In the world of international business, good manners and protocol are often essential to achieving success. Juan Luis Recio, Executive Director of GLOBALHealthPR partner in Spain, Berbés Asociados, elaborates.
“Not to lose oneself to passion is the indication of the highest spirit, and if passion may affect what is personal, it should never influence work. This is the intelligent way to avoid disappointment and achieve a reputation quickly and easily.”
This phrase is just one piece of advice in “The Art of Worldly Wisdom,” a collection of maxims, each with a commentary, written by Baltasar Gracián, a Jesuit from Aragon in Spain. While Gracián was born in 1601, over 400 years ago, his thinking remains valid and his advice useful if we adapt his teachings to present-day life. This is displayed by the popularity of all his work, especially “The Art of Worldly Wisdom,” an international best-seller among executives and managers. Additionally, Gracián’s “The Art of Worldly Wisdom” has sold more than 200,000 copies in the United States alone over recent years, making it a best-seller for executives even today, 400 years after his birth.
While Gracián has always been recognised in the intellectual and literary world (his students include Voltaire, Unamuno, Borges, Umberto Eco or Schopenhauer, who translated The Art of Worldly Wisdom into German), the leap his work has made into the business world is much more recent and certainly due to the practical nature of his discourse. His practical wisdom can provide us with the necessary tools to successfully resolve each of the challenges arising in the business world, especially on the global stage. The recommendation to read The Art of Worldly Wisdom in the principal MBA courses transcends the anecdotal.
In the world of business, and particularly in the international sphere, good manners and protocol, guided by the caution, pragmatism and wisdom which Gracián refers to in his maxims, are often essential to achieving success. Many rules, some unwritten, exist in the business world and international relations which must be taken into account in order to succeed globally, In this increasingly globalised and interrelated arena in which we have to work and negotiate, knowledge of the rules of negotiation, of conflict resolution and of protocol is an essential tool for effective management. Therefore, it is essential to understand how other countries and cultures work, as a misunderstanding could lead, at the very least, to tensions, or even, regrettably, the possible loss of a business opportunity.
This is why caution, wisdom, observation and study must be the rules of conduct, even for situations that appear insignificant on the surface. Reading Gracián, as hundreds of thousands of executives throughout the world have done, may be of great use to us.
Below is some advice related to strategy and protocol in business, which is explained in greater depth in Gracián’s full work:
Avoid the defects of one’s nation.
Deal with those from whom one can learn.
Content and form: substance is not enough; circumstance is also required.
Vary one’s modus operandi.
Do not suffer from defects: Caesar knew how to cover his baldness with laurels.
“Good things, when short, are twice as good” is one of the conceptist phrases which will guide us throughout this process in order to favour our international business, which we will do more effectively if we can draw from Gracián’s practical wisdom, which corroborates the validity and universality of his thought. If we properly identify the focus we can undertake our international relations and business more correctly and successfully. Indeed, remember that your fellow negotiator, wherever he or she may be from, may also have learned from Gracián’s internationally recognized work, the Art of Worldly Wisdom.