The Art of Diplomacy – How to Tell People Where to Go Without Being Rude


The Art of Diplomacy – How to Tell People Where to Go Without Being Rude

More than ever we have to watch what we say, how we say it and who we say it to.

It is getting harder and harder to say what you think without some overzealous grammar Nazi, nasty troll, or a well-meaning person jumping down your throat saying, “You can’t say that” or triggering someone who receives the message in a way that was unintended.

Even as I write this piece, I am being careful about what I say and how I say it because I don’t want to offend anyone or cause outrage. OMG, it’s exhausting trying to work out what all the rules are for expressing your opinions and communicating with other humans.

Who would have thought in this age of social media and the plethora of ways there are to speak your mind, we would become so hobbled?

When it comes to business communications, it is important to be professional so we do not alienate would be clients and upset our existing ones.

The art of diplomacy.

Sometimes things happen in business, where it would be nice to say exactly what we are thinking. However, that is not always what is best for business. This is where tact, diplomacy and knowing when to hold your tongue, or fingers, comes in handy.

Quite often, when it comes to misunderstandings or conflict in business, many of us run for the hills because we do not know how to respond in certain situations. Or we say the wrong thing because no one really teaches you how to deal with difficult clients or negative reviews. Often, ignoring something and hoping it will go away is not a good strategy.

Which brings me to the topic of this piece:

How do you tell people who are annoying you, taking advantage of you, making life difficult for you, to back off, go away and pull their head in without really saying what you want to say; f$#k off, dude, leave me alone.

If you are in business and putting yourself out there, chances are you are going to attract negative comments, reviews and feedback at some stage of your journey. Chances are you will work with the client from hell or will run into the king or queen of annoying at a networking event. How do you deal with that? How do you get across your point of view without making the situation worse?

I always come back to something my nan said, “If you can’t say something nice, do not say anything at all.” My twist is, “If you can saying anything nice, be unfailingly polite and courteous to protect your reputation.” There are some people who can’t help but whinge, complain and be nasty; your best approach is to be polite and diplomatic.

Here is my spin on ways to tell people where to go without being rude:

1. Negative reviews.

Hate them or love them; negative reviews can impact how people see your business. For those who take the time to look deeper, an occasional negative nelly will not stop them from reaching out to you.

Who’s ever been tempted to write ‘go away, you are whinging tosser. Get a life’? As good as that may feel, it will not win you friends. In my book, you never ignore a negative comment or feedback (you just don’t engage beyond the initial response).

If someone writes or says something negative about your business, here is how you can respond:

“Hi person, thanks so much for taking the time to give us feedback. We really appreciate hearing from everyone we do business with, it helps us improve. We’re sorry you had that experience. I can assure you we take all feedback seriously.”

You’re not telling fibs; it is good to get feedback.

2. Client/customer from hell.

Ah, the bane of many businesses. The ones that irk me the most are the people you have given a discount to or gone above and beyond for, but nothing is ever good enough for them. You don’t respond to emails fast enough. You don’t return calls promptly (like 30 seconds after they call). You are not perfection personified, and every little mistake is a full-blown crisis.

This is where setting up expectations from the word go is vital. Make sure you have rock solid terms and conditions. Shalini Nandan from Legally Shalini says it is your job to train your client from the get-go and having a good contract is the foundation to do this.

If this does not work, dig deep for your inner diplomat – Apologise; you can be right, or you can be happy. It is not worth getting into an argument.

Remind your client of your communication terms and conditions, so expectations are managed:

“Hi client, I totally get how frustrating it is when messages are not answered straight away. I will endeavour to be more prompt in responding to you. Just to make it easier, when you send me a message, can we agree to use email instead of Facebook Messenger; I get so many messages there it gets overwhelming. Because you are important to me, I do not want to miss any. If it is really urgent, please call me. I always have my phone on me.”

3. Asking stupid questions.

Do you ever feel like some people you are dealing with are really toddlers in an adult’s body? You post an event, all the details are there, but you are inundated with messages about where is it, what time does it start, how long does it go for? You check the event listing, yes, all the info is there, the person has not bothered to actually read the information.

Instead of being snarky and making them feel silly that they have not looked, send them a nice message saying how much you look forward to seeing them and here is all the information:

“Hi person, it will be great to have you at my event. Here are all the details you need:

  • Date:
  • Time:
  • Venue:
  • Booking link:

I look forward to seeing you there.”

Strive to be the bigger person. It may cost you a little more to be nice when you would rather not, but deep down you will be happier for it.

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  • Vatsala Shukla

    Sometimes, even the most professional business person can be left wondering if they were hiding behind the barn door when the quality of diplomacy was being gifted out by God, Annette.

    Good tactics to avoid creating ill-will and at some point or the other, we as small business owners do face this challenge.

    I had one this morning which falls into category 3 with a simple sentence email asking if this was where they got their lead magnet optin. No salutation, no name. Fortunately I had already seen my ESP message about this subscriber and decided to send the direct link and reiterate what they had opted in for as well as download instructions.

    Keeping in mind that the optin was an Emotional Intelligence Checklist, I think I managed to walk my talk. 🙂

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