Ok, so I borrowed the title from Isaac Newton. This the first part of a two-part article on “Tact”
What is Tact?
The old saying of “sometimes it´s wiser to be kinder, instead of truthful” resonates here.
That´s not to say that you should deliberately lie to spare someone´s feelings but there is a way to deliver messages that contain sensitive information.
Tact is exactly that. It´s the skill of being able to convey sensitive information to another person in such a way that you spare them any embarrassment, their feelings are left intact and there is no damage to the relationship.
People who show tact and diplomacy when dealing with sensitive issues, usually have a number of other positive attributes, including:
- Sound Morals
- Emotional awareness
- When Tact is Important
When to Use Tact
Delivering bad news
Poor time keeping
Saying “no” to requests
Why Tact is so Important
Tact diffuses potentially volatile situations and allows you to find some common ground to build on. When we choose to deal with sensitive situations in a tactful manner it demonstrates that we are professional and it strengthens the existing relationship or gives a solid foundation to build new relationships on. Setting the relationship aside, it also reveals three key attributes about you.
Using tact demonstrates emotional awareness and increases the likelihood of a positive outcome in so much that you will have managed to communicate your message in a way that the other person is thankful for your approach and diplomacy. The result for the person you are delivering the message to may not always be positive but the approach you use, should soften that blow.
3 Ways to Develop Tact
To some, showing tact and diplomacy does not come naturally and it´s not always obvious for them to see when or how it should be used. The following three points give a guide on how you may develop your skills of tact and diplomacy for dealing with sensitive situations or potentially volatile situations.
Think Before You Speak
Control your emotions
Have you ever said something in the spare of the moment without thinking and then regretted it?
This happens to many people when they are rushed or their mood isn´t 100%. Maybe they are tired or worried and they just bark out a reply.
Respond V React
There is a big difference between responding to a situation and reacting to it. One builds and the other destroys.
It´s happened to us all when we are tired and cranky. Someone says something to you that you would normally laugh off but instead your back goes up and you react in a manner that´s totally out of character. The whole situation gets blown up out of all proportion as the other person reacts back and on it goes.
In better days, you would have responded a witty volley right back and the two of you would have laughed through the encounter.
If you have been reacting to situations recently instead of responding make a note of the following:
- When did the situations arise?
- What were the triggers?
- What was the outcome?
- How could you have handled it better?
When you understand what triggers the reaction, you will be better equipped to see it coming. If you can see it coming you can deal with in a responsive manner and diffuse the situation.
Even if the other person is out for an argument and wants to prove their point by reacting to your reasonable responses. Whatever they say, their reactions will say more about them than they will about you.
By managing to remain calm and diffusing the situation with dignified responses you will have a greater chance of identifying a workable solution to the issue at hand. If things still remain raw and sensitive, a further follow up meeting may be beneficial. With the benefit of hindsight and a cooling off period you will both be able to deal with the issue more professionally.
Not just physically but be conscious of the emotional content and the timing and appropriateness of the communication. Make sure you are 100% there in every aspect of the situation.
Maybe you have just had some super news. You´ve just got a promotion or a raise. You´ve closed the deal on the contract you have been chasing for months.
Your friend has just had some bad news. They missed out on a promotion or are losing their job.
Is now really the time to talk about your good news?
Being conscious of the situation will help you avoid saying the wrong thing at the wrong moment, avoid adding or causing unnecessary embarrassment or stress and risking damaging the relationship.
Choose Your Words Carefully
Avoid setting the blame
Your choice of words can influence how others perceive your message.
Don´t make sweeping statement such as “you always arrive late” or “you always get this wrong”. It´s unlikely to be accurate and you will lose credibility.
Avoid starting the conversation with the “you.” It sets the tone for a finger pointing exercise and playing a blame game is unlikely to result in finding a workable solution to any problem.
For example, “You didn´t do a good job. You need to do better.”
This will put the other person on the defensive and they will in most situations try to justify their actions or at the very least throw the blame back to you or someone else.
“I can see you have put a lot of effort into this presentation. However, I think to really do it justice, you should concentrate on the two main points. This will help you provide more clarity on the situation.”
This is a form of constructive criticism you can use to tactfully tell the other person they have too many details or even it´s too confusing and you will lose your audience.
Thank you for taking time out to read this article.
Do you have anything to add?
Any feedback, comments or suggestions are more than welcome.