Demonstration of sincerity matters in public diplomacy

image When I come across a statement about “winning the hearts and minds” of this or that group, I usually roll my eyes because the phrase is usually being tossed out without regard to underlying requirements or even reality. This “hearts” thing of likability and emotions plays closer to propaganda, which usually targets easily manipulated emotions instead of logic, than most realize.

I get a similar involuntary eye spasm when I hear the statement “sincerity is what matters most in public diplomacy.” While deep down it is true, I find the majority use of “sincerity” to be superficial and reminiscent of the Kool-Aid that says “turn up the volume, our public diplomacy isn’t working because they can’t hear us” and “why don’t they like us?”

Simply put, a lie can be sincere. There is more to it than “come on, I really mean it!”

The real foundation of public diplomacy is the tight coupling of words with deeds into smart, informed, contextual, and agile policies. This is more than synchronizing, it is the mutual support of words and deeds in a way that knowingly, not accidently, shape perceptions and ultimately actions of others. Sincerity is thus demonstrated not expressed.

Infrequently ascribed to public diplomacy is the other side of the coin: the adversary. The purpose of public diplomacy is to highlight the incongruities in the adversary’s words and deeds.