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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Honesty And Diplomacy

We have always been taught that honesty is the best policy, and that to lie is a bad thing to do. As we grow older, we realise that in many situations it is a good idea to keep quiet or, better still, be diplomatic and tactfully handle sensitive issues. The line dividing honesty and diplomacy is a thin one. We have to be careful in deciding when to be honest and when to be at our diplomatic best. We also have to decide whether we should be absolutely candid, or use the truth as a matter of convenience.
    Our relationships demand complete honesty, or else, we get into trouble. In a household, for instance, the oldest member I  was quite diplomatic in commenting on the new cook’s unpalatable creations. Whatever he would cook, the cook would always be told that the food was ‘not bad’. I would avoid criticising the cook for the mediocre food he dished out. The situation worsened to a point when what was cooked was almost inedible. I could not take it anymore and screamed at the cook for serving such bad-tasting food. The cook was taken aback. From that day onwards, everything that I had diplomatically papered over started to show huge cracks. Daily fights and arguments became the order of the day and, one fine day, the cook simply left.
    Therefore, diplomacy or lack of honesty can lead to deterioration in our relationships. Before you decide to be totally frank, you must carefully analyse all consequences of your actions. While life needs a good mix of honesty and diplomacy, when to be honest and when to be diplomatic is a tough individual choice. Whatever we do must make us comfortable, peaceful and happy. An honest person will feel frustrated and restless when forced to be diplomatic against his will, while a diplomatic one will get highly stressed at the thought of speaking the plain truth. How to react in a situation also depends on what is at stake. If you want to be honest and speak your mind against your boss, you better be prepared to lose your job. If you tell your friend what you hate about him, it might end your friendship. Once you are ready to accept the consequences without regret or remorse, then you can be honest.
    Why do we become diplomatic when we know the obvious truth? Diplomacy is always an escape hatch that we use to avoid hurting others and ourselves. When the boy asks his girlfriend: “Am i looking fat?” and the girl answers honestly, “Yes, you have put on too much weight,” one can well imagine her boyfriend’s reactions. But if the girl speaks her mind and faces her boyfriend’s wrath out of genuine affection for him, it is likely that he will take the issue of weight control seriously. Diplomacy protects us in the short term, but it is honesty that brings long-term benefits and permanent gains.
    To be completely honest, you must ask yourself, “Why am i afraid of speaking the truth?’’ Diplomacy is for our self-protection and self-preservation. Our egos are too fragile to accept insult and criticism. Few of us would want to rock the boat by speaking the truth at work or home. We like to avoid confrontations. Honesty and diplomacy, however, are not mutually exclusive. It takes tact and courage to speak the truth at the right time in the right manner, without being abrasive.