Empathetic Diplomacy

Empathetic Diplomacy is a phrase that was originally coined to introduce empathy as a crucial element in international negotiations. In everyday life, empathetic diplomacy has a broader scope. It can help anyone communicate with grace and build stronger relationships, leading to more fulfilling partnerships.


Imagine that the kings of two warring lands are trying to find peace, but every time they meet, no peace is made. Frustrated, they say that they will send emissaries to negotiate. However, unbeknown to either of them, each one sends himself, disguised as an emissary, to gain the upper hand. When they meet in disguise, the conversation reveals a hidden truth in their relationship. Both have recently lost a young son to military endeavors. When they realize their connection and their shared grief, they reveal their true identities as the kings of their respective lands. With a new and heartfelt reason to work and prosper together they save many future sons from dying.


This parable highlights the power of empathy to change relationships, political and personal. Successful diplomacy is created by connecting empathetically, human to human, from the heart.




Human energetic fields generated by the heart are interrelated, and act to amplify and mutually reinforce one other. When one person increases an empathetic vibration by revealing sincere, positive emotions, such as appreciation and care, the other person’s field changes too. Mutual connection and shared principles lead to shared solutions, and increase the probability of success.


Here are 5 ways to use empathetic diplomacy to enhance your communication and build stronger relationships:


#1 Connect with the person, not the role.

With empathy as your tool of choice in complex emotional situations, you will develop connections with others whose humanity is at their core. Empathy guides you to see the person first, and the role they are playing second. This creates a container where solutions can be hashed out in a neutral way, because empathy takes other people’s feelings into account. 


#2 Create space for unknowns.

There are no for-sure-sies in negotiation, nor in life. No one knows what's going to happen. There is only probability. For this reason, it is important to leave space for a wildcard situation and experience. For example, you might show up for an exciting new client or a date. The person cancels at the last second, apologetic but none the less not there. If you react and make assumptions, you’re likely to hurt the chance for the relationship to grow. On the other hand, if you choose to use your newly freed time productively, without animosity, you can create opportunity from chaos. Creating space for the unknown helps you pivot, and make the most of unexpected change. 


#3 Context helps smooth out sharp corners.

Ever listen to music with lyrics you didn't like? What conclusions did you come to about the artist? How might your conclusion change if there were more context to explain why the artist wrote that song? 


It's important to seek context, even if the information doesn't change your conclusion. By asking questions to induce insight, you gain the ability to gracefully navigate sharp turns that would otherwise have thrown you off course.


#4 Relate authentically.

Showboating, power trips and pomp and circumstance won't help when you're trying to relate with empathy. When you find ways to connect with the other person through similarities, and not the differences that separate you, the two of you will learn how your similarities can become assets. You’ll build common ground, and discover a trust bridge.


#5 We are all a work in progress.

So much decision making is influenced by how you relate to others and how you think others are relating to you. When you recognize that everyone is a work in progress, in a sense you lighten the load. You relieve the brain of making choices with only the ego as your guide. Instead, you focus the heart on creating a more equal world. The best solutions are created with a growth mindset.


Copyright Darren Becket