The Art of Diplomacy | Tayo Rockson | TEDxCooperUnion

The Art of Diplomacy | Tayo Rockson | TEDxCooperUnion



[Applause] by the time I was a freshman in college I had lived in Nigeria Sweden Burkina Faso Vietnam in the United States five countries four continents and the reason I lived in all these countries is because my dad was a diplomat and so as a kid I would watch as he sought to maintain international relations as they pertain to peace war trade economics human rights and the environment I observed as he sought to establish common ground with us colleagues locally and internationally I studied him I even had his morning routine down every morning before he went to work he would sit down on the dining table flip out the newspaper bear in mind who was the midnit so people still read that but he will break out the newspaper go with the rid from front to back and then he would turn on the news it'll be CNN at first and then BBC and then the local news station now as a seven-year-old kid I didn't quite understand why my dad did all these things and so I asked him dad well why do you do all these things and he looked at me and said something to the effect of I can't I owe the world is bigger than you and so if you want to be successful in it you have to understand it so you know to my preteen years that didn't quite resonate so I just did what any seven-year-old kid would do I continued to mimic my dad anyway so I took in the same information that he took it I would read the same newspapers I would even fill out the occasional crossword puzzle if I saw and then I would turn on to the news and follow the same thing but it wasn't until I found myself in Burkina Faso in middle school that I finally got what my dad was trying to do he was trying to understand the difference is around him so that he could find the commonalities that existed within them you seen Burkina Faso I was embedded in a sea of difference I was this skinny kid with a thick Nigerian accent and a french-speaking country and an American International School going through puberty and I suddenly found myself as the odd one out in a place where everybody was already different from who I was and so for me to make friends I had to understand the differences around me and find the commonalities that existed within them that ladies and gentlemen is the art of diplomacy understanding the differences around you and finding the commonalities that exist within them every year diplomats are posted out to new countries new environments with thousands and sometimes millions of people that are vastly different from from who they are and their job is to find the common thread that weaves through this new environment I believe that this skill of cultural competence is the most important skill that we can develop in a 21st century I also believe that this is the best way that we can combat the fear and hate that we experience today the fear and hate that is contributing to the glowing divide that we experience in as a world today you see if we're to ever have a chance of attaining a peaceful future we must learn how to come together and find common ground and it's with this in mind that I'd like to share three ways with which we can embrace the art of the policy the first way numero uno the first way to embrace the art of diplomacy is to collect and gather information I would watch as my dad did this because he did this all the time he had his little pens and books and he would observe his environment take notes read on this culture and then interview ways that you all can apply that is by taking notice of your current surrounding observing what brings people together what put smiles in people's faces and what causes them to frown taking mental notes of that reading up on the cultures around you and then interviewing asking questions ensure that as your interview and you ask an open-ended questions questions that allow them to tell you about themselves questions that allow them to tell you how they interpret things in the world I followed this same exact process when I found myself in that very different environment in Burkina Faso I looked around me and I saw that the activity that brought the most people together was basketball and so I went to the library and I checked out all the books in basketball studied up on the history and the culture of the game so what natural ten-year-old to do and then and then I picked up the the magazines the Sports Illustrated for kids once again that's something that's not available anymore but I picked up on that to make sure that I I knew who the current players were the current basketball players were so I was well versed in the game of basketball once I I felt well versed enough I went to the best basketball player on campus Michael Albright and asked him hey could you show me some of this crossover I'm trying to cross over like Allen Iverson I'm trying to you know you know do that dunk that Kobe Bryant did the other day and that that conversation led to me asking him to teach me how to play the game of basketball and our one-on-ones became two on Tuesday and at three and three and then four and four and five and fives so pretty soon I found myself in a position where I had new friends and my new friends were now inviting me to do thins outside of school what this experience taught me was the importance of coming together for a common goal you see a lot of my new teammates they spoke different languages they had accents and they came from different parts of the world but we realized that in order for us to win to grow and to be a good team we have to leverage our unique talents for that one goal now imagine what could happen if we applied that to communities today magic could happen if we learn how