Mastering the art of everyday diplomacy | Alisher Faizullaev | TEDxMustaqillikSquare
How to Be Tactful
Isaac Newton once said, "Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy." Being tactful is just that — having the ability to clearly communicate your message while being sensitive to those around you and not unintentionally offending anyone. Being tactful doesnotmean hiding what you really feel; it just means presenting your ideas in a way that would make them the most appealing and inoffensive. If you want to know how to be tactful, then you should see Step 1 to get started.
Being Tactful in Conversation
Think before you speak.Allow yourself a pause to consider how your words could be perceived, and to prevent yourself from making hasty comments. You may have an immediate gut reaction to something your boss or friend is saying, but take a moment to gather your thoughts before you come right out and say what you want to say. Ask yourself if it's the best time to present your ideas, if you should spend some time finding a better way to say what you want to say, and if people will be receptive to your comments right then.
- Though speaking with your gut can lead to a lot of interesting ideas, it can also help to take a few minutes to formulate your thoughts first. If you instantly disagree with something your boss says, for example, you're better off thinking of concrete examples for why you disagree instead of just blurting out that you think it's a bad idea.
- Notice the people around you. You may want to make a comment about how excited you are for your wedding, when one of the people there is going through a bitter divorce. Though you don't have to hide your enthusiasm forever, you may be better off finding a better time to make your comment.
Deflect negative comments.If people are making negative comments around you, you should avoid getting wrapped up in them if you want to be tactful. This is especially true if you're in the workplace and don't want to be part of the office politics. There are several ways in which you can deflect negative comments and take the high road in testy situations. Here are some ways to do it:
- Gently correct gossip. Example: "I'm sorry you heard that about Jane Doe. When I spoke to her, she said that it was just a rumor about her getting fired."
- Say something non-committal. Example: "I've never met John Doe, so I wouldn't have a clue about his drinking habits."
- Say something positive. "Mary Sue may be late a lot, but she does really good work." Or, "Bill Jones has always been civil to me personally."
- Change the subject. "You know, your comment about the boss reminds me of something. There's an office party coming up, right? Are you bringing anyone?"
- Remove yourself from the situation. If people keep being negative and the situation isn't letting up, then you can excuse yourself and say you need to get back to class or work. You should make it seem unrelated to the conversation at hand.
- Ask the person nicely to stop. Say "I'm really not interested in gossiping about our neighbor," or "I'd prefer not talk about that in the office."
Start with a positive comment before giving negative feedback.If you have to give negative feedback to someone, whether it's a coworker or your best friend, you should couch it in a way that makes the person the most receptive. This doesn't mean you should lie to the person if things aren't going well, but that you should start off with something positive so the person sees that you care about him or her. Here are some ways to do it:
- If you want to give negative feedback to a friend, you can say something like, "I think it's so sweet of you to always want to set me up with the single guys you know. But when you try to do it every time we go out, it kind of makes me feel pathetic."
- If you want to give negative feedback to a co-worker, you can say something like, "I really appreciate how hard you've been working on the new project. However, I think the project can be even better if you let Mary help you out a bit more."
Choose your words carefully.When it comes to being tactful, one of the most important things to keep in mind is that you should be aware of the words you use to express your ideas. You can still say what you want to say without offending people or coming off mean or like a know-it-all. When you're getting ready to state an opinion, ask yourself if the words you're using are biased, hurtful, patronizing, or just all wrong for the occasion. Then, find the words that will help further your ideas without offending anyone.
- For example, if you want to talk to a coworker about how she needs to get her work done faster, don't tell her she's "slow"; instead, ask her if she can think of ways to be "more efficient."
- For example, if you're telling your boss you're leaving your job, you don't have to say something like, "I am just way too smart for these people"; instead, you can say something like, "This company isn't the best fit for me."
