Major components of diplomacy include careful listening, attentiveness to nuance, and responsiveness to tone. One of the best ways to develop cultural sensitivity is to learn another language, which allows the negotiator to build trust and better understand and anticipate the goals and motivations of counterparts. Speaking the local language is an advantage because it allows direct communication with the counterparts rather than relying on translation or interpretation, which can lead to misunderstandings. Many scientists already bring language skills to science diplomacy as they learn a second or third language as part of their international career development.
As Marga Gual Soler describes in her 2015 essay in Slate:
My training in biomedical sciences, the cross-cultural awareness provided by my international experiences, and my bilingual proficiency in English and Spanish happened to be the right combination for this project. Unknowingly, I had acquired the right set of skills and experiences of a “science diplomat.” […] When I left academia, I could have never imagined that someday I would be able to use my scientific skills to help improve relationships between two countries that have been enemies for nearly six decades.”
Marga Gual Soler (2015) “How I became a science diplomat”, Slate.
Intercultural competence describes a range of cognitive, affective, and behavioural skills that lead to effective and appropriate verbal and non-verbal communication with people of other cultures. Appropriate intercultural communication includes behaviours that suit the expectations of a specific culture, the characteristics of the situation, and the level of the relationship between the parties involved in the situation. It also takes into consideration one’s own cultural background and the best appropriate, comfortable compromise between the different cultural norms.