Are you a natural diplomat? Or do you struggle to respond with sensitivity and tact, especially in stressful situations? And what does all this have to do with editing and proofreading?
Diplomacy is never far from the headlines, whether it’s the Brexit negotiations, ceasefires in long-running armed conflicts, or international agreements on emissions targets. Even if negotiations don’t take place in the public eye, we know they’re happening and we can see the results (or lack thereof).
Although such situations might seem rather remote from our daily lives, I think we probably all use more diplomacy on a day-to-day basis than we imagine. This was brought home to me recently by an incident involving a friend of mine (a fellow editor, although the situation wasn’t related to editing). This friend had managed to resolve a long-standing and seemingly intractable family problem by speaking separately, and with very well-chosen words, to each of the parties involved. The situation was quickly sorted out to everyone’s satisfaction. No one lost face, no one felt aggrieved, and no one was seen as ‘the bad guy’. I was seriously impressed with the way my friend had engineered this solution. It was pure genius!
Now, I wouldn’t call myself a natural diplomat. Yorkshire folk have a reputation for plain speaking and bluntness, and that’s often not conducive to approaching situations in a calm, measured way. Add to that my tendency to try to make a joke out of everything and it’s safe to say that I’m not going to be leading international peace talks any time soon.
But in the world of editing and proofreading – particularly the freelance variety – there are plenty of scenarios in which a pinch of diplomacy can go a long way.
Being a freelance editorial professional involves much more than the mechanics of editing and proofreading. As well as all the requirements of running a business – marketing, keeping on top of the accounts, planning and advertising, to name but a few – it involves building relationships. That’s where diplomacy comes in. It’s a question of taking a position, thinking about how rigidly you need to stick to it, considering the ramifications, and communicating effectively with others without causing offence or undermining your own position. Here are some common-sense tips.
Admittedly, these tips are unlikely to secure you a place at an international negotiation table, but you might find them useful in running your editorial business. And although diplomacy – like good editing – often goes unnoticed, your clients, colleagues and family members are still likely to appreciate it, and they’ll certainly notice if it’s absent!