The art of diplomacy in the face of indignant disregard

Self Portrait by Ruth Kristoff


It took me years to understand the concept, and even longer to build it into my …presentation. Truth is truth, right?

Sometimes, practicing the diplomatic delivery of truth ends with a very bloody tongue. I had thought my tongue would heal from Monday’s practice session, but it ended with yet another round today:

“I am well educated and worked at the corporate level. I demand what I have coming to me.”

Oh, bite my tongue, and bite it hard. What I wanted to say in reply was “So, you’re better than everyone else?”

What I did say was, “This is based on law. The applicable laws were stated in your determination. The law is the law. Where there is any room for interpretation to apply those laws to your situation is outlined in the Reasoning and Conclusion section.”

Oh, my sore tongue. She insisted on being bumped up on the docket. She knows the governor, she had dinner with him before. She can call him and voice the injustices she is suffering.

“Good,” I said. “Go ahead and call the governor and state the laws you are wishing to address and see what he says. I suggest you frame your argument based on those laws. He is a lawyer, you know.”

“You are responsible,” she retorts back. “You see these wrongs and it is your responsibility to do something about it. But, all you workers are worried about is keeping your jobs instead of doing what’s right. You should forget about keeping your jobs and do whatever it takes to right the injustices.”

Well, yeah, and I plan to keep my job. Have you noticed the high rate of unemployment out there, you educated brat, and have you noticed the lack of jobs? No? Oh, the end of my tongue was almost bit through at this point.

“Since you are educated, you know what it takes to change a law, and that through legislation. My responsibility is to advise you of your rights and responsibilities based on the applicable law. In that way, I am able to help many people, some of which are in the same position you are,” I bantered back. I was happy she was on the phone and not watching my face contort in the extreme amount of effort it took to continue my part of the conversation in a diplomatic way. Only those that know me know that cold, steely, big words come out of my mouth only when I am pissed.

It must have been the week for me to get in some serious practice in diplomacy. Oh, my tongue was almost healed from this first incident:

Yep. On Monday, my cell phone rang and rang. Text messages kept flying in one after the other, all saying the same thing: “Call or come in.” I shot back a hurried email once that said, “I can’t take a breath, let alone a break.” When I was in the ladies room sitting on the porcelain throne, I hammered out a few text messages saying “I know you’re angry with me, but I am super busy at work right now.”

Despite my efforts to communicate my unavailability, the phone calls continued. The grand total for the day was well over 30. Sorry folks, but that was way past the point of acceptability. That is not persistence. That is not assertiveness. No. It was blatant, indignant disregard. Being in diplomatic mode, my email the next day said, “Since this is the job that pays the bills, it takes priority.” Sorry, Charlie. That’s the way it is. Deal with it.

Diplomacy is an art. Practicing diplomacy means a sore and bloody tongue. Practicing diplomacy in the face of indignant disregard? Well, I either have to practice more and hope I have a tongue left, or throw it out the window and blast away.

Yeah, I’ll keep practicing. Can you put a band-aid on a tongue?
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