Tuesday, 8 May 2007

The Art Of Diplomacy

A university lecturer of mine once told me I’d make a great diplomat because I laugh a lot. As well-intentioned as her comment was (she meant, I think, something along the lines of laughter setting a good vibe and making people happy and relaxed), she was overlooking some crucial traits a great diplomat ought to display, such as subtle political sensibilities, a commanding influence, and prowess in the delicate art of high-stakes negotiation – traits which are conspicuously lacking from my character. Contrary to her opinion, I harbour grave doubts about my ability to broker a history-making solution to the Iraq problem by chortling loudly at Dubya’s unfortunate mispronunciation of ‘Shi’ite Muslim.’

We should therefore all be grateful that I am not involved in minimising ethnic strife in Africa, mediating between China and Taiwan, or securing the disarmament of rogue nuclear states. However, there is still the issue of the petty politics of my daily life, which could clearly benefit from the wise guidance of a career stateswoman, but which, alas, I must navigate alone.

The two major obstacles to diplomatic détente, as I see them, are social ineptness borne of shyness, and a stubborn, proud refusal to lie about my feelings and opinions. I’m not so concerned about the former even though most people think I’m an utter twit for saying things like, “Yeah, she has a lot of mental problems,” when what I mean is, “She has a lot of issues weighing on her mind”. I just cross my fingers and hope they can see my verbal vomits for what they are – flustered attempts at conversation, with no malicious intent.

What gets me into awkward situations is the latter character flaw, when I’m forced to express some sort of opinion which, for the sake of ‘if you can’t say anything nice…’ I’d rather not. I dread pregnant acquaintances excitedly announcing the names they’ve chosen (“Neptune for a boy, and Rubella for a girl!”), or new parents proudly showing off their babies (every baby is beautiful – even the ones that look like weird little Jim Henson puppets). I fear being asked what I think of someone’s outfit or hairstyle. I’m ashamed to recall my final farewell to a roommate with whom I’d had a rocky relationship (she hugged me and said sincerely, “I really like you, you know.” I would never see her again and had the chance to release some good energy into the world by saying I liked her too, but instead I submitted limply and replied noncommittally, “Hmm”).

It’s one thing to be true to my feelings and express sincere opinions, but platitudes and evasion will not stave off a breakdown in diplomatic relations forever. I’ve come to the conclusion that sincerity is a two-edged sword that must be tempered with tact and John Howard-style non-core truths. It’s either that, or kick someone under the table next time they ask me in front of three bosses, “So, are you glad to be back at work?”

9 comments:

mutleythedog said...

Ilike your posts more every time I visit.

Lonie Polony said...

I choose to take that at face value :-)

Diesel said...

Neptune or Rubella, huh? Man, it's hard to know which to wish for on that one.

I suggest stuttering. It will give you some time to think before you say anything.

Food Kitty said...

Oh, you poor thing! Three bosses maens you're either in an ad agency or the public service - ghastly either way...

Lonie Polony said...

Diesel - actually, I quite like Rubella, as far as names of diseases go. Better than Candida (which, believe it or not, Mr. Lonie actually suggested for our child).

Foodkitty - great to hear from you! It's public service for me, and fortunately my bosses are nice, but at least if I worked in an ad agency I would be great at the whole lying and insincerity thing, right? ;p

mutleythedog said...

Clostridium would be a good name for a JK Rowling character..

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

Still time to call your old roommate and tell you like her in your own special way...:-)

My husband is totally undiplomatic, too, and it really makes me laugh.

mutleythedog said...

Did you pack this in Ms P?? This lets down lunchmeats everywhere you know..

Lonie Polony said...

Maryam - she's in Sweden somewhere, and I hope she forgives me for my immaturity.

Mutley - nah, just busy/tired all the time, plus Mr. Lonie has been hogging the computer. Honestly, you'd think my blogging would take precedence over his Masters degree, but that's selfishness for you!