Diving into the Diplomatic Psyche with Dr Linda Papadopoulos

Written by Leen Aghabi
Edited by Anthony Figueroa

Our goals constitute a large part of what we want to achieve, but how we navigate our way to that result is dependent on our attitude, reaction, and communication with others. As one of the most recognised faces on TV, Dr Linda Papadopoulos regularly comments on the psychology behind news and current events, and was part of the original Channel 4 team on the reality TV phenomenon “Big Brother”. The 3rd series of Dr Linda’s show “My Naked Secret” airs summer 2014 on TLC and will be airing worldwide over the year. As our Advisory Councillor, Dr Linda provides key insight into the effects of diplomatic psychology in creating successful leaders. 

Dr Linda Papadopoulos with Sierra Leone High Commissioner HE Edward Turay

Dr Linda Papadopoulos with Sierra Leone High Commissioner HE Edward Turay

GRASSROOT DIPLOMAT: You have done a lot of work analysing political affairs and characteristics of politicians. What do you think is the main characteristic that makes a great government representative?

DR LINDA: When it comes to diplomatic character, a number of primordial characteristics make a person a leader of his own cause. We live in a time with little faith in institutions, politics, and religion. Therefore, leaders need to be trustworthy when it comes to the information they project. It is not only about the reliability of their message, but its consistence as well. Rationality and attention are two other crucial elements. Rationality is about saying the right thing at the right time, and attention is about active listening and the ability to pick up important details. Both elements go together as being attentive will enable one to be rational. 

What do you think shapes diplomatic behaviour? Is it all about personal characteristics or are there other variables that come into play?

Diplomacy is about negotiation and meeting people half way. It is about one’s ability to empathise with the other person and to connect with them as an individual. Diplomats are moderators, and their ability to moderate discussions and portray themselves hugely relies on their personal characteristics. In turn, these personal characteristics are shaped by each individual’s experiences, education, and environment in which they grew up and socialised.  

Do you think leadership is innate or shaped by external forces?

This is a very good question. Some children are born with certain characteristics and grow to become natural leaders with their charisma and ability to influence those around them. However, one’s whole leadership approach is developed through the experiences one goes through, the people one socialises with, and most importantly, the willingness to learn. Even if one is born with the best leadership qualities, if they do not have the willingness to learn and willingness to motivate people and learn from them, they not do evolve into good leaders.

How should representatives behave consciously and unconsciously to portray the best diplomatic psyche?

Diplomats need to be aware of their body language. Maintaining eye contact, standing tall with great posture, keeping enough distance so as not to invade personal space, projecting smiles with adequate hand gestures and subtle head movements are all important. They are not only complimentary to each other, but are complimentary to the message one is trying to convey or negotiate. In addition, diplomacy is congruent with social skills and understanding cultural norms. The information we project constitutes a small percentage of the large picture which includes the way we talk depending on whom we are talking to and under what circumstances.

Is it better to be diplomatic or undiplomatic in getting what you want?

It is certainly much better to be diplomatic. However, diplomacy is congruent with clarity. It is about differentiating what you say and what the others hear. The goal of getting what you want will not work well unless all parties understand the agenda and are on the same page.

Do you think that the media is accurate in portraying some of the world leaders? How does this influence the way ordinary citizens think about them?

Leaders nowadays are being challenged by the media and the way it portrays them. Over the last five years, politicians and diplomats have been portrayed very negatively. People in the political sphere need to be aware of the way they are portrayed, and how they can respond to it. Regular citizens do not always take things for granted which is why it is so important for politicians and diplomats to answer succinctly and clearly to get their message across. 

How important is diplomatic psychology for a career in diplomacy and foreign affairs?

In careers in diplomacy and foreign affairs, maintaining a high level of diplomatic psychology is fundamental. It is not only about the ability to communicate with other people from different cultural backgrounds, but it is also about self-awareness, how you can come across to others, and the ability to address concerns appropriately. Getting a clear message across, maintaining positive body language, and being self-aware of the reasons why one got into this career are all crucial.

What do you think are some of the tactics diplomats use to gain their interests and what should be avoided?

There is a checklist of things. For one, diplomats need to be aware why they got into this - what is their mission; what is the message they are trying to convey; who are they representing? They need to pay attention to cultural norms and the language they use depending on the people they are talking to and how to get the message across from point A to point B. As mentioned before, diplomacy is in congruence with clarity. It is about being succinct and clear, so directness is vital in diplomacy, which is very different from how politicians go about their business in many cases. 

Are technological advancements making diplomatic behaviour less relevant? 