Choose your timing carefully.When it comes to being tactful, having great timing is half the battle. You may have something perfectly nice to say, which can ruin a social situation if you say it at the wrong time, and can lead to hurt feelings without you meaning to do any harm. Before you make a comment, ask yourself if this is the best time to make the comment, and if everyone there will be receptive to it. Ask yourself if it would be better to wait to get a more positive response, even if you're dying to say what you want to say.
- For example, if your friend Linda is excited to tell all of her friends about her recent engagement, then you may have to hold off the news that you're pregnant for another week, so Linda can enjoy the spotlight for a bit longer. You don't want her to feel like you trumped her big day.
- For example, if your boss is wrapping up a long presentation at the end of the work day, this may not be the best time to ask your question about an unrelated report. Asking the question now will only lead to confusion and your boss will be focused on the presentation and won't have the energy to address your concerns; if you wait until the next day, your boss will be happier to discuss the issue with you.
Decline invitations politely.If someone asks you to do something, you should find a way to politely decline it, even if your gut is screaming, "Heck no!" Whether you're being asked to attend the baby shower of a person you barely know or to stay late at work on a Friday night, instead of immediately saying no and looking angry or upset about it, you should take the time to say how much you would like to do it and then give a brief explanation or apology about not being able to do it. This will still get the same message across, but you won't offend anyone in the process.
- For example, if your boss asks you to take on another project and you just don't have any more time on your hands, you can say something like, "Thank you so much for thinking of me for this opportunity. Unfortunately, I'm still wrapping up those two other projects you asked me about and I won't be able to take on the extra work. But I would love to help out on something similar in the future."
- For example, if your friend invites you to go hiking but hiking isn't really your thing, you can say something like, "Your weekend trip to the Redwood forest sounds amazing, but I'm going to take it easy this weekend — I've had a crazy week at work and need to decompress. How about we catch up over drinks next Friday?"
Don't reveal too much personal information to people you don't know very well.Another thing that people who lack tact tend to do is to go about announcing their business to every person on the street. If you want to have tact, then you can't go around telling anyone within earshot about your latest breakup, your new rash, or all of your personal problems. Telling people you don't know well all your business will only make them uncomfortable and won't lead to any new friendships; have tact and be aware of when people would like to hear more and when enough is enough.
- This also goes for revealing personal information about other people. If you're with a close friend and a few less-than-close friends, don't pick up on a private conversation you had with that friend in front of the other people; your friend might have been happy to talk about his complicated relationship with his mother with you, but he may not want the world to know about it.
Make sure your body language reflects your words.It's great if your words are sending a friendly and polite message, but if your body is telling people something different, then they'll quickly get a different picture. If you're telling someone something important in a delicate way, then you should make eye contact, face the person, and not hunch over or look at the floor. Give the person your attention and show that you actually care. It'll be hard for them to take you seriously if you're telling the person that he or she is doing great at work while you're looking in the other direction.
- Actions really can speak louder than words, so make sure that your body isn't sending a different message from your mouth.
Being Considerate of Others
Consider the other person's viewpoint and acknowledge it.Another part of having tact is being able to understand where another person is coming from. Though voicing your own ideas is important, it's also important to understand that another person may not see things the way you see them. If you let the person know that you understand where he or she is coming from, they'll be much more likely to listen to you and to take your ideas seriously.
- For example, saying something like, "Mary, I understand that you've had a lot on your plate recently..." can make it easier for you to ask Mary to help out with another project. If you just say, "Hey, can you stay late to finish up a new report for me?" then Mary is likely to think you're insensitive.
Consider cultural differences and try to act in a sensitive way without being asked.There are many cultural differences that should be acknowledged in our world, which are based on where people are from, how they were raised, what their race and backgrounds may be, or even what generation they are coming from. What may be perfectly acceptable in one culture can be considered rude in another, so ask yourself if you're being sensitive to the different cultures around you before you make a comment.
Be discreet.You may find that you need to correct something a co-worker said during a presentation, or that one of your friends has a giant chunk of spinach in his teeth. Instead of pointing this out in front of everyone, you should try to pull the person aside to let them know about the situation. Showing discretion is a big part of having tact, because it will help you know what should be said under what circumstances. It's an important skill you should have in the professional and the social world.
