Delegates at the U.N. learn to recognize the limitations of the people they are working with. Every negotiation involves egos, emotions, feelings, deep-rooted values, different backgrounds, and conflicting viewpoints. Therefore the process of negotiations always contains an element of unpredictability. Many seasoned diplomats give extra weight to psychological factors in their negotiations and diplomatic strategies. The best diplomats easily discern what will influence and compel others to take actions they would not otherwise take. The ability to judge another person’s character is an important skill if a diplomat wants to persuade or influence others during a discussion or negotiation.
Mature diplomats always strive to separate their personal feeling from the process and the issue, yet even these professionals are inclined to invest emotional investment will be positive and can actually help obtaining commitments from others to reach solutions. However, the emotions can also be negative, leading a diplomat to cling to irrational beliefs or stubborn positions. Misunderstandings reinforce prejudice and are counterproductive. To compound the problem, the multilateral diplomatic process always includes several languages, inviting difficulties in definitions and other misinterpretations.
Diplomats curtail misunderstandings through precise and coherent communications. Communication is the essence of diplomacy. A post at the U.N. requires the ability to communicate not only publicly in the General Assembly but, more importantly, informally on an individual basis. After all, most of the work on resolutions at the U.N. is done in informal consultations. Resolutions merely establish national positions for the record and embody the formal result of what was accomplished outside the General Assembly Hall.
Delegates at the U.N. have numerous ways of communicating their government’s positions, ideas and proposal to the rest of the international community. Or course, making statements and speeches in a meeting is what most people see or read about in the press. These speeches are carefully prepared with specific objectives in mind. Given that the U.N. is a public forum, effective diplomats often state their government’s thoughts or intentions on an issue that is either directed towards their domestic constituency, a foreign audience, or both. The overriding factor when crafting a public speech is the fact that it is on the record and is often analyzed by both the press and other governments. In these situations, the more effective orators can accomplish an even greater result – persuasion. Eloquence and the command of language (English and French are dominant working languages at the United Nations) not only present a government’s policies lucidly, but can build confidence among other delegates in the speaker’s credibility and position on an issue.
Diplomats complement their public remarks with written communications such as diplomatic notes, communiques, and letters. Much of this communication is not bound in protocol and standardized styles. Titles, salutations, and format are strictly followed. Written communications are particularly important in diplomacy because they are official documents which governments are held accountable to in their relations with other nations.
Informal communication between diplomats help alleviate apprehensions and suspicions, while a good sense of humor is essential in order to ease tensions. Diplomats are often more productive in their negotiations when the process is not in the public eye. Experience has clearly demonstrated that the informal approach at the U.N. permits delegates to be more flexible in their bargaining, which facilitates the consensus-building process. Conflicting positions, for instance, might be explained over a drink for the sake of achieving trust. Yet, it is very important to knows that the functions of receptions, cocktail and dinner parties, or even a chat in a bar is to facilitate diplomatic communications, no to get intoxicated. In fact, most diplomats rarely drink to excess because they are still formally representing their governments at social engagements. More importantly, if a diplomat loses control or his or her judgement is impaired from alcohol, he or she actually becomes a risk to their country’s national security and will undoubtedly miss crucial diplomatic opportunities. Social functions are often more work than play for diplomats.
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