Social Sciences and Humanity Studies Academic Blog

Good and Bad: Communication and Diplomacy

Posted in Bachelor in Media Studies, Prem Luitel, Blogging, My life by Shekhar on March 28, 2013

By: Shekhar KC, MDEVS

Abstract: This text[1] illustrates the two of my real-life experiences that involves the role of communication in maintaining diplomacy[2] with my senior professor.

Communication and diplomacy

Communication is to diplomacy as blood is to the human body (Jonsson & Hall, 2002). As the saying implies, it’s impossible to underestimate the decisive role of communication in maintaining relation between two or more parties and the fulfillment of their respective diplomacy. Good and bad communication directly leads to favorable or disaster consequences. Scholars acknowledge that Diplomacy still rests on the creative combination of verbal and non-verbal communication (Jonsson & Hall, 2002). In addition to that cultural understanding is very important while communicating with the partners, especially they happen to be a new one  (Slavik, 2004).

Caroline (2011) writes that diplomats don’t only talk with other diplomats but also engage wide pool of stakeholder in the relationship building process. To give example media publish news not only on the basis of the press release issue by the embassies after the diplomatic visits but also on the basis of the nonverbal traits of two parties. In other words, if diplomacy is understood in one way as the proper mechanism to building positive relationship so as to reap benefit and fulfill the objective of the interaction, then it’s crucial to communication properly.

There are various examples of good and bad communication leading to diverse nature of diplomatic consequences in the international scenario but here I would like to talk about my own student and professional life experiences to demonstrate how good or bad communication leads to good or bad incidents especially when it involves cultural perception of relationship between communicating parties.

Case 1: Good Diplomacy

Getting paid from the Boss

Global Foundation (name changed) is a non-for profit governmental organization working in research sector since 2008. I was involved in one research project for 3 month as a Research Assistant on contract basis. The research director Mr X was the PhD supervisor of Mr Y and Mr Y was my thesis supervisor. That is to say, Mr X was not only related to me as a professional colleague but a senior academician that involves some cultural obligations that includes proper greetings and humble communication from my side and more importantly no direct or harsh statement.

My objective of interaction with the organization was to get paid in time through and maintain my professional and academic relationship with the Mr X, the director of research.

My communication strategies

–          Since I can’t talk explicitly with the Research director about my payment, I had to talk to someone else who is near to hi. As the research director was far senior than me and he rarely know how important it was to for me to get paid, I had to talk to someone who can convey the message regarding how important money was for me at that particular time. So talk with Mr Y, who was my supervisor as well as the student of the research director Mr X. hence I was able to retain my image of a student with Mr Y and Mr X. Similarly I got money in time. Everyone was happy.

–          Another problem I faced was delay in my payment because I was just a student, aggressively working but not being acknowledged financially. Every staff who were senior and already established within the organization were paid but except me because I couldn’t assert my share to them as it was first time for me to claim money. I couldn’t take help of Mr Y this time because it would sound too dependable, something against my self reliance. So what I did was remain absent in home making some emergencies excuses. The impact was directly on the research project because the deadline was arriving and my portion of work was yet to be done (which I knew I could do it in 3 days and it was 17 days remaining for deadline). After 4-5 days, the research director called me and asked about my emergencies. I tactically said that I needed some money and I was busy with collecting money from some of my relative whom I have lent some months back. Through that call, he was convinced about my financial need. On the other hand, I had already done enough work to receive some 10 thousand rupees. The next day he ordered his accountant to give some amount to me. The way I was asked was also very tactical. The accountant telephoned me and said my check had already arrived some days back.

I understood this is the way payment system works in NGOs of Nepal where money matter is always diplomatic.

Hence this combination of verbal and non-verbal communication I was able to get money and there was no damage to our relationship.

Summary: Remaining diplomatic to the research direction was very important because maintaining relationship with him was as important as getting paid. Also I knew I had future opportunities to work with him and I wasn’t going to miss that at any cost. He was a renowned researcher and media personality, everyone like me would like to work with him.

