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Ever wish that you could wave a magic wand and everyone would be respectful, civil, and accommodating? Unfortunately, uncertain times bring discontent and confusion. Thus, it is more important than ever to deal with people, situations, and one’s behavior with diplomacy, dignity, finesse, tact, and civility, thereby setting a better example. These are powerful “win-win” words. Here we will revisit the basics of effective communication.

Why and How

Why? Everyone’s basic need is to be respected, validated and liked. However, life happens and things can get out of control. People are human; they react (out of control) or they respond (in control) to a variety of situations. You are responsible for you! Set a better example, always!

How? Take the first step in handling any situation or individual by employing the appropriate tools: diplomacy, finesse, tact, dignity, and civility. We hear these words, but do we know what they mean and how to use them effectively?

Your interaction toolbox” is all about enhancing effective communication by utilizing diplomacy, finesse, tact, dignity, and civility. Engage them as preventive measures for diffusing situations that could easily get out of control. This is especially true during these times of political uncertainty and international unrest. Granted, these words are interchangeable.

Two examples:
(1) “The government official used diplomatic finesse in his speech to avoid offending the opposition.”
(2) “He carried out his responsibilities with tact and dignity.”
These words provide the foundation for having a powerful presence, implementing professional etiquette, and honoring protocol.


How a situation is handled, not the incident itself,
is the key to a successful result.

The Tools You Need

 “Diplomacy is the skill of managing people, and the ability to communicate in a non-offensive manner.” It is also the conduct of government officials to secure safe relations between nations. The way you present your views determines the outcome. When handling sensitive conversation topics or mistakes, a diplomatic approach allows you to remedy the situation without damaging the relationship. Instead of encouraging conflict, diplomacy resolves conflict. It consists of one’s mannerisms, demeanor, attitude, and timing. Using “personal” diplomacy is your ability to get your point across without appearing pushy or dictatorial.


“Dignity is an individual’s self-respect. It is something that should be given not taken.” People need to have a sense of dignity about themselves regardless of what economic background they come from, or the awkward situation that just occurred. Maintain dignity when things go wrong.



Finesse is the skillful way you handle a difficult or highly sensitive situation.” It is a technique that allows one to create a favorable or win-win result.




Tact is the act of using gentle (non-offensive) language when dealing with controversial issues.” Tact is knowing what to say to avoid giving offense, and how and when to say it. Tact is not just saying what the other party wants to hear, but it is choosing words that are not emotionally charged or confrontational and are truthful, thus, demonstrating respect for the other person’s rank, position, stature, gender, age, nationality, ethnicity, whatever the case may be. Sometimes it’s about not saying anything at all.


Civility is politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech and is associated with good manners.”  A leader who has mastered civility can maintain balance in a disconnected environment. Civility creates a common bond and a more harmonious work environment. When you do not like someone, yet manage to treat him politely, you are being civil.


Meeting an Immovable Object

You will come across people who are unchangeable, stubborn, and a challenge to work or negotiate with. Inflexible people use communication to be defensive, obnoxious, or rude. They also find it hard to adapt to another person’s point of view or way of doing things. An authentic professional does not react with the same behavior. It is hard to be difficult with someone respectful and in control. Keep the lines of communication open until agreements have been made or a situation has been remedied.

Consider the following scenarios:

Situation: You are asked in a meeting to give your opinion about someone else’s idea – an idea that you do not feel is in the best interest of the organization, and you do not want to endorse it.

Diplomatic Answer: “I appreciate Jim’s idea. A strategy that I would like to employ involves …” (The answer should be the same whether this person is present or not.)

Situation: You are caught in a conversation that turns into a political debate on a topic about which you have strong opinions, and you do not want to add to the tension.

Diplomatic Answer: “I have strong feelings here as well; however, I feel it best to dwell on what we can control and keep our focus.” (You admit you have strong feelings; however, you elect to demonstrate respect.)

When to Avoid Politics and Other Sensitive Conversations

How do you deal with the elephant in the room—politics? How do you avoid conversations that can turn heated and sometimes downright nasty? How do you tactfully avoid political conversation, especially when diverse political decisions are creating new challenges and affecting everyday effectiveness?

Response: “Listen carefully and respect other points of view! This is not easy. Especially when your viewpoint is strong and opposite. An exception may be if the situation warrants a debate, in which case it should be a healthy debate whereby points of view are shared and respected.”

How do you avoid crossing the line when the topics of racism, sexism as well as offensive terms always seem to come up?

Response: “Stay neutral! Realize that comments have a lot to do with how someone was raised or chooses to behave. Counter with a positive (non-defacing) comment. If you do not plug in, the comment will eventually lose its momentum.

How do you handle people who constantly find fault or are always critical?

Response: “Don’t be fault-finding or critical in return. Start by avoiding the use of blaming words (e.g., error, mistake). Blaming words causes an individual to become emotionally involved and validate their fault-finding ways. Focus on being helpful instead of harmful with a positive expression and tone of voice. For example: use words/phrases such as “we have a discrepancy …” or “there seems to be an oversight …”— then offer a remedy. This approach is less emotionally damaging.” And, be careful not to misinterpret a well-intentioned remark.

Every situation is different. Much will depend on the environment and personalities involved.

Please share your thoughts and suggestions. | Corporate & Incentive Travel | “Perspective”
authored by Gloria Petersen.

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