The Art of Diplomacy: Letting Others Have Your Way

Before you watch

1. Cory Leonard is assistant director at the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies where he directs strategic communications, alumni and external relations, and events. Find more information about the speaker

2. Study the following words and expressions:

Hard news refers to the circumstances of a recent event or incident of general local, regional, national or international significance. By contrast, soft news focuses on human-interest stories and celebrities.

Blabbermouth a person who tells secrets because they talk too much

To broker peace/compromise to arrange the details of an agreement, especially between different countries

To be party to a negotiation to be involved in/ to take part in a negotiation

To endear oneself to somebody to make oneself popular with smb

People person a person who enjoys, and is good at, being with and talking to other people

Diplomatic stalemate — a situation where there is contention between two sides, but progress is impossible because neither side is able to win or give in

Emissary a person who is sent to deliver an official message, especially from one country to another, or to perform a special task.

While you watch

While watching, pay attention to the following words and expressions in context. Use them in your answers to the questions below and discussion.


provide different perspectives and opportunities

hard to visualize

evolve a number of means

master the cultural nuances

understand things in a longer timeframe

critical insights and ideas

reshape / reframe

vote by acclamation

apply through the lens of culture

a number of hacks and tactics

slam their fist down 

lower their guard

from the equation

arrange the consensus 

a shared understanding


Answer the following questions:

1) What examples of movies about diplomats does the speaker give? Can you suggest more?

2) What are the three things one must do to master the art of diplomacy?

3) What is the essence of the concept ‘thinking in the context of time’?

4) What is Cory’s favourite way of teaching history? What are the examples of this method? 

5) How did Henry Kissinger and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai overcome the diplomatic stalemate? 

6) What tips on how to deal with difficult people does Cory Leonard give? 

After you watch

Discuss the following:

1. The speaker suggests several definitions of diplomacy. Which one is his favourite? Which one appeals to you most?

2. What is your opinion of simulation games as a teaching method? Do you have that in some of your classes? If not, would you like to? Do you think they could be applicable to any subject?

3. As aspiring diplomats, do you put much emphasis on studying history?

4. The speaker suggests three essential skills of a diplomat? Do you think the list is exhaustive? If not, how would you expand it?

5. At the end of his talk, Cory gives an example of reframing a problem. What qualities do you think the Ambassador in question had that enabled him to come up with the solution? Do you think these qualities are inborn or can they be developed?

6. Cory Leonard mentions the shanghai communique to illustrate that knowledge of cultural and linguistic nuances helps settle most intricate issues. As part of your home task, do some research to find more examples of the kind. Besides, search for the examples of diplomatic faux pas caused by inability to understand the cultural aspect of the foreign country.