The Art Of Diplomacy
by James Leahy
Franklin; tactless in his youth, yet he became so diplomatic, so adroit at
handling people as an adult. The secret of his success...?
"I will speak ill of no man." he
said, "... and speak all the good I know of everybody."
One day, when
Ben was a blundering youth, an old Quaker friend took him aside and lashed him
with a few stinging truths, something like this:
"Ben, you are impossible. Your opinions have a slap in them for
everyone who differs with you. They have become so expensive that
nobody cares for them. Your friends find they enjoy themselves
better when you are not around. You know so much that no man can
tell you anything. Indeed, no man is going to try, for the effort
would lead only to discomfort and hard work. So you are not likely
ever to know any more than you do now, which is very little."
I had a
customer come into my showroom and tell me how digital and modern transistors
were far superior to a good vacuum tube based audio system and how
vinyl is 20+ years behind the game in sound quality when compared to digital and
that I should take the wool from my ears.
Some customers ask me what I think
but they are not ready to accept the truth and I know before I even give them
the answer it is not what they will wish to hear. There is the truth and then
there is what the customer wants you to tell them. They are not always the same
Most of the
time when customers cannot decide on an item's performance it is because they
have not heard or at the very least given themselves the opportunity to fairly
and comprehensively compare the products they are bagging against what they
consider to be better.
Now; I knew
that this man was wrong. I knew it positively and without the slightest shadow of a doubt.
There couldn't be the slightest doubt about it. However, even if I
had convinced this man that he was wrong, his pride would have made it difficult
for him to back down and give in. For me to tell him the facts directly to his
face would be a sharp blow to his intelligence, his judgment, his pride and his
self respect. This would make him want to contest my advice. But it will NEVER
make him want to change his mind. You could throw all the logic of a High Court
Judge his way but you will not shift his opinion one inch, for you have hurt his
Never begin by
announcing, "I am going to prove so and so to you." That's bad. That's
tantamount to saying: "I'm smarter than you are and I'm going to tell you a thing
or two and make you change your mind." That is a challenge. That arouses
opposition, and makes the listener want to battle with you before you even
start. It is difficult, under even the most benign conditions, to change
people's minds. So why make it harder? Why handicap yourself? If you are going
to prove anything, don't let anybody know it. Do it so subtly, so adroitly that
no one will feel that you are doing it.
As Lord Chesterfield once said to his son:
"Men must be
taught as if you taught them not and things unknown proposed as things forgot.
Be wiser than other people, if you can; but do not tell them so.
I believe now hardly anything that I believed twenty years ago; except the
multiplication table; and I begin to doubt even that when I read about Einstein.
In another twenty years, I may not believe what I have said today. I am not so sure now of anything as I used to be."
repeatedly to his followers in Athens:
"One thing only I know; and that is that
I know nothing."
Well, I can't
hope to be any wiser than Socrates; so I
have quit telling people they are wrong. I find that it pays.
If a man makes a statement that you think is wrong - yes, even that you know is
wrong. Isn't it better to begin by saying: "Well, now, look I thought otherwise,
but I may be wrong. I frequently am. And if I am wrong, I want to be put right.
Let's examine the facts." There's magic, positive magic, in such phrases as: "I
may be wrong. I frequently am. Let's examine the facts." Nobody in the heavens
above or on the earth beneath or in the waters under the earth will ever object
to your saying: "I may be wrong. Let's examine the facts."
never tries to prove anything. He attempts only to find the facts. You like to
be scientific in your thinking, don't you? Well, no one is stopping you but
yourself. You will never get into trouble by admitting that you may be wrong.
That will stop all arguments and inspire the other fellow to be just as fair and
open and broadminded as you are. It will make him want to admit that he, too,
may be wrong.
another man's views is futile because it
puts a man on the defensive, and usually makes him strive to justify himself.
Criticism is negative because it wounds a man's precious pride, damages his
sense of importance and creates resentment. If you want your fellow man to
resent you, hold a grudge against you for decades until death and undo a
lifelong friendship all in the space of mere minutes; just indulge yourself in a
little stinging criticism; no matter how much we feel it is justified. All the good times you have both had together will be
undone instantly; and your criticism is what he will remember you by.
with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are
dealing with creatures of emotions, bristling with prejudices and motivated by
pride and vanity. Just
remember the spoken work can NEVER be retracted. You can apologize, but
it is never the same. Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain; and most
fools do just this. However, it takes self-control character and understanding
to be forgiving.
