The Science Behind the Protocol Gift

Guest Blogger - Thursday, October 17, 2019
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“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care”

President Theodore Roosevelt

I have long thought that our profession could benefit from a more sophisticated approach to the “Protocol Gift”.

One of the great highlights of the PSOW 30th anniversary summit was the presentation on Emotional Intelligence by Dr. Marc Brackett of The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

Dr. Brackett gave the scientific case for such an approach. He spoke at length about how “feelings” impact performance and creativity. He explained how our personal biochemistry is impacted by our emotional state. He laid out the case for a more emotionally intelligent approach to life.

Dr. Brackett’s writing along with Behavioral Economist writings of Dr. Kahneman, Nobel prizewinner, have profoundly influenced our thinking about the “Protocol Gift”. The humble Protocol Gift can be a powerful tool at the disposal of our leaders. Dr. Kahneman teaches us that we are highly influenced by the “framing” of arguments. Thus our “choice” of gift can lead conversation if desired.

The past two Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff chose gifts which spoke to the originality of America’s choice to have civilian authority over the Military. The gifts allowed the principals to talk about a subject dear to them. Knowledge is transferred, the conversation “Safe”.

This approach works equally well for diplomats and business leaders. The choice of a gift that reflects culture, history, geography and hospitality can be so very well received. Often symbolism can emotionally connect and make a real difference.

For The Protocol School of Washington's 30th Anniversary Celebration, Pamela Eyring’s gift to His Excellency Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh was a beautiful engraved book (shown below). She discovered his love for reading and researched his favorite author to pick a meaningful quote to add to the book. In doing so, Pamela was able to create a profound emotional connection. Look at his smile!

In the example shown of the gift for Exxon to their client, we incorporated “cranes in flight” into the design, knowing in Asia, it symbolized joy, partnership and longevity. It was a huge hit!

Protocol Gifts are all about the thought and appropriateness. Figuring out how to select a gift that will resonate with the recipient demands Emotional Intelligence. Knowing who the recipient is, their circumstances, interests, culture, and history should all be considered when selecting the gift. One needs to think about the symbolism, the level of artistry and quality appropriate.

This is not about the money! A humble and thoughtful gift can communicate that you care enough to figure out what might appeal and be appreciated. This is always flattering.

To sum up, Dr Brackett shows us that this stuff matters. The recipient is emotionally influenced by the choice, either positively or negatively. A positive reinforcement will contribute to an atmosphere for creative negotiation and relationship building.

It is time to move on from the predictable, ordinary, uninspiring and disposable, and find the special!

Again, it is not about the money, it’s about caring enough to figure it out, which can be exciting and so fulfilling!

Thank you to Guest Blogger:

Keith Lipert Corporate Gifts

2019 Global Education Summit Gift Sponsor

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