to leverage each of our unique differences and talents to solve a problem today understand the differences around you and find the commonalities that exist within them the second way to embrace the art of diplomacy is by being an active listener now good diplomats when they're posted into new countries they make sure that they understand the national interests of that country they make sure that they understand the intellectual and popular culture of their new environment and so what they do is they establish mutual trust and relationships with the influential members of this new environment they do this so they can foster a positive collaboration between their national countries as well as the countries they're posted into and then the best way they do this is by becoming active listeners ways that you all can become active listeners is by learning not to listen to obtain information learn now to listen to learn and learn not to listen to understand I learned this lesson at the age of 20 when I found myself lost in Greece it was a group trip a couple of my friends and I at somehow managed to get lost and we found ourselves in the position where we were in a foreign country and didn't speak a word of Greek and so in a frantic attempt to reconnect with the rest of our party we started to approach the locals and we used the combination of English Spanish sign language in French whatever we could piece together to try and communicate to them and we approached the locals and we would engage with them and this went on for about 20 minutes before we realized that we weren't actually listening to them we were more focused on whether we were being understood and so after about 20 minutes we realized that we should change our approach and so we started to observe the body language and read between the lines if you will and pretty soon we were able to get to a final destination and the key takeaway for from this experience for me was that it takes an insane amount of concentration and determination to become an active listener you have to remind yourself that the goal is to understand what the other person is saying and so be deliberate with your listening paraphrase ask questions paraphrase back to them if you will to make sure that there is a mutual level of understanding because if you don't you find that whatever you're saying and whatever the other person is saying are amazingly different understand the differences around you and find the commonalities that exist within them the third way to embrace the arts of diplomacy wish to become an active member of your community whether you go to school whether you go to work or whether you live in a different neighborhood ensure that you become an inactive member of this community I'll use diplomats to illustrate this example diplomats when they're posted out into a new country they understand they are the representatives of the heads of state of the country and so they must have a firm grasp of the politics the geography the economics of the new environment and so I ask you do you have a firm grasp of the politics of the economics of the geography of your current environment if the answer to that question is no I'd encourage you to start because it's important for us to understand how the same set of rules affects different set of people the reason why this is important because this widens spective and allows you to see things from different lenses you see things from different lenses you're able to solve a problem that you might not have been privy to before you're able to approach a problem with much more understanding now once you've embedded yourself in this community and you've understood your community I would encourage you to expand your committee and seek to understand that as well I got my start in this in eighth grade when mrs. McDonald came in one morning and scrapped what we were supposed to do that day and said you all are going to learn every single country in capital of the world and I'm going to add bodies of waters to that that will be your final exam now she said that she was making sure we did this because it allowed us to connect what we heard that the news to places in the world and allowed us to see that the world is much more connected than we initially thought you see the lesson that she was trying to tell us was what my dad was trying to tell me at a 7 years old who world's bigger than you and if you wanted to succeed in it you have to understand it so I wanted you all to do the same thing I understand the geography of the world but don't just stop there travel more embed yourself in this new environments and if you at work join an affinity group that has nothing to do with you if you're at school join a school club that has nothing to do with you constantly put yourself in a place where you are the different one so that you can learn how much bigger the world is than you understand the differences around you and find the commonalities that exist within them a lot of today's problems are caused because of people's unwillingness to accept change whether it's due to race gender orientation or ethnic background but I believe if we tap into our inner diplomacy we can learn how to come together as one seek to understand more because the less you understand the more you fear and the more afraid that you are the more dangerous you become and to expose yourself to new environments explore your curiosity and be in a state of constant learning because this is the best way that you can build empathy tolerance and acceptance collect and gather information become an active listener and be part of your community so that you can embrace the art of diplomacy thank you very much [Applause]

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