Image by Patrick Gruban, courtesy of Creative Commons
Diplomacy. The word describes the representation of your country in international relations as well as the skill, flexibility and good judgment needed in dealing with a difficult situation. It is a profession as well as a vast area of expertise used in all areas of negotiation and relationships. The main tasks of the diplomat, quoted from the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are:
- Protection of your country’s interests
- Promoting bilateral relations
An exceptional skill set is required for candidates who wish to embrace the diplomatic profession to fulfil all these functions. Jacques, a French diplomat who has performed various diplomatic missions in Eastern Europe and Asia, discusses the various attributes he developed in order to conduct his profession.
"Being able to adapt easily and rapidly to the country you are based in is vital: engage with the workings of the country, its politics, and understand its historical, social and economic behaviours."
"Understand the views and issues of the country as well as your own role within it, and analyse technical issues with finesse in order to rapidly understand and evaluate the topics discussed."
Flexibility of reasoning
"Interlocutors in your host country will not have the same model of reasoning as yourself. Knowing the country’s culture is vital to understand and adapt to other modes of logic."
"Being able to build a solid network of relationships is crucial in order to have adequate contacts in place that you can call on for particular requests, or in a conflict."
"Mastering the art of mediating between countries can be a challenging endeavour. The rules differ from one state to another. For some, the aim will be to reach the same position on a subject with mutual compromises, while for others the aim will be to dominate the other party. The most important thing is to keep the discussion flowing so that you can rephrase your argument to reach your goal."
Diplomacy requires a fair share of both verbal and non-verbal communication. International languages, and English in particular, are essential in order to communicate directly in negotiations. When hiring an interpreter, “the interpreter interprets what he wants to interpret,” says Jacques. “The numerous shades of grey you wish to convey are not always translated.” It is therefore vital to learn the language of the country, or at the very least its basics, which will allow direct contact with the interlocutor.
Immersion in the language of the country allows you access to the thought structure of its inhabitants, and earns you respect and sympathy. It is also important to know the culture of the country to find out subtle variations in word meaning, and to develop your non-verbal communication skills. Undertaking a language course in adolescence is an important first step towards a successful international career, one that develops the skills of adaptability, openness, language learning and tact.
For those wishing to move towards careers in diplomacy, OISE has developed the Future Diplomat programme. The various modules incorporate not only the study of English language and study of current major international issues, but also the art of diplomacy, presentation development and communication skills.
Discover the Future Diplomat programme set in Eynsham Hall in Oxfordshire.