 

Case 2: Bad diplomacy

Kathmandu University SWC and administration

KUSWC (Kathmandu University School Welfare Council) is a student body of Kathmandu University whose president is also a senate member of KU, so it can be considered an influential decision making body. Currently it is defunct as it was unable to convince the KU administration as the constructive body to lead student issues in proper manner. The relationship between KUSWC and KU Administration was never a good one. They communicated very badly with each other. More than that KUSWC which was relatively far weaker than KU should have dealt diplomatically so as to sustain its existence but failed to do so.

Some of the wild activities of KUSWC that convey bad communication were

–          portray its students representatives as being affiliated to some powerful mainstream parties

–          stick the press release in a very cynical manner throwing direct criticism to KU administration

–          Use handwritten instead of typed words in the press release.

–          Be loyal to Non-KU stakeholders like mainstream political parties than to KU students.

Above activities convey very bad message that pose threat to the student friendly environment. KU SWC was unable to fulfill objectives of leading KU students and extracurricular activities like sports week and Annual KU Festival. It was the loss of students and the SWC due to bad communication. It didn’t consider the cultural perception of students and other KU stakeholders if SWC tried to inject political elements inside a private university. It can be considered as an example of a bad diplomacy because cultural perception was missing there (Slavik, 2004).

Inorder to maintain the relationship, KUSWC should have

–          convinced that they were loyal to KU students

–          organize student interaction activities

–          invite KU administrative officers in different student related programs

–          exchange of good will and commitment to work for the mission and vision of KU

Summary: the weaker party has to present itself as humble and non-aggressive party, not necessarily inferior, if it is to negotiate with stronger party. The general scenario of mixing politics in education scenario is not perceived positively because the culture of politics in Nepal is not good. So, cultural elements should be considered while design communication strategies.

Conclusion

It is so obvious that diplomacy directly relates to good and bad communication but it again depends upon cultural understanding of the particular issues. Whether it is relationship building or power sharing, it is necessary for communicating parties to communicate with cultural consideration so that relationship is balanced. Otherwise everyone knows –Good communication lead to benefits while bad leads to disaster.

References

Carolin. (2011, January 11). Diplomacy Revised. Retrieved March 29, 2013, from The New Diplomacy A: http://thenewdiplomacya.blogspot.com/search/label/new%20vs%20old%20diplomacy

Jonsson, C., & Hall, M. (2002). Communication: An Essential Aspect of Diplomacy. Department of political science, Lund University. LA: 43rd Annual ISA Convention.

Slavik, H. (2004). Intercultural Communication and Diplomacy. DiploFoundation.


[1] This text was the part of the assignment submitted to Dr Mahesh Banskota for the subject ‘India and China diplomacy with Nepal’ under Masters in Development Studies

[2] The question to be answered as the part of the assignment was – “Communication is the essence of diplomacy. There has never been a good diplomat who was a bad communicator.” Stearns, (cited in Jönsson and Hall, 2005 p. 67). Give one example each of two situations of good and bad communicators and give reasons for your selection.

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Ethics in Communication

Posted in My life by Shekhar on February 23, 2012

 


Communication according to Eunson (2005) is understood as a ‘the study of transfer of meaning’ (p. 2). Adhikary (2008a, p.3) explains communication as ‘process, human act and discipline of knowledge’ while also suggesting the consideration of ‘context’ to know what dimensions of communication are in current discourse. It is to be noted that communication as a discipline of knowledge or process does not find much relevance in combination with the notion of ethics so the discourse of ethics in communication directly leads to the details of ethical standards maintained by communication practitioners. According to Adhikary (2006), these ethical standards are further based on different ‘principles, religion and culture’ (p.6) which defines what is wrong and right. For example broadcasting the movie American Pie in Jay Nepal Hall may not be unanimously acceptable for Nepalese society because the culture of nudity is not accepted by Nepalese society and hence recognizing such phenomenon as unethical. Similarly, broadcasting the video clips showing someone beheading cow may not be appropriate to be broadcasted in Nepali Televisions because that hurts the Nepali sentiment but that does not mean that it cannot be broadcasted in other countries where people have no problem seeing such clip. The ‘Context’ aforementioned also means to explain that the same act may be ethical in some context but directly rejected somewhere else.

