The 9 Skills of Diplomacy

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How do diplomats carry out their work?

At the National Museum of American Diplomacy, we’ve identified 9 skills that diplomats require to be effective in their duties.

While these skills are applicable to many other careers, they are essential to diplomats.

American diplomats embody all of these skills to ensure interests of the American people, especially concerning safety and economic prosperity.

Diplomacy Skills NMAD

Diagram courtesy of the National Museum of American Diplomacy

What are Diplomacy Skills?

These 9 skills of diplomacy fall into three categories: informational, relational, and operational.

Informational Skills are how a diplomat studies and begins to think about how to approach a situation or crisis.

  1. Analysis: Study and think critically about situations.
  2. Awareness: Respect different cultures and customs. Recognize when situations and circumstances are changing and adapt to meet that change. Be aware of what they do not know or understand.
  3. Communication: Articulate their position and listen openly to others’ positions. Determine where interests overlap. Confirm positions and use clear and appropriate language to avoid misunderstandings.

Relational Skills are how a diplomat works with their team and their counterparts.

  1. Leadership: Take action and make decisions using what information is available. Keep the big picture in mind. Take steps to improve their country or organization’s overall position and fill in knowledge gaps.
  2. Collaboration: Incorporate the ideas of others and find common ground. Take cues from others when formulating responses and making proposals.
  3. Composure: Work with others in a professional manner and calmly deal with the range of attitudes and behaviors exhibited by counterparts, difficult partners, and adversaries.

Operational Skills are how a diplomat executes a plan.

  1. Management: Use the skills and strengths of their team members. Know what tools and resources are available to help meet their country or organization’s goals and agenda.
  2. Innovation: Formulate alternatives and be flexible in their responses to unanticipated circumstances.
  3. Advocacy: Speak on behalf of the country or organization which they represent and pursue the goals and missions of that organization. Advocacy is also speaking up for and with others who may not have their voices heard.


What are Examples of Diplomacy Skills in Action?

Throughout history, we can find countless examples of diplomats exhibiting these skills. Explore how different diplomats practice and put each of these skills into action in the below blog posts, exhibit stories, and video clips.










You and the Skills of Diplomacy

These skills are practiced and acquired over a lifetime of practice. You may find that you already practice some of these skills in your day to day life. Do you talk through differences with your roommates about cleaning common areas? Do you keep a level head in tense conversations with classmates with whom you may disagree? What other ways have you practiced diplomacy?

Diplomacy is a practice that is not reserved just for ambassadors. Everyone has the ability to engage in this artform, especially through the 9 skills of diplomacy.

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