Tweeting is not Diplomacy
CHRIS MacLEAN  |  Aug 14, 2018

A serious misunderstanding happened one day when my son texted a philosophic quote that was intended to be both inspirational and cautionary. While the first half was indeed uplifting, it trailed off into what can, depending on the emphasis, easily be interpreted as severe criticism. It caused family strife, but created a teaching moment in which I counselled him to (a) first consider from the recipient’s perspective before sharing; and (b) never criticize in writing if it can be avoided. We discussed the importance of exhibiting respect when communicating difficult messages and how desired outcomes can best be achieved in person, when you can look into the person’s eyes and hear the inflection in their voice.

The printed word lives forever (as do tweets), and negative messages make it very difficult to find common ground after one party has lost face. 

That was before the age of political tweeting began to take hold. In the early days, tweets from official sources were all feel-good or informative messages. Then came Trump and his penchant for criticizing anyone and everyone in his daily tweets.

I never thought I’d see the day when Canadian diplomats would also embrace this lazy method for political influence. Sure, it attracts instant and global attention, but it is a hammer. 

Diplomats (among others) should not forego the delicate tactics and finely-honed skills of diplomacy in favour of an abrupt tweet. The value of true dialogue must not be sidelined.

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