How To Be Diplomatic
Sometimes You Don’t Have A Minute To Breath.
When I first entered the Chinese IT market, I understood that Google and Vodafone had just exited China in a big bad way. I understood asking them to let me get back bone access to China Unicom and Telecom being a foreign company, was a little insane. I also understood that walking into a government building where armed guards with machine guns and tactical training (who had automatic permission to kill me if I stepped out of line), was heavily present beside me when I walked up to Chinese diplomats.
That’s pressure you cannot imagine. It was a business meeting but it was also a government meeting. Was I worth their time, worth giving access to, worth trusting? Despite being 75% Chinese, I am 3rd generation born in Canada, my name is distinctly not Chinese, and there are details about my original Chinese surname that could also possibly be Korean. These were the kinds of details they knew before I walked in. That’s not an easy google since I don’t advertise my entire lineage online. But they knew things about my family I didn’t know and was learning about for the first time in that meeting. Shocking? Yes. Was I sweating profusely from everywhere? Yes.
But the end result of all those under the microscope meetings, was that I succeeded. Techrich corporation became the first ever Western owned and operated company to have back bone access in China and Hong Kong. To put this into perspective, no one else has done this.
How the heck did that miracle happen? It all boiled down to how Diplomatic I was.
I was honest, humble and patient. If they wanted to cancel the meeting 8 times in a row only to reschedule it in a different city for the next day at 7am, only to have me get there and find them cancelling again, I accepted it. I smiled it off and said I understand, you are officials and are very busy. I’m grateful that you let me know you’re canceling for another day. It takes God level patience and I have honed that skill for my entire professional life. Setting up a business is stressful and you have to learn to not only have a thick skin, but be patient. Getting emotional, angry and impatient only harms you during any situation.
So what is the right formula for how to remain diplomatic during a tough situation. It’s 3 things actually that all come together.
- Be patient and humble – Having a big ego and being impatient, irrational and erratic are your enemies and can result in a bad outcome. Get them under control by practicing being calm daily. If you see an opportunity to help mediate at work or at home- take it and practice practice, practice. It will become a part of nature eventually.
- Be your own personal diplomat. With social media it’s easy to let your emotions run but be diplomatic even if what you have to say is negative. During my time in Asia and China, at times it was extremely difficult to handle feeling belittled when government officials were canceling meeting after meeting. They were putting me threw hoops and they did it deliberately. They weren’t verbally abusive, no they were very nice to me as they told me ‘its canceled again’. But this was a test, can I remain diplomatic even when I felt like it was unfair. I know I’m a good person, that I’m honest and trustworthy, but they don’t know that. They just see me as yet another foreigner who will at a whim turn against the country and it’s people. They have a history of foreign companies coming and abusing the Chinese workforce and then pretending like it was all China’s fault. I had to be neutral. They asked me questions on how I felt about their Great firewall, their political stand, their communist party. These were uncalled for and tough questions. I answered neutrally- “Every country has their good and bad points, and China has done well to help develop their economy and build up their middle class. There’s things every country can work on, not just China.” You too can apply this to your job. With your boss, with your coworkers, with toxic coworkers and difficult high pressure situations with clients. If you think and practice honesty and being diplomatic, it will eventually, (like with patience), become natural to you.
- Know your self worth. If your boss is screaming and hurdling insults to your face, you don’t have to take that. But say nothing, let them vent. And then put them in their place. This applies to coworkers, toxic coworkers and people in general. Understand them reacting doesn’t mean you need to react, you only need to let them spill out their childish banter and then set the record straight without confrontation or disrespect. Especially during work situations. Even if there is no shouting and just them being ‘jerks’, always smile and know you don’t need to stoop to their level, but you also don’t need to take that kind of crap because you’re level is a bit above them- in character. Smirk, give a small laugh, or just sigh at how pathetic they’re being but don’t give them the satisfaction of conjuring your reaction. You’re better than that. You don’t need to bully back, you just need to set the record straight. A simple ‘excuse me, that could have been said more respectfully’ can shut down a bully pretty fast.
So that’s it- those 3 things are the 3 things you should practice every day. I mean every day. Let’s say the power went off while you’re in the shower and now your chicken dinner in the oven is half cooked, and there’s a garbage fire, it’s fine. You will remain calm, you don’t need a minute to breath, use that minute to plan. Gas power needs to be turned off. You need to secure candles and flashlights. You need to make sure your kids and family are safe. That chickens done for, but that’s okay there’s always take out. The garbage fire, put it out. Then pat your back for a job well done because you handled that like a master Mr./Ms Diplomat.
Now go, show the world how put together and stable you are. And how you’re an asset for any company.
Good luck friends.