One of the finest things I know about Ben Franklin is the way that he
accepted that smarting rebuke. He was big enough and wise enough to realize it
was true, to sense that he was headed for failure and social disaster. So he
made a right-about-face. He began immediately to change his insolent, bigoted
"I made it a rule," said Franklin, "to forbear
all direct contradiction to the sentiments of others, and all
positive assertions of my own. I even forbade myself the use of
every word or expression in the language that imported a fixed
opinion, such as `certainly,' `undoubtedly,' etc., and I adopted,
instead of them, `I conceive,' `I apprehend,' or 'I imagine' a thing
to be so or so; or `it so appears to me at present.' When another
asserted something that I thought an error, I denied myself the
pleasure of contradicting him abruptly, and of showing immediately
some absurdity in his proposition: and in answering I began by
observing that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would
be right, but in the present case there appeared or seemed to me
some difference, etc.. I soon found the advantage of this change in
my manner; the conversations I engaged in went on more pleasantly.
The modest way in which I proposed my opinions procured them a
readier reception and less contradiction; I had less mortification
when I was found to be in the wrong, and I more easily prevailed
with others to give up their mistakes and join with me when I
happened to be in the right.
"And this mode, which I at first put on with some violence to
natural inclination, became at length so easy, and so habitual to
me, that perhaps for these fifty years past no one has ever heard a
dogmatical expression escape me. And to this habit (after my
character of integrity) I think it principally owing that I had
early so much weight with my fellow citizens when I proposed new
institutions, or alterations in the old, and so much influence in
public councils when I became a member; for I was but a bad speaker,
never eloquent, subject to much hesitation in my choice of words,
hardly correct in language, and yet I generally carried my points."
to a man he is incorrect.....? Is it going to make him like you? 99% of the time
arguments end with each of the contestants being more firmly convinced then ever
that they are the one who is absolutely right. You can't win an argument! This
is a VERY important point to understand. You can't; because if you lose
it; you lose it, and if you do win it you still lose it. Why is this? Suppose
you triumph over the other man and shoot his argument full of holes and prove
to his face that he is Non Compos Mentis. Then what? You will feel fine. But what
about the other man....? You have made him feel inferior. You have damaged his
pride and he will resent your triumph because of it.
convinced against his will - Is of the same opinion still.
times when you will be able to change another man's view point and times when it
is not worth all the tea in China to even try. As a result of it all, I have
come to the conclusion that there is only one sure fire way to get the best of
an argument 100% of the time and that is to avoid it! Avoid it as you would
avoid a snarling vicious Rottweiler at the end of a fragile leash hanging on
by it's last thread and ready to take your leg off.
opposite side of the coin is that we all make mistakes and if you know you are
wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically. Any fool can try to defend his
mistakes and most fools do just that, but it raises one well above the herd and
gives one a feeling of nobility and exaltation to admit one's mistakes. Isn't it
far better to beat the other fellow to it and do it ourselves? Isn't it much
easier to listen to self-criticism than to bear condemnation from foreign lips? Say about
yourself all the derogatory things you know the other person is thinking or
wants to say or intends to say and say them before he has a chance to say
them and you take the wind out of his sails. The chances are
that he will then take a generous, forgiving attitude and minimize your
mistakes. You can learn from everyone you meet if you allow yourself half a
change and as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:
"Every man I meet is my superior in some way.
In that, I learn of him."
As a young
foolish boy I remember arguing with my father over anything and everything and
he would simply agree with me to defuse the situation and then simply continue
on with greatly more important matters. At the time I thought him foolish, how
much I had to learn! I never recall my father arguing with anyone even when he
knew he was 100% correct. I didn't understand his logic at the time but now I
have learned what he knew so well then. The wiser a man is the less he feels he
needs to display it to the world with pointless arguments.
this..... Would you rather have an academic, theoretical victory or your fellow man's goodwill?
You can seldom have both.