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When talking about diplomacy, people often say:

Diplomacy is the art of letting others have your way

The phrase is subtly worded, alluding to the character of a diplomat who can get their desired outcome without those they are negotiating with realising it – indeed the others feel they've gotten what they wanted, but it is in fact what you wanted.

I've been trying to think of what that might sound like as a latin phrase that preserves the sentiment, meaning something like "Let others have your way".

Google translate's answer is far from what is desired:

Fiat via alii autem vestrum

As such, I'm curious what a more accurate translation might be?

Thanks in advance!

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  • Do you want a fairly straightforward translation, or just a way for Latin to express that sentiment? If the latter, does it matter if it's authentic?
    – cmw
    May 23 at 22:15
  • @cmw Thanks for your comment. I suppose the latter would be more appropriate if a direct translation wouldn't express the sentiment. Please could you explain what you mean by authentic?
    – Rocco
    May 23 at 22:20
  • By authentic, I mean do you want that expression or something very similar to actually be found in Latin writings from the period in which people spoke and wrote Latin as a primary language.
    – cmw
    May 23 at 22:33
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    It's artfully phrased in English: to have [it] one's way is to get one's desired outcome, and the way the construction is normally used the subject and the possessive pronoun refer to the same actor (I have my way; he has his way). So after others have you expect their way, but instead get your way; this is unexpected and subtle, alluding to the character of a diplomat who can get their desired outcome without those they are negotiating with realising it – indeed the others feel they've gotten what they wanted, but it is in fact what you wanted.
    – dbmag9
    May 27 at 13:23
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    @dbmag9 Thank you so much for your comment, it excellently explains the artistic nature of the phrase - something I failed to do in my original question! I've included a summarised version of this in my question which I hope you don't mind. Hopefully the explanation will allow a more accurate Latin translation be suggested with the meaning in mind.
    – Rocco
    May 28 at 15:01
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+50

Idioms are notoriously difficult to translate, because they rely on the peculiarities of the language to express an idea, and playing with the words of one idioms often means you don't have a direct way of playing with those words. In this case, the typical way of expressing "have it your way" is with vincere (see II.γ, and conceding to their whim and way is 'to let them win.' So:

Cum a Cotta primisque ordinibus acriter resisteretur, "Vincite," inquit, "si ita vultis," Sabinus.

Since Cotta and the principal officers offered fierce resistance, Sabinus conceded to them: "Have it your way, if you so want."

But you don't really get the expressed possessive adjective there.

One potential way that would take vincere more literally is with a new adage, such as:

sine vincant tua proelia

Allow them to / let them win your battles

'Allow' and 'your' are both singular here. For the plural, it would be sinite...vestra.

By itself sine vincant can reasonably stand for "let them have it their way" (unattested, it seems, but is found in Smith), and so the twist would come in with the unexpected tua proelia. It's no longer "oh, just let him win," but now, "let him win what you want to win."

Since this wasn't an established saying, the sentence's intended meaning isn't immediate obvious without context, yet one can fathom this being given ad advice with further elaboration to make it clear just what is meant.

But the same is true for the original saying: context and knowledge of the idiom are needed to understand what is intended.

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    That's a seriously impressive rendering of a complicated expression – hats off to you!
    – dbmag9
    Jun 7 at 19:36
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    @dbmag9 Thank you!
    – cmw
    Jun 7 at 21:30
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    Thanks so much for translating what is undoubtedly a very hard phrase to encapsulate. I think you've expressed the nature of the idiom very well!
    – Rocco
    Jun 11 at 19:48
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    @Rocco You're welcome! It was a fun challenge!
    – cmw
    Jun 14 at 14:48

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