Recently, I was in a wedding with a large number of bridesmaids and a bridezilla who struggled to provide some kind of leadership for the group. As a result, there was miscommunication and a mind field of emotions to traverse. Once the wedding was over, one of the bridesmaids sent me a text message that said, “A diplomat is a person who can tell you in such a way to go jump off a bridge with cement shoes on, that you actually look forward to the adventure. You are the quintessential diplomat in my book! Thank you for helping us girls as we all struggled to figure out what was going on and what we were supposed to do.”
That text message spurned me into deep thought. Where did I acquire such diplomacy skills? Maybe I should put in a bid for political office? When I finally came to my senses, it dawned on me that I work in an industry in which there is a tendency towards unreasonable expectations. Part of my job is to be the voice of reason, to find solutions and to deliver these solutions so that all parties walk away from the table feeling like business was handled in a professional manner and they received a fair deal. With a little diplomacy, I usually can alter the path from unreasonable expectations and disappointment to fair business practices and customer satisfaction.
Diplomacy can be as simple as how you communicate with your clients. For example, a service advisor calls to speak with a customer who dropped off their vehicle for an oil change. “Well, I have bad news. I know you brought in your car for an oil change, but the technician discovered you need a new fuel filter and a couple of belts….” If I were the customer, you would have lost me at “bad news.” My thoughts would have shifted from excited that my car was finished to “how much is this going to cost me?” With a little diplomacy, the conversation and outcome can be shifted. “While your car was getting an oil change, our technician preformed a courtesy inspection of your vehicle to ensure safety and performance. Lucky for us both, the technician discovered that you need a fuel filter and a couple of belts. Since you car is already here at the dealership, I can save you a little time and money and get that done for you today.”
Diplomacy can be as straightforward as taking that extra mile, yard, foot or inch. Don’t tell someone where something or someone is, actually walk with them and take them to that spot. Be your word and not a bunch of intentions to do something. Smile and make eye contact because everyone wants to be treated like they are special. Look for ways to make a difference and act on them. When you make a promise or an offer, exceed the expectation by delivering just a little more.
Diplomacy can also be as effortless as just listening. When unreasonable expectations loom over moving a process forward, I close my mouth and open my ears. I listen for what the upset is. I listen and listen until the awkward silence tells me that it is my turn to jump into action. Sometimes, I discover that the upset is really not an upset at all, just a desire for someone to appreciate and understand a viewpoint. Sometimes, the upset person resolves the problem by just being heard. Sometimes, the upset and solution are presented to me as a package deal. Rarely, after listening intently am I left with an upset that does not have a resolution.
When employing diplomacy as part of the skills for completing your job, think glass half full over glass half empty. A little optimism and a positive outlook can provide immunity for unreasonable expectations.