welcome” as spoken by mealy-mouthed worms?


One thing that is not mentioned in this article is profanity. When you curse, you are just lowering yourself to an unflattering level of competence. Cursing is simply a poor choice of words that can easily with a little self control, be properly eliminated from your vocabulary. Instead of sounding like a fool, people will admire you.

William Gempel

If “no problem” implies that there could have been a problem, then “you’re welcome” certainly also implies that you might not have been welcome. Watch yourself. Every time you make a positive statement you imply that the opposite of what you are expressing is a possibility.

[Jul 03, 2011]  The Art of Diplomacy - What's in It for You

Between Us Girls

Happily though, diplomacy involves certain skills that, given some practice and patience, everyone can learn:


This is perhaps the biggest part of diplomacy. Learning to control our own defenses and put off our own agendas for long enough to hear what the other person is saying is critical. Active listening (making eye contact, avoiding the temptation to interrupt unless it is to ask relevant questions, rephrasing what the person has expressed to make sure you are getting their message) is most important. There can be no negotiations unless there is communication.

Sending a Clear Message

The way you state your own needs can make or break the problems-solving process. Attacking the person, belittling their concerns or putting them on the defensive will always backfire. Using “I-Statements,” saying “I feel___________________________when _________________________. What I need is ___________________________” rather than “You always_______________, I hate it when you _______________________, You are_____________________________” is the best approach to enabling someone to not get defensive and actually be able to hear what you are saying.


Being able to see a problem through someone else's eyes, from their perspective, helps you to know how to approach them and how best to devise a solution that meets their needs as well as your own.

Finding Common Ground

In any dispute, there is always something, no matter how minuscule it may be, that you and the other party can agree upon. Take a lesson from Barack Obama's recent debate with John McCain. He often began his comments with a statement of John McCain's comments or positions he could agree with and then went on to differentiate himself. This tactic allowed people who might be McCain supporters or Independent's leaning in that direction, to be more open and willing to listen to his commentary. In working out your issue with another person, it always pays to find any smidgen of common ground you can and then to build upon it. You end up transforming your relationship from one of adversaries to one of a team working together to find a creative solution.

Remaining Calm

Nothing shuts down a negotiation or a conversation more quickly than angry comments, raised voices and insults or threats. Think before you speak and excuse yourself briefly to calm down if things get too heated.


Constructive problem-solving takes a little more time than a quick fix. Knowing this ahead of time can make the process less stressful.

So, we know that while diplomatic efforts don't always meet with success, they really are our best and most sensible first line of defense. Foreign diplomats and skilled leaders have been using the art of diplomacy to great advantage for many, many years. But how can diplomacy help you and me?

Let's go back to some of the everyday problems I listed. Johnny doesn't want to share his Play-Doh. We could just give Johnny a scolding look and ask him if he's forgotten his manners and remind him that “it's nice to share.” Johnny feels like no one understands, like everybody is mad at him and that they now think he's a “bad boy.” He cries, or throws a tantrum. There's a big scene, mom's embarrassed and that makes her even more mad. Johnny gets sent to his room....or.....

Johnny's mom asks him why he doesn't want to share. He tells her that he hates having the colors of Play-Poh getting all mixed up. He wants to keep the colors separate so he has all of the colors to play with next time and the next time. Mom acknowledges and validates those feelings by listening and together they try to come up with a compromise. She tells him that she feels bad when Johnny's cousin feels left out or unable to play with his toys and tells him she'd like to find someway to make everybody happy. “How about if only one color is opened at a time and it has to be put away before another color is opened,” she offers? Johnny accepts the compromise, everyone gets to play with the Play-Doh and no one ends up in tears.

In a more difficult situation, like the one involving feuding relatives and wedding receptions, diplomacy can be trickier. Seating everyone separately, may lead to strained relations with Uncle Bob. Seating them together and letting them hash it out, may lead to ugliness on what should be a beautiful day. What to do? The person planning the seating needs to know whose feelings and objections will be the strongest. If Aunt Rose is the most adamant about seating, she must talk about options with Aunt Rose. By allowing Rose to state her objections, by trying to understand, accept and be considerate of her feelings, a solution becomes more likely.

