Learning To Be Tactful
He was the top salesman in the company with a special talent for making good presentations. On seeing the salesman’s latest presentation, his new supervisor stated, "If this company had to depend on your sales presentations to stay afloat, we would be halfway to the bottom of the ocean. You may need to think about another line of work."
A woman asked her shopping companion, “Do you like my new outfit?” The companion stated, “Well honestly, it looks a little tight on you…I know that you haven’t been able to exercise lately.”
A freshman college student had really worked hard on his first paper in English class. Having just stated college, he needed to build his confidence. When his paper was returned to him, the professor had scribbled in red ink, “Did you even read the novel? Your paper reads like a tale told by an idiot. You may not be suited for college.”
All of the above scenarios are examples of situations where people have forgotten, neglected or chosen not to use tact. Often seen as being rude, overbearing, and offensive, they sometimes lack insight into their effect on other people.
People can change but they must have the insight and motivation to do so. If you need help in learning to be tactful but are not sure how to start, the following suggestions might be helpful.
• Before you start to speak, ask yourself, “How would I feel if I were in this person’s position?”
• Choose your words carefully and think about how you would like to be treated in a similar situation. “Do unto others” fits nicely here.
• Realize that being right does not give you license to be offensive. Express truth with courtesy, grace and dignity.
• Be assertive. Assertiveness is the ability to express your needs while showing respect for the needs of others. Don’t cross the line into being aggressive.
• Give constructive not destructive criticism. Build on a person’s strengths and demonstrate helpfulness in your relationships.
• Choose to be kind, considerate, thoughtful and caring.
• Be honest. Do not lie to others or manipulate a difficult situation to your advantage.
• Express your thoughts with sincerity rather than artificiality.
• Speak with respect and dignity. If you have to be the bearer of bad news, do it in such a way that demonstrates empathy and support.
Learn to use tact and increase your chances of developing nurturing and lasting relationships.
Harold H. LeCrone, Jr., Ph.D. Copyright © 2010