How to Deal With Challenging Situations and People With Diplomacy and CivilityMarch 1, 2017

And When It Comes to Politics, Stay Neutral! By
March 1, 2017

How to Deal With Challenging Situations and People With Diplomacy and Civility

And When It Comes to Politics, Stay Neutral!

CIT-2017-03Mar-Issue-Column1-GloriaPetersen-860x418Petersen,Gloria-GlobalProtocol-110x140Gloria Petersen, CPP, The founder and president of Global Protocol Inc., Gloria is an author, trainer and speaker on Professional Presence, Business Etiquette and Protocol. She is a graduate of the Protocol School of Washington and has received numerous certifications. Her four-book series, The Art of Professional Connections and SME training modules represent her 30-year legacy. Learn more at or email her at

Ever wish that you could wave a magic wand and everyone would be respectful, civil and accommodating? Unfortunately, uncertain times brings discontent and confusion. Thus, it is more important than ever to deal with people, situations and one’s own behavior with diplomacy, dignity, finesse, tact and civility, thereby setting the better example. These are powerful “win-win” words. Here we will revisit the basics of effective communication.

Why and How

Why? Everyone’s basic need is to be respected, validated and liked. However, life happens and things can get out of control. People are human; they react (out of control) or they respond (in control) to a variety of situations. You are responsible for you!

How? Take the first step in handling any situation or individual by employing the appropriate tools: diplomacy, finesse, tact, dignity and civility. We hear these words, but do we know what they mean and how to use them effectively? Keep them in your “interaction tool box” and engage them as preventive measures for diffusing situations that could easily get out of control. This is especially true during these times of political uncertainly and international unrest. How a situation is handled, not the incident itself, is the key to a successful result.

The Tools You Need

Diplomacy is the skill of managing people, and the ability to communicate in a non-offensive manner. It also is the conduct by government officials to secure safe relations between nations. The way you present your views determines the outcome. When handling sensitive conversation topics or mistakes, a diplomatic approach allows you to remedy the situation without damaging the relationship. Instead of encouraging conflict, diplomacy resolves conflict. It consists of one’s mannerisms, demeanor, attitude and timing. Using personal diplomacy is your ability to get your point across without appearing pushy or dictatorial.
Diplomacy is the art of letting somebody else have your way. — David Frost

Dignity is an individual’s self-respect. It is something that should be given not taken. People need to have a sense of dignity about themselves regardless of what economic background they come from or awkward situation that just occurred. Maintain dignity (keep your head high) when things go wrong.
Freedom is the open window through which pours the sunlight of the human spirit and human dignity. — Herbert Hoover

Finesse is the skillful way you handle a difficult or highly sensitive situation. It is a technique that allows one to create a favorable or win-win result.
It’s best if you can do things with a sense of humor and finesse. — Eartha Kitt

Tact is the act of using gentle (non-offensive) language when dealing with controversial issues. Tact is knowing what to say to avoid giving offense, and how and when to say it. Tact is not just saying what the other party wants to hear, but it is choosing words that are not emotionally charged or confrontational, and are truthful. All the while demonstrating respect for the other person’s rank, position, stature, gender, age, nationality, ethnicity, whatever the case may be. Sometimes tact will mean not saying anything at all.
Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy. — Isaac Newton

Civility is politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech and is associated with good manners. A leader who has mastered civility can maintain balance in a disconnected environment. Civility creates a common bond and a more harmonious work environment. When you do not like someone, yet manage to treat him politely, you are being civil.
Politeness and civility are the best capital ever invested in business. — P. T. Barnum

Meeting an Immovable Object

You will come across people who are unchangeable, stubborn and a challenge to work with. Inflexible people use communication to be defensive, obnoxious or rude. They also find it hard to be open to another person’s point of view or way of doing things. An authentic professional does not react with the same behavior. It is hard to be difficult with someone who is respectful and in control. Keep the lines of communication open until agreements have been made or a situation has been remedied.

Consider the following scenarios:

Situation: You are asked in a meeting to give your opinion about someone else’s idea — an idea you do not feel is in the best interest of the organization, and you do not want to endorse it.

Diplomatic Answer: “I appreciate Jim’s idea. A strategy that I would like to employ involves…” (The answer should be the same whether this person is present or not.)

Situation: You are caught in a conversation that turns into a political debate on a topic about which you have strong opinions, and you do not want to add to the tension.

Diplomatic Answer: “I have strong feelings here as well; however, I feel it best to dwell on what we can control and keep our focus.” (You admit you have strong feelings; however, you elect to demonstrate respect.)

When to Avoid Politics

Professional meeting planners and their attendees would like to know how to deal with the elephant in the room — politics. They want to know how to avoid conversations that can turn heated and sometimes downright nasty. For instance, a colleague recently asked me how to tactfully avoid political conversations especially when diverse political decisions are creating new challenges and affecting our everyday effectiveness.

I suggested they listen carefully and respect other points of view! This is not easy. Especially when your viewpoint is strong and opposite. An exception may be if the situation warrants a debate, in which case it should be a healthy debate whereby points of view are shared and respected.

Here’s another question that is relevant today: How do you avoid crossing the line when the topics of racism, sexism as well as offensive terms always seem to come up?

Stay neutral! Realize that comments have a lot to do with how someone was raised or chooses to behave. Counter with a positive (non-defacing) comment. If you do not plug-in, the comment will lose its momentum. C&IT

Back To Top