Where's the common ground? Both the bride and Aunt Rose want the day to be beautiful and enjoyable, Uncle Bob and Aunt Rose want to spend time together without Mary involved. Given that, both the bride and Aunt Rose can begin to brainstorm ideas of how to make that happen (short of throwing Aunt Mary under the limousine in the parking lot). Perhaps Uncle Bob and Aunt Rose could mingle during the cocktail hour and be seated separately for the dinner? Maybe Aunt Rose and her brother Bob could be seated next to each other with Mary on the other side of Bob so Bob acts as physical buffer?

Diplomacy isn't always easy, but given time and practice, the art of diplomacy can resolve and sometimes even prevent many of the conflicts we face in our everyday lives. What's in it for us? Fewer tantrums from our children, less fighting at wedding receptions, preserved relationships with coworkers, circumvented battles with our teenaged daughters and far fewer headaches for ourselves. I think it's worth the you?

Anger Management

Mental Help Net

As a social emotion, anger is experienced through communication. Angry people tend to have distinct communication postures that they habitually take up when communicating with others. Psychologists have described four of these communication postures, each possessing its own motto:

As you might guess, angry people tend to use the Aggressive and Passive-Aggressive postures a whole lot. Aggressive communicators are more likely to start an argument than they are to get the results they want achieved, however. Being passive in your communications is also a mistake, as it communicates weakness and tends to invite further aggression. The assertive communications posture is the most useful and balanced of all the postures as it is the only posture that communicates respect for all parties. Communicating Assertively is the most likely way to ensure that everyone involved gets their needs taken care of. Learning how to become Assertive rather than aggressive or passive-aggressive is an important step in discovering how to communicate appropriately with others.

People who are habitually aggressive tend to fundamentally misunderstand what it means to be Assertive. Specifically, they tend confuse assertiveness with aggression, and think they already are acting assertively. This is frequently a mistaken impression however. Both aggressive and assertive communications postures can involve fierce and persuasive communication. They are fundamentally different things, however, in that aggressive communication tends to go on the offense – it attacks and berates the other – while Assertive communication uses anger and fierceness only in defense. Assertive people stand up for themselves and their rights and do not take crap from others. However, they manage to do this without crossing the line into aggressiveness; they do not attack the person they are communicating with unnecessarily. Assertiveness is "anger in self-defense" whereas aggressiveness is "anger because I feel like it".

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Diplomacy (9780934742528) Sir Harold George Nicolson Books

James Schoonmaker (Centreville, Virginia USA)3.0 out of 5 stars An Inside View . . ., September 20, 2000

Of a complex and important profession. Sir Harold Nicolson's book, originally published near the beginning of WWII, filled a large gap for several decades. Many books have been written on statecraft, and even a few on the tactics used in statecraft and diplomacy, but never (since Castiglioni's Art of the Courier during the Renaissance) had a book been written on how to be a good diplomat.

The book begins with a short history of the development of modern diplomacy, and then moves on to discuss recent changes and factors in modern diplomacy and to compare diplomacy as practiced by different countries. In reality, this is a handbook for new and aspiring diplomats, as it covers such things as the day-to-day duties of a junior secretary and how to perform them, diplomatic jargon, and proper use of diplomatic techniques.

For the conduct of foreign policy, I would recommend Chas. Freeman's more recent book Arts of Power. However, there is still nothing, outside of official government handbooks, that describes the inner functionings of a diplomat's life so well as Nicolson's book.

