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Pragmatic Perspective: A lesson in diplomacy

I work in retail sales, and I think all of us have experienced the wrath, whether directly or indirectly, of a disgruntled customer at the customer service desk of a retail store. What doesn’t happen as often is witnessing a fit thrown by an employee of the establishment, but that is precisely what I experienced recently in my place of employment.

Now, I should make it clear that this fit-throwing employee was not from our location, but rather one of our sister stores, thus his behavior was in no way a reflection on my managers, who handled the situation incredibly well considering the out-of-line and childish manner in which the upset party was behaving. Witnessing this encounter made me realize ever more clearly why there is so much unrest and violent bickering in our world today. I learned a valuable lesson in diplomacy from this pathetic display and, more specifically, I learned what is absolutely detrimental to diplomacy and effective and meaningful dialogue aimed at accomplishing something positive.

Lesson 1: In diplomacy, we need to seek for understanding and not jump to any conclusions. For the sake of simplicity, we will henceforth refer to the tizzy-fit-throwing employee as Jeff (it’s generic, and I do know his name, but I’ll take the high road and hide his identity). Jeff came into the store with guns blazing, demanded to speak with our manager and, without any attempt to understand the situation, he immediately began to make ridiculous and baseless accusations that did nothing but solidify his absolute ignorance and lack of tact. It was as if he preemptively made an attack on our store based on less-than-reliable information. And I think we all know how preemptive strikes based on shady information have gone in the past. True diplomacy requires common ground, asking and listening, and, above all, meaningful, constructive and continual dialogue, all of which Jeff failed to do, and that is precisely why his vendetta was completely and embarrassingly fruitless.

Lesson 2: Nobody likes a tough guy. You know when a small, rodent-sized dog starts to bark and nip at your heels, but once you take a step toward the pest, it cowers and suddenly the “tough guy” attitude turns into whimpering and backtracking? Well, that is exactly what happened to poor little Jeff. As I mentioned before, he came in as a total tough guy, fully prepared for battle, but once we took a step of truth toward him, he had no other choice but to whimper and leave the store shamefully. An aggressive tough-guy attitude with nothing to show for it will get you nowhere in this world. There are many different world leaders who are outwardly and vocally tough, but realistically weak and vulnerable. They are weak and vulnerable because, like Jeff, they fail to realize that aggressive and angry language is not a scholarly means of persuasion. The sooner Jeff and the other “tough guys” of the world realize this fact, the better off the world will be.

Lesson 3: True diplomacy requires a certain level of professionalism, intelligence and class. What I haven’t mentioned before is that this entire incident involving Jeff happened in front of several customers. It was so blatantly out of line that our customers were getting upset with Jeff and his — to say the least —lack of professionalism, class and intelligence. The professional, intelligent and classy diplomat would have requested a personal meeting between leaders to discuss possible discrepancies to be settled through the best and most mutually beneficial means possible. This is a very large step that Jeff, along with his fellow unprofessional, unintelligent and classless diplomats, completely failed to do, and the results are dead ends and shameful, fruitless diplomatic defeat.

There are obviously many other aspects of diplomacy, but my experience with Jeff has shed some light on the matter. If only we could all be perfect diplomats, but as long as there are still Jeffs in the world, there will be a need for improved diplomacy.

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