Diplomats need to pay attention to new media. Social media in our technologically advanced world is acting as a great democratiser and platform for people to project their ideas. Citizens are becoming increasingly aware of their ability to make their voices heard through these new platforms and traditional media are also making use of this. Diplomats not only need to pay attention to what is being said, but they also need to have the knowledge to be able to use this platform to their advantage. 

How can the most ordinary person act as an ambassador to their own cause?

Anyone can be an ambassador. All it takes is passion for what you do. Start small and grow big. Talk about your ideas to friends, colleagues, and people around you. Start with something, build on it, and stick to it. It all starts with an idea. 

GRASSROOT DIPLOMAT: You have done a lot of work analysing political affairs and characteristics of politicians. What do you think is the main characteristic that makes a great government representative?

DR LINDA: When it comes to diplomatic character, a number of primordial characteristics make a person a leader of his own cause. We live in a time with little faith in institutions, politics, and religion. Therefore, leaders need to be trustworthy when it comes to the information they project. It is not only about the reliability of their message, but its consistence as well. Rationality and attention are two other crucial elements. Rationality is about saying the right thing at the right time, and attention is about active listening and the ability to pick up important details. Both elements go together as being attentive will enable one to be rational. 

What do you think shapes diplomatic behaviour? Is it all about personal characteristics or are there other variables that come into play?

Diplomacy is about negotiation and meeting people half way. It is about one’s ability to empathise with the other person and to connect with them as an individual. Diplomats are moderators, and their ability to moderate discussions and portray themselves hugely relies on their personal characteristics. In turn, these personal characteristics are shaped by each individual’s experiences, education, and environment in which they grew up and socialised.  

Do you think leadership is innate or shaped by external forces?

This is a very good question. Some children are born with certain characteristics and grow to become natural leaders with their charisma and ability to influence those around them. However, one’s whole leadership approach is developed through the experiences one goes through, the people one socialises with, and most importantly, the willingness to learn. Even if one is born with the best leadership qualities, if they do not have the willingness to learn and willingness to motivate people and learn from them, they not do evolve into good leaders.

How should representatives behave consciously and unconsciously to portray the best diplomatic psyche?

Diplomats need to be aware of their body language. Maintaining eye contact, standing tall with great posture, keeping enough distance so as not to invade personal space, projecting smiles with adequate hand gestures and subtle head movements are all important. They are not only complimentary to each other, but are complimentary to the message one is trying to convey or negotiate. In addition, diplomacy is congruent with social skills and understanding cultural norms. The information we project constitutes a small percentage of the large picture which includes the way we talk depending on whom we are talking to and under what circumstances.

Is it better to be diplomatic or undiplomatic in getting what you want?

It is certainly much better to be diplomatic. However, diplomacy is congruent with clarity. It is about differentiating what you say and what the others hear. The goal of getting what you want will not work well unless all parties understand the agenda and are on the same page.

Do you think that the media is accurate in portraying some of the world leaders? How does this influence the way ordinary citizens think about them?

Leaders nowadays are being challenged by the media and the way it portrays them. Over the last five years, politicians and diplomats have been portrayed very negatively. People in the political sphere need to be aware of the way they are portrayed, and how they can respond to it. Regular citizens do not always take things for granted which is why it is so important for politicians and diplomats to answer succinctly and clearly to get their message across. 

How important is diplomatic psychology for a career in diplomacy and foreign affairs?

In careers in diplomacy and foreign affairs, maintaining a high level of diplomatic psychology is fundamental. It is not only about the ability to communicate with other people from different cultural backgrounds, but it is also about self-awareness, how you can come across to others, and the ability to address concerns appropriately. Getting a clear message across, maintaining positive body language, and being self-aware of the reasons why one got into this career are all crucial.

What do you think are some of the tactics diplomats use to gain their interests and what should be avoided?

There is a checklist of things. For one, diplomats need to be aware why they got into this - what is their mission; what is the message they are trying to convey; who are they representing? They need to pay attention to cultural norms and the language they use depending on the people they are talking to and how to get the message across from point A to point B. As mentioned before, diplomacy is in congruence with clarity. It is about being succinct and clear, so directness is vital in diplomacy, which is very different from how politicians go about their business in many cases. 

Are technological advancements making diplomatic behaviour less relevant? 

Diplomats need to pay attention to new media. Social media in our technologically advanced world is acting as a great democratiser and platform for people to project their ideas. Citizens are becoming increasingly aware of their ability to make their voices heard through these new platforms and traditional media are also making use of this. Diplomats not only need to pay attention to what is being said, but they also need to have the knowledge to be able to use this platform to their advantage. 

How can the most ordinary person act as an ambassador to their own cause?

Anyone can be an ambassador. All it takes is passion for what you do. Start small and grow big. Talk about your ideas to friends, colleagues, and people around you. Start with something, build on it, and stick to it. It all starts with an idea. 

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