M. B. Alcat "Curiosity killed the cat, but sa... (Los Angeles, California)A really good place to start ..., February 13, 2004

Sir Harold Nicolson, the author of this book, was a prestigious British diplomat who served on the British delegation to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, among other tasks. He knew his craft, and wanted to share that knowledge with others. That is probably the reason why he wrote this book, "Diplomacy". In "Diplomacy", not only does he tell the reader about the origin of diplomacy and its development: he also manages to explain what being a diplomat is about, and which qualifications should aspiring diplomats have. For example, he believes that veracity, precision, calm, loyalty, good character and modesty are essential attributes of a good diplomat.

Nicolson wrote "Diplomacy" a long time ago: the first edition was published in 1939. Notwithstanding that, his book is nowadays as useful as in the day it was published, because it allows the reader to understand what diplomacy is, from the point of view of a diplomat. This book is informative, but also entertaining. His eloquent prose attracts the reader, who cannot help but be interested by the many anecdotes regarding life in the Foreign Service that the author recollects in order to get his point across more clearly.

In conclusion, I can recommend this book to those who are interested in International Relations and would like to know more about diplomacy. I give it only four stars because even if it is a very good book, it doesn't include the latest developments in the diplomatic field. All the same, it is a really good place to start :)


Backstabbing for Beginners My Crash Course in International Diplomacy

Soussan, a former program associate for the United Nations, provides an insider's perspective on the U.N.'s oil-for-food scandal in this absorbing memoir. The author was a 24-year-old idealist when he went to work for the U.N.'s recently launched program to provide aid to Iraqi civilians suffering under the economic sanctions imposed after the Gulf War.

He found a culture of incompetence where there is no truth but consensus and initiative is highly risky.

USNAVYVET2002 (DC): Hits The Nail On The Head, December 6, 2008

I am surprised this book has not been given more attention and that there aren't more customer reviews on it. Then it dawned on me: the book is critical of the UN; no wonder it hasn't received more media attention. That being said, it is a very, very good read. I have seen first hand the damage that a large government bureaucracy can dish out. Mr. Soussan's account of turf wars, bickering, egos and backstabbing is spot on.

The pure concept of diplomacy - José Calvet De Magalhães - Google Books



Groupthink : Two Party System as Polyarchy : Corruption of Regulators : Bureaucracies : Understanding Micromanagers and Control Freaks : Toxic Managers :   Harvard Mafia : Diplomatic Communication : Surviving a Bad Performance Review : Insufficient Retirement Funds as Immanent Problem of Neoliberal Regime : PseudoScience : Who Rules America : Neoliberalism  : The Iron Law of Oligarchy : Libertarian Philosophy


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Vol 25, No.12 (December, 2013) Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks The efficient markets hypothesis : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2013 : Unemployment Bulletin, 2010 :  Vol 23, No.10 (October, 2011) An observation about corporate security departments : Slightly Skeptical Euromaydan Chronicles, June 2014 : Greenspan legacy bulletin, 2008 : Vol 25, No.10 (October, 2013) Cryptolocker Trojan (Win32/Crilock.A) : Vol 25, No.08 (August, 2013) Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : Inequality Bulletin, 2009 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Copyleft Problems Bulletin, 2004 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Energy Bulletin, 2010 : Malware Protection Bulletin, 2010 : Vol 26, No.1 (January, 2013) Object-Oriented Cult : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2011 : Vol 23, No.11 (November, 2011) Softpanorama classification of sysadmin horror stories : Vol 25, No.05 (May, 2013) Corporate bullshit as a communication method  : Vol 25, No.06 (June, 2013) A Note on the Relationship of Brooks Law and Conway Law


Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds  : Larry Wall  : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOSProgramming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC developmentScripting Languages : Perl history   : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history

Classic books:

The Peter Principle : Parkinson Law : 1984 : The Mythical Man-MonthHow to Solve It by George Polya : The Art of Computer Programming : The Elements of Programming Style : The Unix Hater’s Handbook : The Jargon file : The True Believer : Programming Pearls : The Good Soldier Svejk : The Power Elite

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The Last but not Least

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Last modified: June 22, 2014