Being tactful is not that difficult. And yet it amazes me how often people will say and do things that are completely lacking in politeness.
I am all for telling it like it is and helping people to see mistakes, bad plans, and errors in their ways. But there is no rhyme nor reason to not be tactful about it.
Somehow people often equate tactfulness with half-assing and not telling the full truth. But that’s not at all what being tactful is. Having tact is the difference between helping a person constructively and putting them on the defensive.
Why does this concept seem so hard to grasp for people? Probably because there are some seriously tactless people in positions of authority as present examples.
Tact is a matter of good manners
Being tactful is as important as saying “please” and “thank you” and any other expression of good manners.
Yet this still seems to challenge numerous people. They “tell it like it is” and are “blunt” with people. You can still be honest and blunt with people while being tactful.
Tact is not just the words you use, it’s the approach you take and the time and place where you address a person.
Being tactful is not at all about sparing someone’s feelings, per se…but about choosing the right words, the right moment, and the best and most generative manner to make a statement. This is approaching a person with empathy and kindness rather than frustration and scorn.
How do you feel when someone figuratively smacks you upside the head with some statement or point of fact or other? Do you enjoy being corrected in a condescending manner (intentional or not)? How does it make you feel to be told you are wrong about something in front of a large number of people?
Employing tact is a matter of recognizing such a thing and taking a better, kinder, more empathetic approach. It often is mostly about treating others as you would care to be treated.
How does one be tactful?
This is going to be entirely dependent on the situation in question. What are you approaching the other person about? What sort of issue are you discussing? Why do you even feel the need to say something to that other person?
The last is often the most important question. Is it entirely necessary for you to even say something to that other person? So many times opinions are provided that are lacking in tact simply because they were unwanted and given anyhow.
Being tactful involves recognizing the time and place to say anything at all. One of the biggest issues with social media is how frequently people will write comments that utterly lack in tact. More than half the reason for this, however, is because of them being totally unnecessary in the first place.
That is why making a choice to even approach someone is the first part of tactfulness.
Why do you need to approach them? If you are their teacher/mentor or have a great deal more experience than they do with the thing you are observing, that’s one reason. There should be a solid reason for approaching someone before you even reach a situation to employ tactfulness.
More reasons may include:
· They made a false claim
· The person gave bad directions/instructions
· They are in the process of making a fool or an ass of themselves
· Inappropriate actions were taken by this person
· They have crossed a boundary or overstepped their place
· You are in a position of authority and they have usurped/disrespected/disregarded that
I am sure you can come up with plenty of other reasons to need to approach someone and say something to them. But it’s still super-important to keep empathy, kindness, and tact in mind.
How to be tactful
First and foremost — be kind. Be empathetic. Consider how you would feel if someone needed to address you in the way you need to address the person(s) in question.
Don’t do this in public if you can at all help it. That means not posting in the comments on Facebook as much as not calling out across the room. Try to have any conversation where uncomfortable topics may be the point of discussion with as much discretion as you can.
So let me present an example that may or may not have happened. Someone I know made a public statement on Facebook that did not cast them in a good light.
Privately, I reached out and let them know that their statement could be far more impactful than they were considering. It would be taken as far harsher and unkind than it was intended. I reminded them that in a similar situation they’d not appreciate receiving a public commentary of that sort.
They understood, saw that I was approaching from a place of kindness and caring, and removed the public post.
I could have publicly called them out. Privately, I could have told them they were being an ass. Hell, because of the nature of the post I had the power to remove it myself and could have done so without explanation. But all of these options would have been thoughtless and tactless.
Think before you speak (or type)
It takes little to no effort to say what’s on your mind. It does take more effort to consider what you say before you say it. Even in the interest of expediency, it is better to be considerate with your words.
You don’t want anyone to be unkind, condescending, or otherwise unpleasant to you. Keep that in mind before you say that thing or post that post online.
Society currently sucks at being tactful. All you have to do is listen to soundbites of various celebrities and politicians or read one of Trump’s obnoxious Tweets. It’s all well and good to speak your mind but that does not excuse dismissing tact, kindness, or courtesy.
A little mindfulness goes a long way. Being aware of what you are thinking and feeling will impact action. That, in turn, can help you to employ tact in any given situation.
The world needs more kindness and courtesy. Being tactful isn’t difficult. Sometimes it’s better to say nothing at all, but when you express yourself being tactful matters.
You are worthy and deserving of using your mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done you matter — but that doesn’t mean you should ignore tactfulness.