The meaning of diplomacy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



This article draws on interviews with 198 state ambassadors and applies an interpretivist lens to provide a more nuanced conceptualization of diplomacy. In doing so, we seek to project a closer fit between scholarly definitions of the term and how diplomacy is understood by practitioners. We contribute to the literature by proposing a more refined understanding of the term, presented here as five distinct (though not mutually exclusive) ‘meanings’ of diplomacy: (1) The actors taking part in modern diplomacy; (2) the objectives of diplomacy; (3) the mechanisms of diplomacy; (4) diplomacy as a skill; and (5) diplomacy as a profession. We find that drawing on the full range of the diplomatic experience is particularly important given the growing challenges to negotiation as the primary agency of diplomacy.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-183
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Negotiation: a journal of theory and practice
Issue number2
Early online date1 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • Ambassadors, Diplomacy, Diplomats, Negotiation