Community & Government

The Art of Personal Diplomacy

George W. Bush

Lesson time 10:49 min

Listening to and learning about people takes effort, but empathy is essential to becoming a leader people want to follow. Learn how President Bush develops and maintains relationships by encouraging others to open up.

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Topics include: Listening and learning about people takes effort, and that empathy is essential to becoming a strong leader whom people will follow. Learn how President Bush develops and maintains relationships by encouraging others to open up.


[MUSIC PLAYING] - My advice to somebody about building relationships is to make an effort to do so. There are all kinds of ways to do that. Sharing experiences is a way to build relationship. Reaching out to somebody in need is a way to build a relationship. If somebody is hurting and you know it, try to provide some comfort and solace. The key thing in friendships is effort, listening. There's always common ground to be found, whether it be children, pets, sports, the arts, you can always find common ground. You just have to seek it. The "I can't find common ground excuse" really means there was no effort made to find common ground, and so the art of personal diplomacy is to discover common ground as quickly as you can to create a sense of relaxation and understanding. To me, personal diplomacy means that you're willing to find out how the other person thinks, you're willing to listen to another person's problems or solutions. Personal diplomacy means you spend enough time with somebody to get a better feel for how he or she thinks. You can't manufacture a desire to learn how somebody else thinks. It's got to be innate. In other words, you've got to like people. And I've always liked people. I've been interested in people. I've been interested in their backgrounds. I'm interested in their thoughts. And it doesn't take much effort to ask somebody what they think. I understand there are people who maybe don't have the same confidence I've got, or confidence that your boss has, but you can overcome that by trying. And life really is working hard at something and recognizing that there are some shortcomings that you can address, or need to address, and doing something about it. I believe everybody's got empathy in their heart. Oftentimes today, it's hard to establish a personal relationship because of the rancor in the political process. I will never like you because you voted for so-and-so, or if you believe this, you and I can't be friends. And one of the challenges facing anybody in an organization or our country is to learn how to overcome those debates, and to focus on the greater good. Now, debates are important, but they're certainly not as important as a nation that's able to work together, or workers that are able to collaborate or people willing to share sympathy. And so yes, I think you can learn to have a better relationship if you don't have a hard heart. [MUSIC PLAYING] One of the real challenges of being governor and President was to walk into a room of strangers who generally were nervous and figure out how to relax them so that you could get a better feel for what they thought. A nervous person has trouble talking and sharing ideas. A relaxed person is much easier to communicate with, so one of the keys to communication is to figure out how to enable the person you're talking to relax. One way you can do it is through self-deprecating humor. Another way is to say unexpected, friendly ...

About the Instructor

Step inside the Oval Office with the newest instructor in our White House series, President George W. Bush. With insight from former First Lady Laura Bush, the former commander in chief opens up about the tough calls and life lessons that shaped his career. Develop and own a leadership style that’s true to you and learn to lead by connecting personally with everyone in the room.

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