Communication as a profession refers to media practices and simultaneously our dealing with ethics in communication discourse automatically link us to the issues of ethics in those practices. The notion of ethics in ‘communication as a discipline’ comes into light when there is incorporation of ethics as a subject within the curriculum of communication studies (Adhikary, 2008b, p.293).

Ethics in communication as a concept refers to the state of ethical considerations in communication practices. The term ‘ethics’ and ‘communication’ have their diverse meanings and definitions. The dictionary meaning of communication is- ‘the exchange of thoughts, messages or information, as by speech, signals, writing or behavior’ while McQuail defines communication as ‘process of increased commonality or sharing between participants’ (Adhikary, 2008, p.5). Similarly ethics is a system of principle that guides action according to Potter ( Potter, 2006:55 as cited in KC, 2009, p.7) while Adhikary (2006) relates ethics with distinguishing between good and evil in the world, between right and wrong human actions, and between virtuous and non-virtuous characteristics of people (p.1).

Ethics in communication as a concept is a wide discourse among development thinkers and media professionals because media in today’s dynamic age has to deal with many controversial issues during which might create confusions and never-ending debate among practitioners while taking decision regarding what is right and wrong. In such situation, ethics provides guidelines to take appropriate decision. For Nepal, Journalistic code of conduct issued by Press Council Nepal is such an example.

How to decide whether the act or decision made by communication practitioners are moral or not? One may find several approaches to analyze the phenomenon but no one can deny that everybody should follow some universally accepted values like humanity, brotherhood or fraternity and non violence. The central idea is the inquiry towards the morality of the behavior or actions depending upon the standard of values and norms followed in the particular society. These codes of behaviors are further explained by different principles and theories including categorical imperatives, Golden Rule, Stuart Mill’s theory of utilitarianism and social relativism (Wimmer & Dominick, 2011, p. 66). The answers might differ from eastern and western perspectives because they both have their own ethical standards.

There has been literature on ethical practices in media in south Asia by Kshetri (2009, p. 25) where the present condition of media ethics in Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives, Afghanistan is explored. In context of Nepal, Kshetri has given his critical review over the unethical media practices of the then only state-owned Gorkhapatra Sansthan, which used to publish the content just to portray loyalty to Royal families instead of correctly informing people (p. 31). Similarly, Bhuwan KC (2009) explores the practice of journalistic ethics in Nepal where he states that the practice of ethics in Nepali media was challenging because Nepali journalism has its history of advocating for political cause for a long time (p. 22).

Hence, it is safe to infer from aforementioned examples that ethics in communication practices varies from context as well as different ethical theories and principles that guides the particular society. In addition, this discourse gives space for other thinkers to make necessary ethical enquiry into several dimensions of communication as well.

 

References

Adhikary, N.M. (2006). Studying Mass media Ethics. Kathmandu: Prashanti Pustak Bhandar

Adhikary, N.M. (2008a). Communication, media and journalism An integrated study. Kathmandu: Martine Chautari

Adhikary, N.M. (2008b). Nepalima Media neetisastra adhyaan. In D. Humagai, P. Onta, S. Parajuli, K. Bhatta (Ed.), Media Adhyaan (pp293-305). Kathmandu: Martin Chautari

Bhuwan, K.C. (2009). Practice of journalistic Ethics in Nepal. In. Bhuwan KC (Ed.), MBM methodology of Media Ethics (pp 7-24). Kathmandu: Madan Bhandari Memorial College

Eunson, B. (2005). Communicating in the 21st century. Sydney:John Wiley & Sons Australia ltd.

Kshetri, I.D. (2009). Ethical practices in media in south Asia. In. Bhuwan KC (Ed.), MBM methodology of Media Ethicsi(pp 25-46). Kathmandu: Madan Bhandari Memorial College

Wimmer, Roger D., and Joseph R. Dominick. (2011). Mass Media Research An Introduction. 9th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2003