Sunday, April 1, 2012

Learning how to be Diplomatic...over and over

Recent weeks have been filled with a bunch of meetings here in St. Lucia; with people from Small Biz Development Center in Texas, people from the Int’l Finance Corp of the World Bank, people from the Minstry of Commerce… I go because I am one of the people who do a lot of work in crafts development here in St. Lucia, as a practicing designer-creator and because I currently head up our Creative Development Network. So I’ve been sitting, listening, talking and writing a lot lately!

My approach to anything is always diplomatic – be it personal or business…yes, there are many times I mistake ‘telling people politely how it should be done’ for diplomacy and at other times of great frustration, I have been known to devolve into anger and emotion, but by the by, that has become a rare moment I’m glad to say…

But even as I grow into a better diplomat, learn to not take things personally, know when to shut up, understand that other parties rarely see things the same way as I do or understand the same scenario from any given situation, and therefore that I can’t assume ‘it’s obvious’…well, sometimes you realize that you can end up talking over and over about the same thing for years if there is no perceived need for change by the parties with the power to enact that change.

So I’m getting to understand that to be a really good diplomat, you have to be able to make it happen AND make all parties reasonably happy…and that will often include more action than sitting, listening, discussing with the same people over and over

It's easy to say you're tired talking...but perhaps it's because you are saying the same thing, the same way, to the same people...So, what can you do if your diplomatic efforts are only wearing out the seat cushions and the only thing changing is that your hair is getting grey?

Perhaps, change who you talk to…

Now, I might just be soft, but I think it’s worth taking care not to unnecessarily put those you’ve been talking to in a bad light or hot water – there are often reasons beyond simple intransigence, why things don’t change – and it is far better to just approach getting change from a positive perspective…after all, the goal is to develop and move forward, upward, and if done well, most cases any particular cogs in the wheels that genuinely don’t fit will most likely find other places that fit them better…right? 

I know that’s a bit Utopian, but y’all know what I mean and while there’s bound to be cases when things do have to get rough, but why go there unless there is no other way eh?

So, you can talk up the ladder a bit – maybe the powers that be are not aware of the real situation, maybe despite talk going on between parties, the higher up decision makers are not getting why whatever it is matters and needs action

Talk to more peers in your industry – well, listen to them really, then discuss how things are for them; Sector Survey, Baseline Survey, Market Research, Stakeholder Consultation (lol, I love that one, images of shadowy figures in dark graveyards…) whatever you do or call it, when you have more parties agreeing that there is a need, the political importance becomes much greater, and that is all too often key to getting a change

Talk to audiences who you haven’t talked to before – let the rest of the public know what’s going on – help them understand why it’s important, maybe even how it can affect them…sometimes the greatest powers for change are not in the specific industry – they are patrons or consumers or just people or businesses who care…

And if all this fails when you do it nicely, then yes, make a big fuss – if it is that important to you and the country, then it should not be let slide right?

A lot of time passes if you let it....Sometimes you have to point out that valuable time is being wasted – for me, since most of this is voluntary, my income earning time, for them, time they could be doing other work on their to-do list, for me and my industry members, time we could be earning much more with less risk and stress, for St. Lucia, time where a stronger, more vibrant tourism product could be earning more dollars that stay in the island economy and where cultural enterprise becomes a useful way for people to express themselves and to be gainfully and happily employed…

And then there is also the alternative of ‘doing it yourself’ if that is possible with your own resources – try a private sector approach that gets at least some part of your development plan done and so demonstrates unequivocally that you know what you’re saying and that you’re so passionate about it that you’ll put your own resources into making it happen.

Talking to Choce TV about CDN's efforts to promote local arts and crafts
Well, in a small way our Creative Development Network here in St. Lucia has been doing some of that and our Public Sector has been responding positively in recent times, to our arguments for change…I don’t think I would have written this post if that wasn’t the case because in the not to distant past I’ve felt like giving up and just getting on with my own business, tired of the talk and the frustration…but glad to say, I’m talking positive now, because I have seen that doing things a bit differently has made a positive change

Would love to hear from  other creatives in the Caribbean and beyond  about how their experiences, challenges and solutions in their own countries … please do share…
Creative Development Network's display at the St. Lucia-Taiwan Trade Exhibition