- For example, if you and your partner got a raise but no one else in the company did, it's best not to brag about it in front of everyone. You can have a private celebration later.
Be gracious even when you're irritated.Keep your cool and speak kindly and sincerely. Assume the best. Though you may be dying to tell your friend what youreallythink of her behavior, or you really want to yell at your co-worker for ruining a project, you should hold your tongue and be as kind as possible until you find a time to state your true feelings. There's no point in saying something you'll regret just because you're irked in the moment.
- For example, if someone gives you an ugly sweater, say: "Thanks so much for the present. I'm touched you thought of me."
Have empathy for others.Look around you before you make a comment and see how the other people there will receive it. It's important to know where people are coming from before you blurt out your political, religious, or other personal opinions. Though you can't completely know where every person is coming from when you speak, it's important to have a sense of the mindset and experiences of the people around you so you can avoid offending people.
- For example, if you just got a raise and Bob got fired, this may not be the time to brag about it.
- If one of the people around you is a devout Christian, then it's not the time to talk about how you think religion is pointless.
- If someone around you is exhausted after a long day, don't expect the person to help you resolve a huge emotional conflict. Have patience.
Be an active listener.Being an active listener is a crucial component of being tactful. There's a difference between what someone is saying to you and what that person is really thinking, so you should really look and hear the person out to get the real message. If your friend is telling you that she's over her break up and totally ready to go to a party with you, but her eyes and gestures are telling you otherwise, then find a way to kindly tell her that it's okay if she's not ready to go out.
- Paying attention to how people are really feeling as they're speaking can help you respond to them in the most tactful way possible. For example, if your co-worker is really struggling with a project but is afraid to ask for help, listen for cues, such as nervousness, stuttering, or repetitive speech to see if he or she is trying to reach out to you.
- Actively listening can also help you see if a person has shut down and doesn't want to hear any more about a subject. If you're giving feedback to a coworker who is already upset by it, you can tell by his or her words that he may not be ready to hear more; you should gracefully end the conversation and pick it up later.
Be respectful.Being respectful goes hand in hand with being tactful. If you want to have true tact, then you have to treat other people with respect. This means letting them finish talking instead of interrupting them, giving them your full attention when they are trying to tell you something, and asking people how they are doing before jumping in to deliver some bad news. Treat each and every individual with care and kindness and understand that it's important to make people feel that they are treated fairly, even if they may not be your favorite people on the planet.
- Being respectful is a matter of common decency. Don't curse in front of your elders; don't use lewd language in front of people you don't know well. This will come off as very tasteless, and therefore lacking tact.
QuestionIs tone of voice important?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. The tone of voice, as well as the words you choose to relay an unpleasant message, is important.Thanks!
QuestionI am a very blunt, lay-it-on-the-table person. I usually tell people this followed by "just call me Frank". I also have ADD and blurt things. How do I correct this?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerLook and smile at your speaker with hands together -- it helps keep your mouth closed. Only use nodding, which still allows you some type of communication. You will be amazed at what this will get you through. Also, only say words like, "I understand" or "I hear you". Don't always go into communication with a solution and answer, just go into it being only a listener.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I be tactful when notifying someone they have a disease?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThanks!
QuestionWhat to do when teachers are bored when I ask them a question again and again because I have not understood the answer?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerRealize that your teacher has an entire class to teach, not just you. Asking the same question repeatedly during class is not being respectful of your classmates. Instead, talk to your teacher after class or get yourself a tutor so you can have individualized attention.Thanks!
How can you be tactful when someone who works for you isn't doing a good job. Lazy. Not cleaning up.
How can I be tactful with a high strung co-worker?
Does social tact transcend honesty?
How do I become more open and honest with a guy knowing that I am more of hidden, secretive, and guarded person.
Do you have an articles about being tactful while dating?
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