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quotations about diplomacy

Diplomacy is to do and say
The nastiest thing in the nicest way.


I'm always diplomatic when heavily outnumbered by armed strangers.

S. M. STIRLING, The Sunrise Lands

All diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means.

ZHOU ENLAI, Saturday Evening Post, Mar. 27, 1954

All war represents a failure of diplomacy.

TONY BENN, speech, Feb. 28, 1991

An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.

SIR HENRY WOTTON, inscribed on the album of Christopher Fleckmore, 1604

There are few ironclad rules of diplomacy but to one there is no exception. When an official reports that talks were useful, it can safely be concluded that nothing was accomplished.

JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH, "The American Ambassador," Foreign Service Journal, June 1969

The promotion of human rights cannot be about exhortation alone. At times, it must be coupled with painstaking diplomacy. I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach -- condemnation without discussion -- can carry forward only a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door.

BARACK OBAMA, Nobel Lecture, Dec. 10, 2009

Diplomacy is the velvet glove that cloaks the fist of power.

ROBIN HOBB, Fool's Fate

If we think of nations as "actors" on the world stage, diplomats are the stage hands.

GREGORY ADAMS, All the World's a Stage

In a world where war is everybody's tragedy and everybody's nightmare, diplomacy is everybody's business.

LORD STRANG, attributed, The Practice of Diplomacy: Its Evolution, Theory, and Administration

When a diplomat says yes, he means perhaps; when he says perhaps, he means no; when he says no, he is no diplomat.

VERNON K. MCLELLAN, Wise Words and Quotes

The principle of give and take is the principle of diplomacy — give one and take ten.

MARK TWAIN, Bite-Size Twain: Wit and Wisdom from the Literary Legend

Young man, in diplomacy there are two kinds of problem: small ones and large ones. The small ones will go away by themselves, and the large ones you will not be able to do anything about. The biggest challenges in your career will come from the temptation to act. The test of your mettle will be how nobly you surmount it.


The essence of diplomacy is communication. It is the means whereby sovereign states—notional persons—communicate with other states through their human representatives. Being notional they, like all such entities, can do so in no other way. And as virtually no state finds it practical or desirable either to live like a hermit or to engage externally in nothing but unannounced and undiscussed war, there is a universal imperative on states to engage in diplomacy.

LORNA LLOYD, Diplomacy with a Difference

Diplomacy is the art of saying, "Nice doggie!" until you can find a stick.

VERNON K. MCLELLAN, Wise Words and Quotes

You're in America now.... Our idea of diplomacy is showing up with a gun in one hand and a sandwich in the other and asking which you'd prefer.


To say nothing, especially when speaking, is half the art of diplomacy.

WILL DURANT, The Story of Civilization

Dexterity is one of the chief weapons of diplomacy; governments rely more upon the supremacy of this instrument, when in the hands of a skillful diplomatist, than in the soundness or justice of their claims.

JAMES ELLIS, attributed, Day's Collacon

In order to be a diplomat one must speak a number of languages, including double-talk.

CAREY MCWILLIAMS, attributed, Wise Words and Quotes

Diplomacy and virtue do not make easy companions.

IAIN PEARS, The Dream of Scipio

These, then, are the qualities of my ideal diplomatist. Truth, accuracy, calm, patience, good temper, modesty and loyalty. They are also the qualities of an ideal diplomacy. But, the reader may object, you have forgotten intelligence, knowledge, discernment, prudence, hospitality, charm, industry, courage and even tact. I have not forgotten them. I have taken them for granted.


A diplomat is a man who can juggle a hot potato long enough for it to become a cold issue.

VERNON K. MCLELLAN, Wise Words and Quotes

Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, The Kennedy Presidential Press Conferences

If you need something from somebody always give that person a way to hand it to you.

SUE MONK KIDD, The Secret Life of Bees

It is a principle of diplomacy that one must know something of the truth in order to lie convincingly.

TOM CLANCY, The Hunt for Red October

Oh, diplomacy ... it mops up war's spillages; legitimizes its outcomes; gives the strong state the means to impose its will on a weaker one, while saving its fleets and battalions for weightier opponents.


Diplomacy is the art of telling somebody to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.

JOANIE WEXLER, Computerworld, Mar. 27, 2000

As in the game of billiards, the balls are constantly producing effects from mere chance, which the most skillful player could neither execute nor foresee, but which, when they do happen, serve mainly to teach him how much he has still to learn; so it is in the most profound and complicated game of politics and diplomacy. In both cases, we can only regulate our play by what we have seen, rather than by what we have hoped; and by what we have experienced, rather than by what we have expected.

CHARLES CALEB COLTON, Lacon: Or, Many Things in Few Words

Diplomacy is cutting the other fellow's throat without using a knife.

VERNON K. MCLELLAN, Wise Words and Quotes

What good is a smooth tongue without sharp teeth?

JOCELYN MURRAY, The Gilded Mirror


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